PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As a community fights to replace the Grant Bowl field and track, neighbors doing their own research into the site say they’ve uncovered some of its history dating back a hundred years.

Last month, the PPS school board voted to replace the field and track — land currently owned by the City of Portland’s Parks and Recreation Bureau.

“These are school grounds that are to be shared with the community, and I think that’s what everyone wants at the end of the day,” Virginia La Forte with the Grant Bowl Community Coalition said. “We had a little bit of free time on our hands so we started digging around.”

A community centered around a piece of Portland history, parents and neighbors went through archives while preparing for Grant High School’s centennial, and ended up uncovering how the field, facilities, and track became divided between PPS and P&R.

“We learned that in 1922, the City of Portland approached PPS for a significant investment in the land we now know as Grant Park,” La Forte said. “They wanted this money out of the school bond funds that had just been passed for the development of a new northeast high school.”

La Forte is also a parent of a Grant High School student. She says after digging through the records, they found a good percentage of the area was bought by PPS with bond funds and sold to the city for $10.

“Part of the deal was that parks would agree to build and operate the athletic facilities for the school, which was not just the athletic field, but it’s the tennis courts and the pool,” La Forte said. “The school board at the time made the city put it in writing and that writing is actually an ordinance that was passed in 1923 that protects this agreement between the city and the school district.”

La Forte says the hope is that with these extra findings, an agreement will soon be made between the district and city to allow PPS to take over maintenance and operations, which is now under the Parks Bureau, including replacing the field’s turf — currently deemed unsafe for fall sports — and the track, which has started wearing away, while adding in lights and terraced seating.

“It feels like in the spirit of partnership and how this deal was reached over 100 years ago, this is a really perfect time for a reset,” La Forte said. “With a lease agreement, that allows PPS to go ahead and make the investments they need to make to replace the turf, fix the track, consider the lights that everyone has wanted for many, many years and terraced seating. It opens up the opportunity for us to have later practices, have home games, and stops cutting into instructional time and homework time for students who are constantly traveling to do anything outdoors related to school.”

Portland Parks and Recreation confirmed to KOIN 6 they’re the public owner of Grant Park and responsible for maintaining it but have sent a number of draft options to the district for the field’s future:

  1. Reciprocal Lease: 20-10-10 year lease, with reciprocal site terms.
    1. PP&R lease to PPS: Buckman (track only, the field is already under a separate agreement) and Grant Upper Field and Lower Field (Bowl)
    2. PPS lease to PP&R: Whitaker site
  • Lessee is granted the right to redevelop, construct, operate, and maintain the leased sites/assets and enforce its own rules.
  • No landowner permits by either party, just normal City permitting requirements.
  • Consent to improvement is required by landowner to the lessee, but will not be unreasonably withheld.
  • Lessee shall control all use and permitting.
  • Sites must be open to the public unless permitted or otherwise restricted through separate mutual agreements.
  1. Non-Exclusive Lease (Site License): 20-10-10 year agreement from PP&R to PPS at the following locations:
    1. Buckman (track only, the Field is already under a separate agreement)
    2. Grant Upper and Lower Field (Bowl)
  • PPS is granted a site License to redevelop, construct, operate and maintain sites/assets, and enforce its own rules.
  • PP&R continues to permits site and collect all revenues, but provides PPS all remaining permit revenue after expenses are subtracted to be used for site operational expenses.
  • PP&R retains all non-PPS use to promote public access.
  • PPS is responsible for all costs, procurement, and project management related to reconstruction efforts.
  • PPS responsible for all site operational and maintenance costs.
  • Sites must be open to the public unless permitted or otherwise restricted through separate mutual agreements.
  1. Status Quo W/Cost Split (Joint Use Agreement): No lease or License required, status quo use and management for the life of improvements.
  • PPS and PP&R split the cost of field/track replacement at Grant Bowl and Buckman Track 2/3 PPS 1/3 PPR proportional to existing peak demand hour utilization and total hours used by parties.
  • PPS is responsible for all construction, procurement, and project management. PP&R to pay PPS directly at project completion after final acceptance.
  • O&M is performed by PPR, but costs are split in accordance with the 2/3 PPS 1/3 PPR split. PP&R staff costs are not included, O&M split is related only to materials, services, and utilities.
  • PP&R continues to enforce its own rules, permit use, and retain revenues collected from non-PPS users.

It’s unclear how soon a decision will be made. KOIN 6 also reached out to Portland Public Schools for comment about the coalition’s findings, but did not yet hear back.