Sports

District shuts down Jefferson's 'Upper Deck'

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

The Upper Deck sat alone in the woods behind the Thomas Jefferson baseball field Tuesday afternoon.

Nobody occupied the couches that were found on the side of the road, there was no smell of beef being seared on a Hibachi barbecue, and the off-key rendition of the baseball classic, “Take Me Out To the Ballgame,” wasn’t performed during the fifth-inning stretch of the Raiders’ game against the Spanaway Lake Sentinels.

Federal Way Public Schools officials shut down the student-constructed deck which sits above the six-foot right-centerfield fence at the refurbished Jefferson baseball field. Officials cited insurance liability issues with the patched-together structure that can seat up to 15 people. In these sue-happy times, the school district couldn’t look the other way on the dangers associated with the architecturally unsound Upper Deck without investigation, officials said.

“The district has told us until risk management has taken a look at it that nobody can be on it,” said Jefferson principal George Ilgenfritz. “They want to make sure it is completely safe. When my boss says to shut it down, I do what he says.”

Rick LaBoyne, the district’s assistant risk management and security officer, visited Jefferson on Wednesday and inspected the structure, he said.

“I looked at it and sent my recommendation to my boss,” said LaBoyne, who would not reveal what that decision was. “But right now, no decision has been made. It will wind its way through the process.”

The process will include Diana Seeley, the district’s risk management officer and LaBoyne’s boss, reviewing his decision and passing it along to the superintendent’s office for the ultimate decision.

“The decision is left to senior administration,” LaBoyne said. “I expect that to come early next week. But that is pure speculation.”

The original verdict to not allow students on the Upper Deck came from the superintendent’s office after they were sent an anonymous e-mail from someone in the community complaining about the structure, according to Jefferson baseball coach Mike Church. The e-mail stemmed from an April 5 article in the Mirror.

“We just want to make sure it is completely safe,” said Ilgenfritz.

The most likely options would be to tear down the structure completely, allow students to use it again or, possibly, reinforce the Upper Deck to make it safer for students.

But time is ticking away on the Raider baseball season. Jefferson has only two more home games scheduled for this season – Wednesday against Curtis and May 1 against Federal Way.

The Upper Deck got its name from the Thomas Jefferson seniors who built the baseball-watching perch in the trees, who included Cam Warner, Aaron Bradford, Paul Klingburg, Kyle Murray, Jonny Angel and Taylor Landurd. The students took to the streets around TJ and asked builders of the several new homes in the area if they could have some of the scrap 2x4’s and plywood sheets that were set to be thrown away.

The students constructed the deck where a scoreboard used to sit above the outfield fence on school district property.

“It is kind of sad, because that was a well-intentioned group of

seniors who were just showing school spirit.” said Church.

The loss of the Upper Deck seems to have affected the way the Raider baseball team has played. Since district officials have made the structure off limits, Jefferson is a woeful 0-6 after starting their South Puget Sound League South Division season with three out of four victories.

Coincidence?

“Myself and the team really appreciated it,” Church said.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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