Pawhuska Schools having trouble finding contractor for grandstand work

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Pawhuska Public Schools is having trouble finding a contractor to renovate the aging home-side grandstand at Ormand Beach Memorial Stadium.

The grandstand is more than 80 years old and is a local landmark.

“I met with four of them that I can remember because I walked the stadium with them,” Superintendent David Cash said, talking about meetings he has had with contractors.

Cash said contractors seem more willing to offer to knock the old grandstand down and build something new in its place.

“I can get demolition bids. I’ve got two of them,” he said. “I don’t know why. I guess business is either too good or it’s a little too complex."

The current estimated cost of preserving the sandstone outer structure of the grandstand and replacing the aging concrete on the interior has been estimated at more than $100,000, more than the cost of demolishing the old grandstand and building something new, he said..

“It’s because of the complexity of bracing those walls and the liability,” Cash said.

The liability issue as it relates to worker safety has been a key concern, he said.

Meanwhile, the structure gradually is becoming more unsafe for sports fans.

“We’re getting pretty close to it,” Cash said in regard to reaching the point where the old concrete grandstand will be too dangerous.

Parts of it are unsound, Cash said. The school district has been advised to mark off part of the north end and to try to keep people out of that area, he said.

The grandstand was a federal Works Progress Administration project and dates to 1936-37. It consists of native sandstone outer walls, and the seating area made of poured concrete in a structure nine tiers high.

The grandstand is of sentimental value in part because generations of Pawhuska boys have played their hearts out in front of family members and friends seated there. It also has value, however, because the stadium is named after a Huskies football legend from the 1920s who went on to become a Hall of Famer in Canadian football.

Aging newspaper clippings show the stadium was dedicated in honor of Ormand Beach on Oct. 31, 1947, the night of a home game versus Vinita.

Beach was a 1929 graduate of Pawhuska High School who made All-State and went on to be a standout at the University of Kansas, where he studied petroleum engineering. After college, Beach worked for the Imperial Oil Co. in Canada and became a star on the football team -- the Sarnia Imperials -- that the company sponsored.

Beach, who was 6-foot-3 and reportedly played pro ball at about 230 pounds, was described as a great open-field tackler; a big man with speed. The Imperials narrowly lost the 1933 Grey Cup game, for the Canadian championship. That was the year before Beach arrived.

In 1934, Beach's rookie season for the Imperials, they won the Grey Cup and his tackling was credited with making the difference.

“The best player in the 1934 Grey Cup game was Sarnia’s Ormond Beach,” according to Stephen Thiele’s 1997 book “Heroes of the Game: A History of the Grey Cup.”

“Beach was all over the field defensively. On Regina’s running plays, Beach hit the line with such force that Roughrider linemen were strewn across the gridiron," Thiele's book added. "According to most observers it was the tackling of Beach which single-handedly prevented Regina from winning the Grey Cup.”

Beach was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in its 1963 class. He died in 1938 at the age of 27, in an industrial accident in Sarnia.

The quoted material from Thiele's book also hints at a bit of a mystery surrounding the spelling of Beach's first name. Almost all of the American sources of information about him -- particularly from the time when he was living -- spell his first name O-R-M-A-N-D. The majority of Canadian sources the Journal-Capital has looked at, including magazines and newspapers published when he was living, spell the name O-R-M-O-N-D.

It is spelled "Ormond" in his Canadian Football Hall of Fame listing and also apparently on his gravestone (an image is available online). When he died as a result of a refinery explosion, it was front-page news in Sarnia, and the Sarnia Observer spelled his name "Ormond."

The Journal-Capital has searched, unsuccessfully so far, for a source that could explain the discrepancy.   

Beach is also remembered at Pawhuska High School on an annual basis through the presentation of the Ormand Beach Award, which is given to the Huskies football player whose football ability, team loyalty, leadership, scholarship and character are deemed most outstanding. The first recipient, in 1948, was Louis Surber. The most recent, in January, was Bryce Drummond.

Some Pawhuska families have had multiple winners of the Ormand Beach Award. Matt Roberts, who won the award in 1988, did a special presentation on Ormand Beach in May 2015 at the Osage County Fairgrounds.