Holt remains best place for football

Idaho State Journal Editorial

Holt Arena is a wonderful place to play football, and to watch football. But it primarily serves Idaho State University, and local high school teams play there at the sufferance of ISU.
Because it costs $100 per hour for District 25 to rent the arena for football, the cost is causing the local district to consider possible alternatives, such as developing a lighted field at Hawthorne Middle School at a projected cost of a half-million dollars.
That would be a step down for the district, and it might not result in a savings unless there was a substantial private contribution. Still, the idea merits consideration along with other options such as developing one of the high school fields at Highland or Century.
Some die-hard fans cling to the notion that football is meant to be played outdoors, regardless of the weather or bleacher accommodations before small crowds, with winter garb optional. But there is no doubt that Holt is much more comfortable, and the field has a superb new playing surface and scoreboard.
The district, if it is desperate to save money, could experiment with some afternoon games played outdoors at local practice fields and perhaps obtain Holt Arena for playoff games or rivalry contests such as Pocatello vs. Highland. The university has to realize that it too gains in attracting local and statewide recognition when high school teams play in Holt. That’s worth a lot to ISU.
In the best of all worlds, the district would have ample funds to pay for the use of Holt Arena without worrying if an $8 ticket is too costly for some fans. Now, $5 seems more reasonable. And wouldn’t it be possible to start games earlier so that the second game of doubleheaders would not be ending near midnight? Negotiations clearly are in order.
There’s another nuclear option if the district is broke. The school board could vote to abolish high school football, and save a bundle. That won’t happen, of course, because the fall sport is emblematic of the high school experience — a rite of passage for players, bands, drill teams, parents and communities. We want football games, we want them in a suitable venue, and we want them affordable.
Before Holt Arena was built 40 years ago with ISU student funds, Pocatello High School played its games at a decrepit Irving Field or at the then-Spud Bowl, since remodeled for ISU soccer. The move in the 1970s of high school games into Holt, the nation’s first indoor college football arena, was hailed as a step into a new era. It would be a shame now if that transformation were abandoned.