Wood BOE members, officials eager to address stadium issues

PARKERSBURG – Members of the Wood County Board of Education took no vote on the issues surrounding Parkersburg High School’s Stadium Field Tuesday.

But some appeared more than willing to write a check to the PHS Stadium Committee to get the ball rolling.

Board members heard from officials Tuesday night regarding options and costs to fix the condemned bleachers at Stadium Field.

“It’s time,” said Ryan Taylor, president of Pickering Associates. “You got your money out of the stadium.”

Officials from PHS and the stadium committee were seeking a green light from the board to begin fundraising toward a fix, meet with the board of risk management and the state fire marshal’s office and prepare a bid package.

Parkersburg High Principal Pam Goots said the goal is to have sections fixed by football season. She said the need for revenue generated by football offsets the cost of athletics at the high school. She noted Stadium Field served as host to 90 non-PHS events last year.

Officials said if the stadium remains closed in the fall the athletics department stands to lose about $200,000. Goots said the intent of the stadium committee Tuesday is to get approval to begin fundraising and seek a bid package.

Some board members appeared ready to write a check on the spot. Board member Jim Fox said the school system has a contingency fund.

“I’m open to discuss appropriating funds,” he said.

Fox said the issue isn’t just sports, noting Stadium Field is a historic landmark, important to both the city and the county.

Board president Tim Yeater said discussing funds for the endeavor wasn’t on the agenda. Members agreed to put the issue of funding on the next agenda. But they want to discuss funding for all three high school stadiums.

“It could be a financial can of worms,” said board member Tad Wilson.

Superintendent Pat Law asked the board to include all funding issues, noting building and roofing needs throughout the school system.

Charlotte Potter, treasurer for the stadium committee, said they have about $69,000 in the bank. Official noted the committee has raised $2.5 million for the facilities since 1996. That includes sponsors signs and a 50-cent tax on tickets used for upkeep and repairs.

“We spend it as soon as we get it,” she said.

Taylor outlined options for repairs.

A short-term solution would fortify the underside of the bleachers. That would cost about $900,000. But the work could be completed before the start of football season.

Taylor said doing the structural steel reinforcement of the stadium would reduce the stadium’s seating capacity to about 5,000 seats. PHS has a seating capacity of more than 8,400, he estimated.

Board members asked how long the reinforcement would last. Taylor said 5-10 years, noting something else will fail before the new reinforcement.

“There are so many issues with the stadium this is a very narrow approach,” he said.

Long-term solution is a “macro” fix that involves replacing the concrete bleachers with precasts. Or installing aluminum grandstands over top of the stadium bleachers, making the concrete “irrelevant.” Those fixes would last 50-70 years, he said.

Taylor said the second option requires more “vetting.” He noted the large fix would require the stadium being up to modern building codes, including fire and disability specifications. Those costs hadn’t been factored into the $2.5 million pricetag.

Goots said they wanted a long-term fix, but they also want things completed – on the home side at least – in time for the fall. Officials also want to retain the historic look of the 90-year-old stadium.

Potter said she was hoping the board would designate $900,000 for the project.

“We could kick in $200,000 and then have the home side done before football season,” she said.

Potter said that would give the committee about a year to raise money to refurbish the visiting side of the stadium.

Goots noted the underside of the visitors’ section can still be used, despite the bleachers being closed. The baseball team has a facility underneath those bleachers. Taylor noted precautions would need to be taken with regard to chunks of concrete falling.

“If we don’t help at all, what is the plan?” Fox asked. If committee officials have to rely on fundraising Fox thinks they’ll be having this same conversation next year.

Potter said after the meeting, the stadium committee had previously obtained a seven-year loan for the track at PHS. They raised funds and paid it off in three years.