Project Approved

PARKERSBURG – Wood County Schools officials have approved a summer project to replace the Rod Oldham Athletic Center’s 40-year-old bleachers.

The Wood County Board of Education on Tuesday approved two construction projects for the gym, which was built in the mid-1970s. The board approved a contract for Davis Athletics to replace the gym bleachers, which are original to the facility, at a cost of $207,400.

The board also approved a contract with Grae-Con Construction to replace an external patio deck on the Rod Oldham facility at a cost of $168,700.

Principal Tom Eschbacher said the funding was made available through the recent refinancing of the Wood County Schools’ bond issue. Mike Fling, assistant superintendent of school services, said the bond money is earmarked for such projects.

“The money can only be spent on the high schools,” Fling said.

Parkersburg South Athletic Director Rick Leach said the bleacher project is long overdue.

“I started here seven years ago and (bleacher replacement) was my first agenda item,” he said. “We just haven’t had the money to do it until now.”

Leach said not only are the wooden bleachers severely worn and in some cases broken, they present a safety risk to students and the public. Leach said there is a half-foot wide gap between one set of bleachers that could be a hazard to anyone walking across, and people have complained about splinters from the worn wood.

Several sections of boards have been replaced over the years, and the mechanism which retracts the upper bleachers has been broken for years. The mechanism couldn’t be replaced because the parts were no longer available, officials said.

“The floors underneath those bleachers will require some work as well, because there hasn’t been any way to retract the bleachers to get to the floor,” Leach said.

The lower bleachers work on a wire system that requires at least two people to manually release and pull out each section, he said.

The old bleachers will be torn out and new ones installed this summer. Leach said crews cannot begin work earlier because of graduation.

“We don’t want to do anything before the end of school in case we have to have graduation inside,” he said. “June would be the start of work, after the kids are already gone.”

Leach said the goal would be to have all work completed before August and the beginning of volleyball season. Leach said crews will begin with the upper level bleachers which are most often used for watching volleyball.

“Just in case something would happen and delay them finishing, we want to make sure those upper levels are done,” he said.

Leach said some summer league activities usually held in the gym may be disrupted by the work.

“I’ve already put out the word the gym may be closed this summer,” he said. “They might have to find someplace else to play.”

Leach estimates the bleachers seat about 1,500 people. The new bleachers will be “a different design, a different material,” and will be automated. The bleachers will be a navy blue and have red lettering which will be visible when the stands are retracted or when viewed from a distance.

“This is definitely an update that was needed,” Leach said.

Eschbacher said crews also will replace an external patio which is over an entrance and lobby area. The patio leaks despite numerous attempts to seal it, he said, and after a heavy rain the hallway has flooded and damaged some signs and pictures hanging on the walls.