PARKERSBURG - Officials working to correct the structural issues at Parkersburg High School's Stadium Field are trying to find the funds to address the issues and get the stadium open as quickly as possible.
Parkersburg High School Athletics Director Lori Lowers said the Stadium Committee will meet Monday and with the Wood County Board of Education on Tuesday.
"We are going to decide on a plan of action and then start moving."
Parkersburg High School Athletic Director Lori Lowers stands beside one of the crumbling sections of the visitors side bleachers at Stadium Field. Lowers said the visitors side bleachers' exterior has received more damage since it faces into the weather coming across the Ohio River from Belpre. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)
The Stadium Committee - with the permission of the Wood County Board of Education - has been working with Pickering Associates to review the bleachers at Stadium Field after they were closed late last year. The committee was recently presented a report that provided two solutions to the issue.
Lowers said the short-term solution would be to fortify the underside of the bleachers. That would cost about $900,000. But the work could be completed before the start of football season.
The long-term solution would involve removing the risers (the concrete seating) and replacing it with prefabricated concrete. That option would cost close to $2.5 million and take about a year to complete.
Officials want the stadium open in time for football season.
PHS is nearly self-sufficient with regard to athletics. The athletic department receives little money from the board and relies heavily on football to generate revenue to sustain its other athletic programs. Football and boys basketball are traditionally the only revenue-generating sports in high school athletics.
Big Reds football brings in about $110,000 a year, Lowers said.
Lowers said the short-term fix is guaranteed for five years but could last longer. In addition to fixing the issues in time for football, Lowers said it would also allow officials time to plan a permanent fix.
"That five-year fix gives you time to plan how you are going to get the rest of it fixed. It allows some flexibility," she said.
The stadium was shut down in November following an engineering report that stated the bleachers were unsafe. The report was based on a visual inspection of the 90-year-old complex, which found numerous areas where concrete was cracking and pulling away from the structure.
Lowers said after football season the bleachers could be repaired or replaced in sections and done so the stadium and sections of the bleachers remain open throughout construction.
The closure of the stadium not only impacts Parkersburg High, but also Parkersburg Catholic High School, which plays its home football games at Stadium Field. Danny Tennant, athletics director at PCHS, said they plan to play home games at PHS if the stadium is available.
"Otherwise, we will have to find an alternative site," he said.
Tennant said they have talked with officials about the use of other sites, but nothing has been solidified.
Sue Woodward, assistant superintendent of Wood County Schools, said there is no money set aside in the school system budget to fund the issue. The school system has a multimillion dollar contingency fund.
Connie Roberts, finance director for Wood County Schools, said the system has $2.8 million in its contingency fund. Roberts said the state recommends 3 percent of the annual budget be set aside to cover emergencies, which would be $3.4 million.
"Money is huge issue," Lowers said.
The Stadium Committee and other PHS entities are looking at funding the project themselves.
"We are exploring every avenue of funding so to speak," she said.
Those options could include naming rights.
"We are open to any options. I can't speak for everyone, but that would be very acceptable."
Woodward said selling naming rights could be an option, so long as it follows policy. Policy 1340 allows for the board to lease naming rights of facilities.
Lowers said a lot of other options have been thrown out for discussion, but none have been seriously considered.
"The Stadium Committee will decide what we feel will be a plan of action then take it to the board and get their idea," she said. "We are hopeful and optimistic we can get it back open."