Eastside Catholic will open new stadium Sept. 27

For the last 28 years Eastside Catholic athletic teams have been the nomads of the Metro 3A.

Eastside Catholic athletic director Lance Gatter stands in front of the school's new stadium in Sammamish. By the end of the month

Eastside Catholic athletic director Lance Gatter stands in front of the school's new stadium in Sammamish. By the end of the month

For the last 28 years Eastside Catholic athletic teams have been the nomads of the Metro 3A.

Come September, they will wander no more.

“This is a big deal for us,” said Eastside Catholic athletic director Lance Gatter. “This is the first time we have something to call home.”

Eastside Catholic, which opens its new campus on Sept. 2 on 228th Avenue Southeast in Sammamish, has been without a stadium since 1980, when the school opened its first campus in downtown Bellevue. Moving to Bellevue’s former Ringdall Junior High campus a few years later provided no relief for athletics. Over the years, Eastside Catholic’s outdoor teams were forced to played at various locations around the region — including Newport, Lake Washington and Juanita high schools.

But it won’t be long before most Crusader teams won’t have to hop on a bus and ride to “home” games anymore. They will simply step out of their own locker room, run through a set of doors and head through a tunnel directly onto the 50-yard line of their home field.

“The first night, we’ll probably have fireworks and everything,” said Gatter, of the Sept. 27 home football opener against Lakeside.

The new stadium is located on the north side of the campus in front of the school’s state-of-the-art, three-story athletic pavilion. As of Aug. 8 there was still a lot to be done, including the installation of aluminum bleachers with enough seating for 1,800 fans. Gatter said they should be in place by Aug. 27, and the remaining hash marks and lines should all be on the field before the school opens Sept. 2.

The stadium has many unique features, including a space above the bleachers and in front of the athletic pavilion, where a 40-foot-wide cement courtyard runs the distance of the stadium. It will provide fans a significant amount of space to maneuver and congregate.

“This is kind of a bonus area for us,” Gatter said. “We knew there was going to be this courtyard out here — we just didn’t realize how big it was going to be.”

The athletic pavilion itself contains several impressive elements. The top floor has a board room overlooking the field, and contains all the latest presentation technology.

The second floor has an 1,800-square-foot weight room, with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the field. When the equipment is put in place over the next month, Gatter anticipates putting exercise machines in the window, providing a unique opportunity for injured players.

“We’ll put elliptical trainers there so the kids who are injured will be on that and have some motivation to get back on the field,” he said.

A training room attached to the weight room is connected by an athletic trainer’s office — a design element Gatter said he borrowed after visiting the Carolina Panther’s facility a few years ago. The second floor also contains a mat room for the wrestling team — something the program has never had before.

“Our wrestlers are ecstatic because for the last 26 years they’ve been wrestling in the cafeteria,” Gatter said.

The second floor also contains a brand new gymnasium that will hold up to 1,300 fans for basketball games, volleyball games and wrestling matches.

“I think the new fieldhouse will make a huge difference and will be packed to capacity and have a unique environment to it,” said Eastside Catholic boys basketball coach Steve Kramer. “We have awesome fans and our student body is crazy. We wanted to create a big home court advantage and I believe we have succeeded.”

The gym has room for three basketball courts in the gym, setting up the possibility for youth tournaments.

The bottom floor contains four locker rooms, one for varsity boys and girls and two more for P.E. classes.

When the boys and girls played back-to-back basketball games at the old campus, they would have to wait for one another to go into the locker room and get ready — that will no longer be an issue.

“Now we have all the room you could need,” Kramer said. “I know the returning players and coaches will not take these new facilities for granted.”

The lower floor also contains a meeting room with a plasma TV, drop down projector and whiteboards. Perhaps the most unique feature is the tunnel that exits from the bottom level of the pavilion onto the field — something very few high school stadiums offer.

“This is the thing the kids are most excited about,” Gatter said.

While Gatter said about 85 percent of the athletic population is taken care of, some teams will have to wait a while before they can play on campus. The baseball and fastpitch softball teams are expected to play at Newport High School in the spring, while the tennis teams are still searching for a home. The baseball field will eventually sit directly in front of the campus, but Gatter said there is no timeline yet as to when it will be constructed. There will eventually be three tennis courts and an auxiliary/softball field, located above the baseball field.

“The neat thing is that we’ve got space for all these different things,” he said. “We’re really close to reaching our goal of $40 million, and once we do that then they’ve got to set priorities on what comes next. Will it be the middle school? Will it be the baseball field? Will it be the track?”

Eastside Catholic teams don’t have any home games scheduled through the first three weeks of the season in the event that construction takes longer than anticipated. Gatter said that when the stadium is inaugurated on Sept. 27, it will be a special day.

“We’re fortunate,” he said. “A lot of the schools are really starting to get the remodel bug, it’s kind of that time for everyone, but we’re definitely one of the top. There’s nobody newer than us.”

For more information on Eastside Catholic’s new campus, go to www.eastsidecatholic.org.

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