Oldham bleachers removed

PARKERSBURG – It’s standing room only at the Rod Oldham Athletic Center, at least until August.

Crews last week removed the gymasium’s 40-year old bleachers which were original to the structure, and officials say only one section of bleachers will be in place by the time school begins next month.

Wood County Schools Assistant Superintendent Mike Fling said the upper-floor visitor section of seating will be installed the first week of August. Students will return to campus Aug. 18.

The renovation project was approved in April by the Wood County Board of Education. Davis Athletics will replace the bleachers for $207,400.

The board also approved a contract with Grae-Con Construction to replace an external patio deck at Rod Oldham for $168,700. The money was made available through a recent refinancing of the district’s bond issue and can only be spent on high schools.

The old wooden bleachers had shown their age in recent years, with splintering boards needing replaced and dangerous gaps between sections. The old mechanism which could retract the upper bleachers had been broken for years because officials could not longer find replacement parts.

The lower level bleachers worked on a wire system that required several people to move them in and out and railings had to be installed by hand.

Fling said the new bleachers will be much easier to move and will include collapsible railings. Some areas also will feature VIP seating which will have backs.

“One really nice improvement is the athletes will have their own seating. They used to sit on the lowest bleacher, but now they will be seated on the floor away from the audience,” he said. “We’ll also have a walkway, so people won’t be walking on the court to get to their seats during an event.”

The new bleachers also will be further out from the walls, allowing for useable space in behind the structures.

“We will actually be regaining classroom space, areas we haven’t been able to use for years,” Fling said.

The walls behind the bleachers on both levels will be getting a new paint job, and for the first time in years crews have access to the gym floor underneath the bleachers and will be restoring those areas. Fling said after crews get the first set of seating installed, officials will have a more clear timeline on the rest of the project.