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The land where Ferndale High School’s stadium once stood - where students cheered and pep bands played and athletes like Jake Locker led the Golden Eagles to victories - has been wiped clean. Soon, it will be a gleaming, modern high school building. But for now, it’s a dusty construction site.

Jamie Plenkovich, director of facilities and maintenance for Ferndale School District, said the sudden change came with bittersweet feelings.

“When you watch a stadium get torn down, there’s tons of memories there - not just for myself, but for tons of people in our community,” he said. “But we’re excited about the new high school and new field.”

Although Ferndale area voters approved a bond which generated $105 million to build a new Ferndale High campus in February 2019 (along with other projects across the district), major construction work has only begun recently at the site.

The big breakthrough was the City of Ferndale approving a full building permit in early June. That will allow crews to begin with the major aspects of construction, such as installing utilities and the building’s foundation.

“Now that we’re able to fully construct, there’s no waiting,” said Kurt Belanger, superintendent of Cornerstone General Contractors - the Bothell firm leading the Ferndale High project.

As of mid-June, the current Ferndale High School building - whose core structure was built during the Great Depression and hasn’t received a major improvement since the year The Beatles broke up - is still standing. Students still need a place to attend classes in the 2021-22 school year, and a new school can’t be finished in one summer.

As of June 17, the only signs of progress are the removal of Ferndale High’s football stadium and athletic practice fields, located just east and north of the school building, respectively. Both are now seas of dirt and dust, with crews installing infrastructure.

That afternoon, crews were using a towering machine to create and bury geopiers 32 feet underground where the football field once sat. Geopiers are long columns of cement and rock that will go underneath the foundation and support it, said Belanger. The extra support is needed because the nearby Nooksack River creates high water levels underground, he said.

To build the geopiers, a crane scoops up rock and dirt and places it in a funnel at the top of the geopier machine. The machine funnels the material underground and uses vibration to create a solid formation. In one day of work, more than 50 geopiers were installed underneath campus.

Eventually, those geopiers will prop up the foundation for a general classroom building.

North of the school, where athletic practice fields were located, crews were building a stormwater retention system. Pipes with tubes inside them will move underground water into a nearby tanker, so crews can excavate and build a foundation.

That land will soon become the new football stadium for the Golden Eagles. But it won’t be ready for the upcoming season, so student-athletes will be driving 13 miles north this fall to play their home games at Blaine High School.

The new Ferndale High campus will be completed in phases. First comes the new gyms and locker rooms, expected to open in September 2022. Then, the three-story academic wing, filled with classrooms, will likely open in January 2023. Finally, the new football stadium and a career and technical education-focused building is expected to open in September 2023.