Grandstands History: Past, Present, Future…

“The same old-growth lumber in the grandstands from 1959 remains as strong as the men who volunteered to build our beloved Grandstands. We have worked diligently, and now have the opportunity to save Vernonia’s Grandstands for the next generation.”
J.R. Allen

 In 1959 spectators at the local high school sporting events were out in the cold, literally.   In 1960 Bell – Lumber (Longview) provided the lumber for the stands with additional lumber recycled from one of the buildings of the Oregon American lumber mill of Vernonia Oregon.  Vernonia Lions Club sponsored the project and the timber community, townspeople, and High School students all pulled together to complete it at a very nominal cost. 

Vernonia Loggers held the first home football game September 1960 at Greenman Field with covered grandstands! (Field named for the Oregon American manager.) On any given Friday night, city residents would gather to cheer the Loggers on the football field, sitting in the stands built by their own hands.   Hundreds of young men played before those grandstands and went on to see their own children on the field.

Today we find ourselves at a cross roads in the future of this Iconic wood grandstand that has served as community Friday night gathering place for over five decades. The historic floods of 1996 and 2007 forced the schools to be torn down and relocated.  The Grandstands still stand, but need immediate repairs to survive, as one of the main support beams for the room as succumbed to dry rot.  After having a professional engineering assessment and report, we have been told that replacing this beam and some minor leveling will restore the grandstand. 

A group of concerned citizens (Save the Grandstands Committee) was formed to save such an iconic structure from the wrecking ball.  We have joined forces with the Intercultural Society of Vernonia, a local 501c3 non-profit group of volunteers who are as passionate about our community and heritage as our group.  The Save the Grandstand Committee is a grassroots group, much the same as the one that built it in 1959.  It is our desire to keep this historic structure to serve the people that have spent so much time enjoying it over the years.  Our vision is to see the structure once again act as a community gathering place as a venue to host concerts, local activities, and other events. 

Greenman Field Grandstands looking out at the football field

Save the Grandstands!

By Kala Cota – Class of 1980

Our old grandstands made of salvaged wood
Hold treasured memories from our childhood
Made from the old buildings torn down at the mill
Which were made from old growth pioneers fell

The old-timers would sure be proud
If those grandstands could stick around
At Greenman field you are sure to find
One last chance to step back in time

To better days spent on those wood seats
What a sound they made when we stomped our feet!
Our school fight song sung loud and proud!
Every word known by the blue and gold crowd

A touchdown scored would bring us to our feet
And the high school band would keep the beat
Oh, to hear that band play once again
On a Friday night surrounded by old friends

That’s the hope in so many alumni hearts
With these old grandstands we just can’t part
A truss is damaged and in need of repair
Like us all, it could use some care

There’s a call to rally! “Let’s Save the Grandstands!”
Won’t you lend a helping hand?
You’re investing in memories, new and old
Cherished moments to have and hold

Those grandstands on our football field
Still have more memories yet to yield
Sometimes we’re too quick to tear things down
They’re a gathering place for our hometown

We need this landmark in our community
So more generations can cheer in unity!
There’s Logger pride engrained in that old wood
Let’s work together to do some good!

The Loggers during one of their football games at Greenman Field

The Voice, letters to the editor July 19, 2013

“In June last year, I was walking the halls of Washington Grade School for the last time with a few of my childhood friends.  We shed a tear or two as we took the last steps out of those heavy metal doors surrounded by brick.  But then, we had the privilege to meander up the hill and walk through the doors of the new K-12 school.  Wow!  Imagine being able to attend this beautiful, new, pristine school.  It could only be a dream.   At the time, teachers were busy painting and preparing all their old bookshelves and desks for the big move from the old schools to the new school.  Why do you want to bring mud boots onto new carpet?  My mind went crazy.  Where are the swings?  What do children play on during recess?  Where is the football field and grandstands that WAS the community when we were growing up?  The whole city used to close down when there was a home game.  We needed to do something.”

Kathi (Medges) Knowles

VHS Class of 1973

Meet part of our committee: Michael Calhoun was born and raised in Vernonia Oregon, a graduate of Western Oregon University with a BA in Communication and post BA in Environmental Studies from University of Oregon. He’s an environmental activist involved with a number causes and organizations. Michael currently serves as Board Chair for the Upper Nehalem Watershed Council, Assistant Director for the Columbia Soil and Water Conservation District. As well has being a member of the Vernonia Public Works Committee and Columbia County Parks Committee.

Being an alumni from Vernonia and a historic preservation advocate, Michael was eager to join the Save the Grandstands Committee. He feels that this structure can be preserved for future generations to enjoy as an asset to the community with a variety of uses.