LOGAN — Problems with the structural integrity of the bleachers at the Willis-Nisbet/Logan Football Stadium will likely require a complete demolition and rebuild, says a structural engineer along with members and officials with the Logan County Board of Education.
During a special session of the LCBOE on Tuesday, Sept. 17, Donald Beyer, a structural engineer with Williamson Shriver Architects, presented findings from an assessment of the bleachers and locker room facilities. He showed photos taken during the assessment that show significant rust and decay on numerous parts of the steel supporting the structure.
The original steel frame, when built, had nothing underneath. In 1961 and 1962, the brick locker room and bathroom were built directly underneath against the steel. According to Beyer, when the roof of the locker room began to fail and water gets between the bleachers, it soaks against the brick and holds it against the steel, which has resulted in the steel rusting over time.
In 1998, the structure underwent significant repair work in certain areas, which cost more than $200,000 at the time and involved chipping away the bricks where possible and welding new plates for structural reinforcement. Those areas, Beyer said, still hold up over 20 years later, but the areas that weren’t in need of repair at the time are now causing issues.
Beyer presented two options to board members: performing a repair like in 1998 or a complete teardown and rebuild from the bottom up. Beyer recommended the latter option because he estimated that up to 50% of the beams and steel structure can’t be seen due to the bricks.
“With the option to repair it, once you commit, you pay a guy all this amount of money to demolish that thing, and you get in there and start looking at it, you might change your mind, and then you’re in even deeper,” Beyer said. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
Beyer recommended the top 10 rows of the bleachers be blocked off from public use, as a structural failure on the lower level would not likely cause any safety concerns, he said. As of at least mid-September, the top section of the bleachers has been fenced off to prevent access.
At the LCBOE’s regular session on Sept. 24, one week after Beyer’s presentation, board member Jeremy Farley addressed the matter.
“For those of you who were not at our last board meeting, we were presented with an engineering report for the Logan High School stadium, and since that occurred in a public meeting and that’s already on the record, I will go ahead and say that there are some significant long-term safety concerns there that this board is going to have to act on within the next six months to a year,” Farley said.
At the beginning of the school year, the members of the LCBOE held three separate meetings where they toured the facilities in all three of the county’s major school areas, which is what resulted an engineer being called in. Farley said that certain facility funding requests will have to take a backburner due to the impending project, which he added will probably cost around $1.4 million to $1.5 million.
“Part of the tough decision-making on our part is the revenue that’s available versus the priority of the projects that are out there, and there are more projects than what there are revenue,” Farley said, “so that’s something that I wanted to discuss right now and to get that out in the most favorable light possible for everybody that’s here. We do know there are issues, and not only on the island, but in Man, as well as in Chapmanville. Upgrades are needed to our academic facilities as well as to our athletic facilities, and that discussion has happened, is happening and will continue to happen.”
In order for a new set of bleachers completed for the 2020 football season, the LCBOE has until Jan. 1 to get an order in with a company that sells bleachers.