Concrete letters removed at Richland schools

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 9, 2014 

The three concrete letters representing Richland and Hanford high schools and Carmichael Middle School are being removed from Carmichael Hill and Fran Rish Stadium.

Safety issues are the main reason for the removal, officials told the Herald.

"There were kids playing on them and getting hurt," said Steve Aagaard, the district's spokesman.

The letters, painted in each school's color and about 30 to 40 feet tall, have been in place for decades. Students and coaches at Richland High said they didn't know until Thursday that the letters were being removed.

"I wish they'd have left them alone," said Mike Niedhold, Richland High's head football coach.

Principals from the three schools recently met and discussed the letters, Aagaard said. They determined it would be best to remove them, as the letters became slippery in wet weather and also attracted graffiti.

"Those areas are open to the public," he added.

The white "C" on Carmichael Hill was removed last week. A worker used a concrete cutter and backhoe to take the yellow "R" apart Thursday afternoon. The purple "H" was still in place.

The district is slated to make safety improvements to the stadium with part of a $98 million bond, but Aagaard said that wasn't a consideration in the removal.

District administrators advised the school's principals to have the letters removed, said Carmichael Principal Brian Stadelman, adding that he wasn't involved in the initial discussions.

Students at the middle school haven't mentioned the missing letter, Stadelman said, but staff have. It's been difficult for some who've taught at the school for a long time or are former Carmichael students.

"We were sorry to see it go," Stadelman said.

Will Fisher, 17, a junior left guard for the Bombers football team, noticed work going on at the stadium Thursday but didn't learn what it was about until a former teammate told him, he said.

Fisher has seen people sitting on or sliding down the letters before games, but hasn't seen anyone get hurt, he said.

"I don't think students will get upset, but they'll be concerned that it's taking away something traditional," Fisher said.

There have been gradual changes at the stadium for months, such as the removal of old trees and shrubs, Niedhold said. That landscaping, along with the letters, had defined the feel of Fran Rish for years.

The stadium is due for upgrades and change isn't always easy, but removing the letters, which have been in place since Niedhold's playing days in the mid-1970s, seems unnecessary, he said.

"Facilities show the character of your district," Niedhold said. "They're a part of tradition."

w Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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