Classic beauty with a modern heart

September 9, 2006 

A transformed Stadium High School features a new building, left, that houses two gyms, a state-of-the-art theater and the music department.


Stadium High School’s fairy-tale turrets and majestic setting have enthralled onlookers for a century – even as its interior gradually morphed into a mish-mash of outdated, dysfunctional spaces.

But now beauty is no longer brick-deep at Tacoma’s grand chateau.

“Now these students have not only the tradition that preceded them but a facility that’s state of the art,” said Angela Thomas, a Stadium English teacher who also graduated from the school in 1967. “It’s the best of both worlds. It’s absolutely fabulous.”

A two-year renovation approaching $108 million removed and rebuilt nearly all of the castle’s interior to meet contemporary instructional needs and building codes, while restoring selected features to their original luster.

Among the improvements:

 • The traffic obstacle that was the old auditorium in the center of the castle’s third and fourth floors has been restored, opened up and reconfigured to allow students to pass through. No longer will teens on one side of, say, the fourth floor be forced to walk down to the main floor, cross that floor, and climb three flights of stairs to attend class on the other side of the fourth floor.

 • Two sets of elevators in the castle will allow wheelchair users access to all the instructional spaces in the building.

 • The installation of 184 digital security cameras throughout the campus will give staff far more capability to keep an eye on students and outsiders.

 • The entire school body can finally meet together in the main gym. No more holding two pep assemblies to rouse school spirit on game day. No more trekking to the Temple Theatre for all-school programs.

 • Growing teens will have more space to move whether in the two-level cafeteria or the larger classrooms. And instead of inhaling stale air in stuffy, windowless classrooms, students can breathe fresh air thanks to the new air exchange systems.

 • The school’s 1975 science and industrial arts annex was razed. The Performing Arts Center, housing a theater, two gyms and the music department, now stands in its place.

“What’s really exciting about the reclamation is that they’ve truly restored the building. What we saw in the old Stadium was a hodgepodge of various configurations over the years that weren’t consistent with the original intent and not particularly functional,” said Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma, who graduated from Stadium in 1960. “They’ve done a terrific job.”

On a recent tour of the school, delighted students constantly broke into grins upon seeing the huge main gym, the restored main office, the mall-style, two-level cafeteria with the diamond-patterned floor, the sparkling – and numerous – restrooms.

Like a stunned homeowner returning to a remodeled house on TV’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” sophomore Megan Radford entered the new theater and gasped.

“Oh my God” she whispered, taking in the wide stage, the overhead banks of lights, the catwalks, the rows of cushioned-folding chairs.

She predicted the new quarters will inspire kids to get more involved in activities.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “I like the commons and all the old details. I love the whole school.”

Debby Abe: 253-597-8694

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