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Redesigned Federal Way Memorial Stadium: 'We want it to be their place'

The new $24.5 million facility opened for football Thursday, and one thing is clear - it caters heavily to in-district Beamer, Decatur, Federal Way and Thomas Jefferson High Schools

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - There are home-field feels, and there is now what the new-look Federal Way Memorial Stadium is providing for its four district high schools.

A colorful electric-light concert.

The new $24.5 million facility debuted for football Thursday night as Todd Beamer hosted the first game in the state-of-the-art digs.

Auburn won the 3A NPSL game, 44-33.

But the loss did not dim the excitement surrounding the new 4,000-capacity stadium, which showcased one of the most striking host-team sides of a venue in the state of Washington.

"We wanted to really highlight the school that is the home team," said Jerry Peterson, the Federal Way Public Schools director of athletics. "It was critically important to make sure to let them know, 'This is my stadium!'"

But first, district officials made the sensible decision to flip the home side to where the bigger East parking lot from Federal Way High School funnels into the facility.

"Seemed like the thing to do," said Michael Swartz, the district's executive director of capital projects.

2023 Washington high school football: Opening of new Federal Way Memorial Stadium (Auburn at Beamer)

Some of the highlights of the home side of the stadium:

* There are three separate press-box/coaches box areas, ample-sized concession sands and restrooms and plenty of moving space for spectators on the wide walking corridor.

* As spectators walk around the corridor area, they are met by intimations that this is the side where Beamer, Decatur, Federal Way and Thomas Jefferson fans are supposed to sit on: There are large portrait illustrations of specific-sport athletes from each school flanked on the outer walls of the concession stands/restrooms.

* Then, of note, is the cool LED lighting, which flashes the colors of whatever school is hosting the game. And when that team provides a big moment - football touchdown or soccer goal - the lighting system blinks off and on, adding to the excitement.

"That is the dopest thing I have ever seen, for real," Beamer quarterback Dominic Simpson said.

* There is also a player safety aspect to that side as spectators can watch, but are not given access to the student-athletes as they walk to and from the four renovated locker rooms.

Besides state-of-the-art LED lighting, the stadium has a new sound system and jumbotron scoreboard with video capacity.

Much like what the new ONE Spokane Stadium incorporates, the new Federal Way Memorial Stadium has a synthetic grass field developed by Astroturf, which has a couple of extra injury-preventive layers that should also extend the life of the playing surface.

2023 Washington high school football: Opening of new Federal Way Memorial Stadium (Auburn at Beamer)

The new light grey-colored, four-layered track is made by Plexitrac Accelerator, which applies a hard-rubber coating spray as the surface layer, giving runners optimum traction and footing.

The district also revealed a new stadium branding logo, breaking out the "M" lettering, which is visible throughout the venue.

The only real tie to the original Federal Way Memorial Stadium, which opened in 1971 but closed last February for demolition, is the south-end flagpole.

Swartz, a former teacher and elementary-school principal in the district who took over his current position in 2018 (right after the $450 million facilities bond was passed), attended the first event in the stadium Wednesday - a girls soccer game.

"There were a bunch of football players here (in the stands) who were visibly jazzed about the fact they were going to play on that (new field)," Swartz said. "That is what we want - we want it to be their place."

A blue-ribbon introductory ceremony for the new stadium, which was just approved for capacity last week, was delayed so each of the four schools could host at least one football game this fall, said Whitney Chiang, the district's chief of communications and strategy.

In a few weeks, the venue will be the new host for the Class 'B' soccer championships as part of a five-year agreement with the WIAA.

"This is the project you get do do that nobody has anything negative to say about," Swartz said. "Everybody ... it (impacts) in some way."

2023 Washington high school football: Opening of new Federal Way Memorial Stadium (Auburn at Beamer)

(All featured photos by Vince Miller)