WIAA votes to move Washington high school football championships from Tacoma Dome

Long-speculated change is coming to the Washington high school football championships.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association executive board voted on Sunday not to renew its contract with the Tacoma Dome as the football state championship host site, citing rising rental costs and criticism of spectator seating.

The two parties were in negotiations on another three-year deal, but the WIAA looked to explore a more cost effective option.

“While the Tacoma Dome offered the ability to have all State Championship football games in one location, we anticipate that using multiple sites will have its own benefits,” WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese said in a press release. “Fans will see lower ticket prices by no longer paying the service fees associated with the Dome, and related costs of attending the event, such as parking and concessions, will be significantly reduced as well.”

The vote breaks with a venue the WIAA has played the Gridiron Classic at since 1995, and signals a looming change in how the event will look going forward. Before that, the Kingdome hosted from 1977-94.

The 2018 Gridiron Classic featured sideline bleachers which started some 15 feet above the field level. (Photo by Andy Buhler)

But the rent charge rose to $62,500 last fall and attendance dipped by more than 2,000 tickets to an event-low 13,358. And the WIAA heard negative feedback regarding seating last fall after a Tacoma Dome renovation placed the sideline bleachers 15 feet above field level.

The Tacoma Dome hosted all classifications under one roof. That will now change, and playing the games at multiple sites will pose challenges.

“The downside of (going to high school stadiums) is that everybody would be at different places at one time – and also be outside,” Colbrese said last month.

The WIAA said it plans to finalize the locations this fall, and will continue to house Hardwood Classic and Mat Classic in the Tacoma Dome.

READ MORE | What might the Gridiron Classic look like with multiple outdoor host sites? Perhaps Oregon is a model.

Andy Buhler is a reporter for Scorebook Live Washington. To hear him every week on the Scorebook Live Today podcast, subscribe here. Follow him on Twitter @AndyBuhler and reach him via email at andy@scorebooklive.com.

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