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Zaepfel Stadium at Eisenhower High School in Yakima, Wash. (MADISON MORENO/Eisenhower High School)

The opening of a new school building wasn’t the only renovation that occurred at Eisenhower High School this past school year. The other big change was the completion and opening this spring of the redone Zaepfel Stadium.

Although the old high school was torn down and the new one was built to the west of it, Zaepfel Stadium is still in its same location, even though a bit of the space is used differently now. With a new turf field that will be used for football and marching band competitions, the site was put into use this spring for soccer and for track meets.

The new Don Holder Track includes a new long jump pit, discus and javelin areas, and shot put pit. Due to a lack of space prior to the renovation, some of the field events had been held inside the stadium, while others such as the javelin and discus took place on grass areas that were between the stadium and Tieton Drive.

Now, all the throwing events have moved to an area south of the stadium’s perimeter. The long jump, which was previously inside the track on the south side, is now outside the track at the northwest corner inside the stadium. Zaepfel’s entire renovation cost around $4.2 million.

The school district held a formal dedication for the renovated athletic areas March 24.

The stadium was named after a longtime school district athletic director and A.C Davis High School coach, John Zaepfel, while Don Holder Track is named after a former history teacher and track coach. The site is home to one of the bigger track meets in the region, the Holder Relays, where an estimated 1,000 student athletes participate every year. It is also home to many records by former students who are now Eisenhower staff members.

According to Anthony Riojas, a sophomore on Ike’s junior varsity soccer team: “The turf is so much better to play on than the previous grass field. It just adds to how fun it is to play the game of soccer.”

Riojas is one of the only students lucky enough to have the stadium finished just in time for his sports season at the beginning of spring. Now, students from Eisenhower have been able to resume using their own home field instead of the one at Marquette, which was seeing a lot of usage this year when three schools were sharing the field. Home games for Davis’ sub-varsity boys and girls soccer teams will also be played at Zaepfel now, rather than the previous site at Chesterley Park.

“What I hated about playing at Marquette was the muddy field and not having any grip and sliding all the time,” said Bryce Reynolds, a sophomore on Ike’s varsity football team. “The best thing about the new field is the grip from the turf. Also, it looks pretty awesome.”

Besides looking pretty, changes to the field have made sporting events much easier. Resources for field events have been expanded and now include such features as two long jump pits and two high jump mats that now allow some of the boys and girls events to be conducted at the same time, enabling meets to operate more efficiently.

Anthony Stewart, one of Ike’s track coaches, has a couple of disappointments, though. One is a lack of volunteers to assist with meets on the new track. The other is that he’d like to see more people enjoying the facility.

“It’s not just Ike’s track,” he points out. “It belongs to the community, and there aren’t as many people in the stands as there should be.”

The overall renovation itself is far from disappointing, though. As Stewart points out: “There’s a lot of enjoyment from coaches and athletes that don’t have a facility like this. Students are just in awe and brimming with smiles.”

Madison Moreno is a sophomore at Eisenhower High School and is a member of the Yakima Herald-Republic’s Unleashed program for teen journalists.