The upper rows of the grandstand at Hare Field will be off-limits at the Elden Kellar Invitational

A little bit different, but also the same.

That is how you might describe this year’s Elden Kellar Invitational, the long-running invite named after the Hillsboro and Glencoe coaching legend. Now in its 47th year, the meet returns to Hare Field this afternoon, starting with field events at 4 p.m. by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Runners pass in front of the grandstand at Hare Field in Hillsboro. The upper rows of the grandstand will be off-limits until the school district can renovate the structure this summer.

As always, the teams are the same. The four Hillsboro schools return, as do Canby, Grant, and Washington’s Columbia River and Kelso. The schedule of events is the same — for that matter, so is the time schedule.

But for those who have not been to Hare Field lately, you might notice one big difference: Other than in the first two rows, seating is not permitted in the main grandstands. The rest are flagged off with caution tape and signage.

The grandstands underwent their annual safety inspection last summer and were assessed as not up to code. So after the Hillsboro School District’s insurance adjustor also took a look, district officials opted to close the stands while seeking a solution.

“Basically, what it comes down to is the current code right now requires a filler panel between the seat board and the foot board so that some small child cannot fall through,” explained Loren Rogers, the district’s director of facilities. Seating is allowed in the first two rows because anything higher than 30 inches needed to be closed, Rogers said, but those two rows come in below that measurement.

Given the closure, little covered seating will be available at a track meet that typically draws 1,000-plus spectators, and hundreds of participants and their coaches. That is not ideal, especially at the end of a wet week in the Portland area. The great news, though, is the inconvenience is only temporary.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Hillsboro school board unanimously voted to replace the current wood and metal grandstands, at a cost of $518,000, with all-new aluminum stands. Included in that figure is a retrofit of the bleachers at Glencoe’s track, which also were closed following their annual inspection.

Funding for the projects will come from the district’s construction excise tax, a tax on construction permits assessed by Washington County and the cities of Hillsboro and Cornelius.

The project’s start date was not given at the meeting, though the intent is to finish installing the new stands in time for football. Both Hilhi and Glencoe play home games at Hare Field.

In the meantime, Kellar invite officials are going to make the best of today. There had been some discussion about moving the meet to Liberty, which has covered grandstands, but ultimately it was decided to keep the event at Hare Field.

“We’re going to make this meet happen the best we can using the facility the way it is,” Hilhi athletic director Steve Drake said.

The closure involves only the grandstands, Drake said, not the rest of the structure. Hilhi still has access to the press box on the roof, so it can run meets.

For most at the meet, the inconvenience will be a one-time event, but the Hilhi team — which holds its practices and home meets at the facility — has been managing it all season. Spartans coach Tim Kasper said the closure is not really an issue for practice, but more so for meets.

But overcoming obstacles is in the Spartans’ DNA.

“We’ve had a season without a track, and we’ve had a season without a press box,” Kasper said. “We had different things go on. You just have to overcome them. There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s what I told the kids, too, ‘You can only control what you can control.’”

Hilhi kids must be bused to Hare Field every day for practice, and they don’t currently have access to locker rooms or indoor space for meetings or to warm up.

“But the tradeoff is we have such a great facility,” Kasper noted.

The new grandstands will be fully ADA-compliant, Rogers said, with handicap seating and an ADA ramp. Also significant, they will be “virtually maintenance-free,” Rogers said, given their aluminum make. That is a plus in this age of money-strapped school districts.

So pack the rain gear and the portable chairs, because it’s only one year — not a lot of weight to bear for the latest in a long line of improvements to Hare Field. Besides, today, with the complex’s open layout, plenty of other vantage points are available.

“Every time we host a district event there ... everybody says, ‘Oh, man, what a great facility for track. It’s awesome,’” Drake noted. “And it is.”

Note: Kathy Fuller contributed to this story.

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