Efforts to rename South Whidbey High School’s stadium after the late “Coach” Jim Leierer have resumed in the form of a Facebook petition.
Jon Chapman, a community volunteer who played for the longtime football coach in the early 1980s, created the Facebook page called, “Jim Leierer Stadium — Support Team” on Oct. 6. It had over 400 “likes,” 147 “shares” and over two dozen comments of approval as of Tuesday morning, all of which serve as positive indicators that the community is rallying behind the movement, Chapman said.
Chapman and others are proposing the stadium be renamed, “Jim Leierer Stadium at Waterman’s Field.”
It was a revival of an effort that first began in July but was paused while the district determined whether the directors had the ability to rename school facilities and buildings. A policy adopted by the South Whidbey School District in a Sept. 28 meeting granted the board of directors permission to name facilities or district buildings “after persons who have attained national or local prominence in the fields of education, athletics, arts and sciences, politics, military achievements and statesmanship,” as well as past U.S. presidents or Washington national senators or representatives.
Leierer died at the age of 92 in June after reaching near iconic status in the school athletic community after coaching the football programs at Langley and South Whidbey High Schools from 1953 to 1982. Around 600 people attended his remembrance held at the high school on July 23.
Chapman said the goal is to continue raising awareness of the petition and then show the South Whidbey School Board the results of the Facebook page at its next meeting on Oct. 26. The school board deliberated on the proposal in July but did not make a decision.
Board Chairwoman Linda Racicot said she could not comment on the petition because the board hadn’t discussed it as of Monday morning.
“I think we’ll wait to see what Jon has to say,” Racicot said.
Asked whether she felt Leierer fit the policy’s criteria, said she did not have an opinion yet because she wanted to hear from both the board and the community.
“Then we’ll go from there,” Racicot said.
Board Director Damian Greene maintained his support for the renaming of the stadium in a phone interview Monday. He was the only director out of four present at the July meeting who was in favor of the proposal. He said that a strong and unified community effort may be enough to convince his fellow board directors to jump on board.
“He was an inspiration to a lot of people,” Greene said. “I think the community needs to show some support as far as the coming together of a lot people who would want Coach Leierer to be honored like that. I welcome the same from anybody who wants to oppose it.”
Chapman said talks about the proposal began around a year and a half ago while Leierer was still alive, and that it was coincidental that the school board first heard about it just a couple of weeks after his death. He also wanted it made clear that the group’s proposal is not meant to take away from Bud Waterman and the Waterman family, which donated land for development of the high school.
Langley resident Mark Myres, who played for Leierer from 1970-1974 and also worked for Bud Waterman in his youth, is among those in favor of the proposal. He said Bud Waterman was like a second father to him and that he would have been happy to retain his name — Jim Leierer Stadium at Waterman’s Field — in the renaming of the stadium.
Waterman died in 1981.
“I think it would a positive thing for the community,” Myres said. “Everybody I’ve talked to personally thinks it would be a great honor with no disrespect to Bud.”
School district Superintendent Jo Moccia confirmed that she’s been in contact with the Waterman family, and that it’s agreed to support whatever decision the school board makes.