Historical Significance of District Thunder Stadium Weighed for Renovations

Limestone Wall



The Lamar Re-2 School District has been approached by local citizens concerned about a potential historical loss to the community with the planned renovation work for the former Savage Stadium, now known as Thunder Stadium.

Portions of the structure have been deemed structurally unsafe and for just over a year, the District and Lamar School Board has studied renovation and replacement plans with GMCN Architects from Garden City, KS.

For safety concerns, stadium seating is currently off limits as was the case during the September 16th homecoming football game when arrangements were made so that lawn chairs would be allowed outside the playing field.

The District met recently with a group of citizens as well as Dr. Chris Bowles; Director of Preservation Incentives Programs/Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, about preservation efforts.  An October 5th meeting between the School Board and architects and engineers has been planned for an update and to explore, as Superintendent Dr. Chad Krug, offered, a potential, “sweet spot” for a renovated stadium which can incorporate historical relevance.

Krug said the stadium project has been on the District’s mind for over a year now once they learned the stadium was compromised.  “If we were just looking at replacing aluminum bleachers, we would have been fast-tracking the project, but because of what the stadium means to the community, we’re taking our time on our approach,” he stated, adding that there will be complete transparency on the process.

A number of factors have come into play for the stadium’s current plight.  The sandstone walls were built around 1940 as a WPA project and in later years, the aluminum seating was added on either side.  All the stairs were incorporated to have the same pitch for the steps.  From the rear view of the stadium, the sandstone walls are quite evident, but as seen from the field, hardly any of the stone work is visible.  Over the years, he said, there was retrofitting which poured concrete into aluminum pans which were seated on heavy wooden timbers from the top to the bottom of the structure.  All of this has combined to place a tremendous amount of weight on the deteriorating support infrastructure.

Krug said the crux of the matter, given an historical viewpoint, is to understand what is the threshold of selective demolition to allow the true outcome of preservation and renovation while providing a long term update for the facility.

The best, hoped-for plans now call for the project to be completed by the football season in the autumn of 2023.  The District also has a track surrounding the field which needs to be replaced, but that probably won’t take place until a later date, following the stadium project.

Dr. Krug urged the community at large to stay informed on the process. “We’ve had the stadium project on our school board agendas numerous times and if people can’t show up in person, we have the ability to either phone in to listen to the meetings or view then via Zoom if they wish,” he stated.
By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: City of LamarConsumer IssuesEducationHistorySchoolSports


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