PHS stadium bleachers must be replaced

Time crunch for replacement could put home football games in jeopardy
2010-05-21T00:05:00Z PHS stadium bleachers must be replacedBy Joyce Russell - joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | The bleachers at the Portage High School football stadium must be replaced.

"The bottom line is the condition is becoming so bad, it might be dangerous to have people in the bleachers," Portage Township School Superintendent Mike Berta told the School Board on Wednesday night.

The condition of the bleachers has forced the moving of track sectionals from PHS and caused an early decision to hold the high school's graduation ceremony inside. It also has officials looking as to whether they must declare the situation an emergency in order to circumvent normal bidding procedures to have the structure demolished and rebuilt prior to the beginning of the next school year and football season. If the project is not completed by August, some -- if not all -- home football games would have to be moved elsewhere.

Attorney Gregg Sobkowski said state law does allow bypassing the public bidding process if an emergency exists. The district still would have to seek two proposals for the project and award the contract to the best bidder.

However, officials were unsure Wednesday night if they could declare an emergency. They directed maintenance personnel to seek specific time lines on how long it would take for the project to be completed and if the project could be completed within the public bidding process. The public bidding process would require the district to advertise specifications for the project, set a date to open bids and award a contract before work could begin. The process often takes weeks, if not months.

Officials asked the information be obtained before Monday's regular School Board meeting, so that board members could declare an emergency if necessary.

The project, estimated to cost between $1.4 million and $1.5 million, would tear down both home and visitor side bleachers and replace them with a structure of steel beams and aluminum benches. It also would include footings, a concrete pad and some roughed-in utilities so that the area could be ready for additional future construction of a locker room, concession area or storage. Seating would remain at 3,800 on the home side and 1,000 on the visitor side.

Funding for the project will come from proceeds from a recent bond issue.

Berta said a report by Gibraltar Design indicated the concrete piers for 30-year-old structure were poured too shallow, above the frost line, causing the structure to heave as much as 9 inches over time. The piers are cracked, steps askew and decking is bowed and splintered. The present structure does not meet ADA requirements.

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