Residents want only what’s needed [UPDATED]Published 3:33am Monday, September 23, 2013 Updated 5:44am Monday, September 23, 2013
Otter football home games are a grim scene these days. Not because of what is happening on the field but because of the surroundings.
What used to be the home bleachers look like an empty concrete jungle while the away-team bleachers are packed with people whose must sit uncomfortably upright to see down onto the field (unless they feel like stargazing).
If the purpose of having a disarrayed mass of former bleachers is to show fans just how badly the district needs a new football facility, it is a job well done.
No one will mistake the home of the Otters for Lambeau Field.
Of course, the problem with having a football field that looks like it was transported from Beirut is that those who actually attend the games are almost by definition the most likely to have voted for better sports facilities.
My bet is that a facilities referendum vote limited to those who attend Otter football games would get massive support. So the current Otters football set-up seems a bit like … well, not exactly preaching to the choir, but maybe punishing the choir.
Clearly those who twice voted no on a $5.4 million outdoor facilities referendum aren’t attending games. I don’t know what Otter Stadium’s capacity is, but it’s certainly less than the 2,107 who voted no for the second time on more than $5 million worth of outdoor facility improvements — a funding request that would have done much more than fix up the football stadium’s ailing bleachers.
Of course, many of those watching Otters games are from opposing schools and I’m sure that after a night at Otter Stadium they leave town very impressed with Fergus Falls.
OK, enough with the sarcasm; the point has been made: Otter Stadium needs new bleachers.
No doubt even those who voted “no” on the facilities referendum would agree with that much.
But the issue in the minds of school district voters — many of whom grew up during the Depression, when frugality was required — is how the need to spend a couple of hundred thousand dollars for new bleachers ballooned to the $5.5 million that the district wanted taxpayers to pony up.
In a column last spring, I quoted the Rolling Stones, who once said: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you get what you need.”
I understand the frustration of those who wish we could have facilities that go beyond the bare minimum.
I personally am frustrated that, rather than have a new high school, we had to settle for a patched up middle school.
I’m frustrated that, rather than a really cool community arena, we had to settle for essentially a new version of the old arena (and there’s a question of whether residents really would have supported it had it come to a vote).
But at least we have a functional school and a functional arena that will last us awhile.
School district officials need to accept reality. Fergus Falls residents are unwilling to support anything but an absolute need.
But they will pay for what is needed. A levy for money to fix the football stadium and handle any other truly pressing needs would pass.
But enough money for facilities that would be a significant upgrade over existing ones — replacing a Ford with a Porsche? Forget about it.
Some time ago, I was in line at a local taco restaurant while it was having a special sale — two tacos for 99 cents.
The couple in front of me ordered one taco special and two glasses of water, meaning they could eat dinner for 53 cents apiece, with tax.
When it comes to the football stadium’s bleachers, we just need to order the taco special and move on.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s Publisher. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org