Puyallup Tribe broke ground on a project that has been many years in the making. The long-awaited athletic fields at Chief Leschi School are now officially underway, and are on track to meet opening day in time for next school year's sports teams.
Since May, the Tribe has been working with Mahlum Architects to fine-tune the architectural drawings for the massive athletic complex, which includes a synthetic football field, rubber track, a baseball diamond, green space for field sports, a grandstand, concessions and restroom facility.
However, plans for a field CLS students could call their own has been a topic of discussion since the school opened in 1996.
"Yesterday was the first day of spring. It's a time for renewal and a time to see our field come to life," said Cultural Coordinator Connie McCloud during the ceremonial groundbreaking March 22. "This has always been the vision. What's going to come here is going to be beautiful."
Actual construction for the fields and stadium began the day after the ceremonial event in which tribal leaders blessed the ground, and CLS students shared traditional song and dance in honor of their ancestors and what is to come in the future.
Having a field on CLS grounds will not only allow for sports teams to practice on site, it will be the first time Warriors teams will truly be able to have the home field advantage.
The stadium will seat 900 home fans, and 300 on the visitors' side. The baseball diamond will accommodate 200 spectators. The aesthetics incorporates Chief Leschi's existing style, with warm wood tones and views of the lake and Mount Rainier. The low-impact design uses the school's existing parking, and will incorporate rain gardens into the entryway. A large concession stand, ticketing booth and centralized restroom facilities will greet all visitors as they make their way into the Warriors' very own home field.
"We rent fields to play games on and even practice. Students' enthusiasm at a school can change a whole school culture. This place is going got be vital in the community as a whole," said Superintendent Ray Lorton. "We are deeply appreciative of the tribal council. This has been on their minds for many, many years.
Students say having a home field for their teams will also add a tremendous amount of school spirit, benefiting the overall culture of pride at CLS.
"I'm looking forward to the day when the children ask me, 'Was this field always here?' And I will say, 'No, I remember when this was just a field and the day we did the blessing and turned this field into a stadium," said Michael Roach, CLS elementary council president.
Construction is on track to have the first phase of the field completed by late summer, allowing fall sports to have practice and their opening games on the Warriors Field.
"This ball field is something we've been working on for a long time and the kids here are so anxious – we can't build it fast enough," said Puyallup Tribal Councilmember Sylvia Miller. "I'm so excited for our first game when we finally open this ball field."