Visiting high school football fans at Fran Rish Stadium in Richland will have access to improved bathrooms and their own concession stand thanks to newly built visitor bleachers.
There will also be a familiar sight, absent from last season, sitting in the hillside on either side of the bleachers: a yellow “R” and a purple “H.”
The letters will resemble the same poured concrete R and H that were there for decades until the district unceremoniously removed them than a year ago. That removal set off a flurry of criticism aimed at administrators and the school board.
The letters won’t be installed until the rest of the new bleachers are finished, facilities director Richard Krasner told the Herald, but architectural renderings show where they will be placed. They are expected to be installed in time for the first football game.
The work at Fran Rish was part of Richland’s $98 million bond approved by voters in 2013, paying for the replacement of the visitor side bleachers in order in improve accessibility and safety, update bathrooms and provide better accommodations for coaches and media.
Construction didn’t start until this winter, held up by several engineering surveys and tests the district needed because of concerns about the stability of the soil.
However, the two letters, along with the “C” on neighboring Carmichael Hill, were removed in early January 2013 by a contractor.
The letters had been in place for years. The “R” was a gift from Richland High’s Class of 1968, and residents and school boosters flooded school board meetings, district email and phones with complaints, saying they should have been notified before the letters were taken out.
A district investigation found procedures weren’t properly followed, but none of the administrators involved in the decision to remove the letters was disciplined.
District officials said the letters needed to be removed for the bleacher work and because they were a safety hazard because children liked to slide down the smooth concrete. There was at least one documented case of someone being injured on them.
A committee of mostly high school students advised the district on how to replace the letters, Krasner said. While there had been initial calls to potentially add landscaping or other features, the students largely sought to just put back what was removed.
The new letters, however, will be made of stamped concrete, giving them a rougher surface, Krasner said, making them unsuitable for sliding.
And as for the new “Richland” and “Hanford” emblazoned on the press box being closest to the letter of their in-district rival?
Krasner said there wasn’t enough room on the building next to the “R” to accommodate “Richland.”