Q-and-A: Hockinson football coach Rick Steele reacts to Gridiron Classic leaving the Tacoma Dome

Change is coming to the Gridiron Classic, drawing mixed reactions from football coaches.

The WIAA executive board voted Sunday amid negotiations to not renew a three-year deal with the Tacoma Dome as the host site for the 2019 Washington football state championships, which will likely mark the first time the event is held outdoors in over 30 years.

Per the WIAA, a decision on a location — or perhaps more likely, locations — sometime in the fall.

Scorebook Live Washington spoke to a handful of coaches to gauge their thoughts on the situation. Next is Hockinson’s Rick Steele, whose Hawks have won back-to-back 2A state championships.

(Editor’s note: answers have been edited for space.)

Rick Steele, Hockinson (2A)

Playoff resume: Two state championships (2017, 2018).

SB Live: What significance does the Tacoma Dome hold to you?
Steele: We went to the Tacoma Dome our first year (2004) because we were academic state champions for the 2A level, so we took our team up for that. That’s the first time I ever stepped foot in the building.

SB Live: And you feel it holds a special meaning?
Steele: It’s just for 30 years people have been saying their goal is to go to the Dome and they’re not going to say that anymore. Who knows where we’re going to go? It sounds like it’s really up in the air and it actually could change each year. The Tacoma Dome was a destination spot and it kind of had meaning with the kids, so I think that will be missing. In t he end the game, it’s a state championship game, that’s what’s important and I guess in the end it doesn’t matter where that is, but just going to the Dome kind of had a meaning with it.

SB Live: You’re saying despite the significance of the Dome, you don’t see your guys being less motivated to get to the title game.
Steele: No, not at all, but the kids were talking about it yesterday at practice. They heard about it, they saw it on social media and they were, I could tell the kids were disappointed. So, you know, we talked about it for five minutes and next thing you know we’re onto practice. I think they’ve moved on. They just want to get back to the state title game, wherever it is.

SB Live: Were you taken by surprise by the news?
Steele: No, I wasn’t. We’ve been hearing about it for awhile now that there was the possibility of it moving, so I guess it wasn’t a surprise. The thing that’s surprising it that the fact that they voted to leave the Dome, I wish they would have something set up. OK, we’re leaving the dome and going here, and wherever that is. It just kind of seems like it’s so up in the air right now. Who knows where it will land. I hope they find another destination spot, whether it’s Husky Stadium or something. I think it has to have something special to it. That’s just my feeling.

Steele (cont.): First time in a long time, weather will be a factor in the game and it never has before. I think it’s going to be hard for them to put a spot on the east side of the state. This year’s game is on Dec. 6 or something.

SB Live: You guys have played some cold playoff games.
Steele: We have. We played a pretty cold one a few years ago in Spokane. It was cold, but it wasn’t raining or snowing. It definitely is a factor and it’s going to be a factor that’s going to favor run-heavy football teams. We’re just going to have to see. One year you could be playing nice weather and, next year it could be snow, sleet, rain, who knows? It’s going to add another interesting aspect to the game. Who can play in those conditions? We’re used to playing in the mud here (at Hockinson), but it will be fun to see how the weather plays into who the state champions end up being.

SB Live: Would you like to see host sites in different parts of the state?
Steele: I do. I think for a very long time the state of Washington hasn’t felt that Southwest Washington is part of football in the state of Washington. I think with our success, Union’s, Kalama’s success, La Center’s success, Mountain View made it to the semifinals last year, I think we should have a spot down here. I think there’s a lot of very good football being played down here right now and I think we should be a factor in where those games land.

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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