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Historic Stadium High School is home to unique swimming pool; football field


By John Gillis 

Located against the breathtaking backdrop of the Pacific Northwest, historic Tacoma (Washington) Stadium High School is the home to unique athletic facilities.

Among those is Wally Streeter Pool, an Olympic-sized swimming pool located 45 feet below the surface of E Street.

In addition, its bowl-shaped football stadium commonly known as “The Stadium Bowl” overlooks Commencement Bay, which is part of the spectacular Puget Sound.

The French chateau architecture of the high school building itself is both retro and impressive. Originally intended to be one of the finest luxury hotels on the Pacific Coast, it is a historic landmark that opened its doors in 1910. With an enrollment of 1,830 students, Stadium High School is part of Tacoma Public Schools and is situated in the Stadium District near downtown Tacoma. Located on a high bluff overlooking Commencement Bay, it possesses Old World beauty as it resembles a castle. In addition to its swimming pool and bowl football stadium, it also has a multi-story parking lot with tennis courts on its roof.

The pool is named after Streeter, who began his very successful career at Stadium High School in 1946 and finished at Tacoma (Washington) Mt. Tahoma High School in 1964. It was constructed in 1988 for about $5 million and is used for both swimming and water polo. The brick courtyard was then extended over the pool area to join the Industrial Arts Building.

Otherwise a dark facility, there are glass blocks on top of the pool area that let in natural light. The street itself is no longer open to traffic, so swimmers aren’t conducting workouts beneath cars and trucks on the surface.

A 2005 inductee into the Washington Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Streeter coached many individual swimming champions and record-holders. His teams won seven state championships, and Streeter coached 24 swimmers who earned All-American honors.

Coach Streeter was the first representative to the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association from Washington. He was a representative on the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association swimming committee, and also served as president and secretary of the Washington Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association.

Coach Streeter saw the need to offer swimming coaches continued training in technical skills and other important coaching techniques. He was one of the visionaries responsible for establishing the yearly Washington State High School Swimming Coaches' Clinic.

The Stadium Bowl, which was recently chosen as one of the best high school football stadiums in the United States by ESPN, also has a long and unique history that goes back more than 100 years.

Designed by Frederick Heath, the stadium dates from 1910 and is in a location once known as Old Woman's Gulch. Among the prominent individuals who have spoken there were Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, William Jennings Bryan, Rev. Billy Sunday, Gen. John Pershing and Babe Ruth. Louis Armstrong, John Phillip Sousa and his military band, and famous opera singers all performed in the Bowl.

Stadium High School is such a unique-looking building that even Hollywood found it. It was featured extensively in the 1999 teen-angst movie “10 Things I Hate About You” that starred Julia Stiles and the late Academy Award-winning Heath Ledger.

The studio selected Stadium High School because its Middle Age-influenced architecture lent itself perfectly to the movie, which was a modern-day updating of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” The crew spent three weeks shooting on location. Among the interior areas shot were the counselor’s office, the library, several classrooms and the hallway. In addition, the Stadium Bowl was used in a scene in which Ledger serenaded “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” to Stiles. The closing sequence featured a band performing on the roof of Stadium High School.


John Gillis is the associate director of publications and communications of the NFHS. If you have any comments or articles ideas, please forward them to Gillis at jgillis@nfhs.org
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