By Heather Mullinix
Repairs necessary to make the stadium at Cumberland County High School safe for the public will proceed immediately, the Cumberland County Board of Education voted Thursday. The board also approved hiring an architect to lead a study and plan for possible renovation of the interior of the iconic structure.
Scott Christian, with ECE Services, reported the structure was sound, but there were areas of concern.
"There are two conditions that we found that require urgent, or as soon as practical, repair," Christian said. That includes repairing or replacing the handicap access to the upper and lower level seating and repairing or replacing the wall along the top of the seating area.
"Outside of these two issues, there is no significant structural damage. Concrete testing was favorable and there were no indications the structure is under any signs of stress," Christian said.
The access bridge allows handicap access to the middle portion of the stadium and is supported with T-beams on masonry piers. The piers have a significant amount of cracking that extends into the foundations.
The wall at the top of the stadium was added to the stadium some time after initial construction. Several large chunks have fallen from the masonry and there is significant cracking. Christian recommended repairing the wall or taking it out and replacing it with a fence, railing or a new wall to prevent debris from falling on those below the stadium or, in the event enough people leaned on it, collapse of the wall.
There were also issues of water not draining properly due to settling of the structure and cracking in masonry wall portions that are not related to supporting the structure.
Christian proposed three phases of repairs, with Phase 1 addressing the two priority issues, Phase 2 evaluating the programming needs of the school and schematic design and Phase 3 alternatives for finishing the renovation.
"There were several that brought up the mold issues, electrical problems and other problems," Christian said, adding evaluation of those systems was beyond the scope of the structural study. "You can renovate the existing structure and renovate the interior, if you desire. Or you could look at demolishing the upper portion of the stadium and leave the lower seating level and added needed ancillary facilities for concessions and other things at the appropriate place.
"You could look at demolishing the entire structure and replacing it with aluminum bleachers. The final option would be to repair the structural issues in the stadium and construct new buildings underneath, gutting the interior."
Sandy Brewer, 3rd District representative, said, "We have to address phase 1 immediately. We couldn't get it done this summer?"
Christian said the school system would need engineering plans to submit to the fire marshal, and no football games could be held at the field during construction until a new certificate of occupancy had been issued. He had looked at the project occurring in next year's budget, which would not leave time to complete work before football season began in August.
Brewer said, "Can we find the money to do it now?"
Christian said he hadn't completed detailed estimates for the work, but gave a estimate of anywhere from $60,000 to $150,000, depending on the type of materials used, to complete the priority repairs. If work could begin soon, he said repairs could be completed before the next season.
Demolishing the stadium would be an expensive undertaking, he said, estimating anywhere from $600,000 to $1.2 million if there was asbestos abatement needed. The seating would then have to be replaced, likely with aluminum bleachers, at a cost of $120 per seat. Facilities for restrooms and concessions would also have to be built.
Jim Blalock, 8th District representative, pointed to savings in the construction of the additions at Pine View Elementary and Pleasant Hill Elementary schools, which would provide about $200,000 for the repairs and to pressure wash the exterior of the stadium.
"We can go ahead and get this done now," Blalock said and moved to do so. The motion was supported by David Bowman, 7th District representative.
Charles Tollett, 1st District representative, said, "If we're going to repair the stadium, I assume we eliminate demolishing the stadium as an option."
Bowman said, "It would take more to tear it down and rebuild aluminum bleachers than it would to fix the stadium."
After discussion, Brewer moved to amend the motion to include hiring ECE Services to prepare engineering plans and cost estimates for the priority repairs. The amendment was supported by Bowman.
Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle said there would be adequate funds available to do the project in this budget year.
The amendment was unanimously approved and the motion to make the repairs, as amended, was also unanimously approved.
VanWinkle suggested the board work with Upland Design and Kim Chamberlin on a project to renovate the interior of the structure.
"We have to have an architect to do that," she said. "We're in the budget process now and we'll have to have solid numbers if we want this in next year's budget."
Brewer moved to hire Upland to take care of the renovation of the stadium, with Dan Schlafer, 9th District representative, seconding the motion.
Chamberlin said in order to meet a deadline of having the project included in the next budget year, work would need to begin quickly.
"We'll meet with the CCHS staff to develop a program of what they need and see what needs to go into that complex," he said.
He explained many of the mold issues were likely due to the concrete roof, with the seating area acting as a roof for the facilities underneath.
"It's almost impossible to keep water from penetrating the structure," he said. "What we're seeing now is actual buildings beneath stadiums with roofs that slope. But we'll put everything on the table and analyze the options."
Christian had explained during Tuesday's building and grounds meeting the masonry walls that provided division in the interior space were not structural supports for the stadium seating
Upland would not charge for the preliminary design work as long as it was contracted for the project moving forward. There could be some small costs for further testing and an asbestos survey the board would need to cover. If the project were funded and completed, Upland would ask for a fee of 6 percent of the project cost. That's a little higher than the fee for additions at Pleasant Hill and Pine View, Chamberlin said, but he added, "This is a bit more involved and complex."
The motion was unanimously approved.
Chamberlin also reviewed the property at Hwy. 70 N. and West Creston Rd. and Cartertown Rd. that had been purchased about five years ago as a site for a future elementary school.
The 39-acre parcel has access from Hwy. 70 N. and two access points from Cartertown Rd. The site does include wetland areas, but Chamberlin said it did not impact the building site. A small pond would be crossed by roadway. The building would be placed away from an existing drainage pattern and a swampy area was not needed for development but could prove a good spot for a nature trail.
"We usually tell you we need 20 acres of good land for a school," Chamberlin said. "This was 39 acres. We don't need to get into those areas with wetlands, but there are good places to build."