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Lee: Facelift would cure what ails Joe Albi

The Joe Albi Stadium you see today won’t be the Joe Albi Stadium of the future if the Spokane School District becomes the landlord.

And that’s a good thing. The aging elephant needs some tender loving care or it should be put out to pasture.

Greater Spokane League secretary Herb Rotchford reiterated this week that the school district is going ahead hoping to either work out a land swap with the city or eventually purchase Albi and the surrounding acres.

Beginning Jan. 1, the school district will take over maintenance and operations at Albi with an option to buy. The school district owns the turf and this summer installed a new scoreboard and audio system.

The dream is to do more, Rotchford said.

The school district canvassed the neighborhoods surrounding its five high schools explaining their hope of owning Albi and making significant upgrades. One of the options that a committee came up with last year was to put lights at stadiums at each school. Surrounding neighborhoods oppose such an option.

Rotchford said the centerpiece of a bond in 2015 would include downsizing Albi from 28,000 seats to 8,000 seats.

“We need to make it more intimate, more modern,” Rotchford said.

Albi hasn’t aged gracefully. There’s been much deferred maintenance.

Rotchford emphasized that the statue of Joe Albi, located in the southwest bleachers, will remain. The stadium has such a rich history that the connection to Albi will continue, he said.

Other changes would include installing new turf, seats, locker rooms, press box and concession stands. Also there would be paved parking.

“In essence, when we’re done, it will be a new facility,” Rotchford said. “It doesn’t make sense to try to maintain a 28,000-seat facility.”

Taking over ownership and improving the stadium has been front and center for Rotchford since he became the league secretary two years ago.

The current turf, which is about eight years old, will be fine until the stadium upgrade takes place, he said.

Putting in lights and stadiums with turf at all five schools would cost more money in the long run than the planned improvements at Albi, Rotchford said.

The school district and Mead schools combine to pay between $57,000 and $60,000 a year to use Albi for various activities, Rotchford said.

Could be better

The result of the most brutal start to a football schedule of any team in the region could turn out to be positive. Coeur d’Alene is 1-3 having lost three straight after a come-from-behind win in the season opener at West Linn, Ore.

“I didn’t put together this schedule to pad my record,” CdA coach Shawn Amos said.

Here are two specific things the Viks learned. First, they’re a very good team, one of the best in the region. Second, they need a more effective running game.

CdA very well could have been 4-0 at this point. The Viks were as good as the three teams they lost to but they couldn’t hold leads against Bothell or Highland of Pocatello. In the loss to Washington 4A power Skyline, CdA dug a deep hole only to rally within a touchdown before another mistake spelled doom.

Four of the Viks’ final five games are at home, and the last away game is three miles across town at Lake City.

Should CdA capture the 5A Inland Empire League’s lone state berth, it would be home for quarterfinal and semifinal games and travel just 86 miles to the Kibbie Dome for the state title game.

The Viks aren’t looking that far ahead, though. They need to get some momentum going with league play looming.

If the Vikings are in Moscow in late November, don’t be surprised if Highland is the opponent.