Education

Stadium Bowl expected to reopen next week; sports can resume

Kevin and Connor Dorney of Sport Install West peel back a section of artificial turf at Stadium Bowl to do a tap test to determine if a targeted area was potentially hollow. Basel Kitmitto, background, of GeoEngineers, determined there was no evidence of a sinkhole.
Kevin and Connor Dorney of Sport Install West peel back a section of artificial turf at Stadium Bowl to do a tap test to determine if a targeted area was potentially hollow. Basel Kitmitto, background, of GeoEngineers, determined there was no evidence of a sinkhole. Staff photographer

School officials say they’re planning for Stadium Bowl to reopen by Thursday, the day after school starts in Tacoma.

The Tacoma School District had closed the historic field as a safety precaution after a third sinkhole appeared in the floor of the bowl Aug. 21.

A physical inspection of the field by geo-technical engineers conducted this week revealed that the damage is repairable, and it found no potential new sinkholes.

“I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I was to get the green light to bring activities back to Stadium Bowl,” Athletic Director Sam Reed said in a district news release Friday. He thanked the Stadium sports teams and community groups for their flexibility during the closure.

“I’m excited to see action return to normal next week,” he added.

During the temporary shutdown, the district athletic department scrambled to relocate football and girls soccer practices, as well as community activities.

A contractor supervised by the firm GeoEngineers will fill the three existing sinkholes and a slight depression in the southwest end zone, closest to the Commencement Bay side of the field with sand and gravel.

The sinkholes are near the 15-yard-line on the bay side, near a catch basin by the visiting team grandstand and on the track in the same vicinity.

After the fill-in work is complete, a company called Sport Install West will repair cuts in the artificial turf that were made this week during the inspection.

Computer images generated by ground-penetrating radar earlier had indicated suspected problem areas throughout the basin, with potential sinkholes from three to 11 feet deep.

But this week’s physical inspection revealed no problems in those areas. Engineers said the radar had apparently picked up variations in the density of a variety of fill materials used under the bowl and variations in the amount of granulated rubber padding beneath the turf.

The only new area of damage discovered was a one- to two-inch depression in the end zone where a previous sinkhole was repaired a year ago..

The school district will continue to monitor the bowl’s surface regularly in the coming months, the district news release said.

So far, the cost of the investigation, analysis and recommendations is about $10,000. An estimate of how much the physical repair of the field will cost wasn’t immediately available.

Stadium Bowl opened in 1910, overlooking a spot known as Old Women’s Gulch. The sports field, along with Stadium High School, is perched on the edge of an embankment above Schuster Parkway and Commencement Bay.

Over the years, the bowl has been hit by periodic flooding. Last November, an intense rainstorm combined with clogged storm drains uphill caused flooding that covered the bowl with water and debris, resulting in the field’s closure. An extensive cleanup took place, and the bowl reopened for the spring sports season in March.

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