CHURCH HILL — It’s estimated to cost about $130,000 to repair Volunteer High School’s press box where decades of erosion under the bleachers has caused the structure to begin leaning forward.
During hard rains, mud is washed down from beneath the bleachers to the bottom of the grandstands, where it often puddles.
Hawkins County Schools Maintenance Director Shannon Glass told the Board of Education during a workshop Monday at VHS that the bleachers are stable and safe. The bleachers rest on two gray beams that are arched, so that when they’re loaded with people they flatten out rather than bow down.
What’s wrong with the press box?
However, the dirt between those beams is washing out onto the track and lower part of the bleachers, and that’s affecting the press box foundation, which is visibly leaning forward.
“At first we thought that it just affected the front section of the press box and that the lintel above all the windows that you look out of the press box had just rotated, which would have been a simple fix,” Glass told the board.
After taking a closer look, however, Glass realized the press box, from the back of the concession stand forward, has started to rotate slightly. The foundation on the press box side of that building is actually falling.
How will the press box be levelled?
The proposed fix is to drill down with auger type piers until they reach bedrock, which is about 32 feet, to create a new foundation for the building.
The same process was conducted several years ago on a wing of classrooms at Volunteer that had sunk about 16 inches.
Glass said it will cost between $2,500 and $3,000 per pier, which for the press box project will mean a cost of about $60,000 in piers alone.
Bladders will also be installed to stop erosion under the bleachers, although Glass noted that the stability of the bleachers isn’t an issue because their foundation beams are resting on the bedrock as well.
What’s the overall estimated cost?
The press box needs other repairs and additions. Glass estimated the cost of meeting all press box needs and installing the bladder to be around $130,000.
Board member Kathy Cradic expressed concern about using the press box for the 2018 season until it is repaired.
The engineer didn’t think it was an immediate concern, but said that the problem needs to be fixed now before it gets worse.
Another issue the BOE needs to address is coaches and other people standing on the roof of the press box.
Why keep people off the press box roof?
The roof is sturdy enough to hold the weight, but there aren’t any railings, and Glass identified it as a huge potential liability issue.
“They’ve built nice stairs to get up there, but that’s really a no-no and we need to stop it,” Glass said. “You can load that roof up and you’re not going to crush it. That’s not where the problem lies. The problem lies with the liability if someone trips and falls off of it or the wrong people drive by at the right time.”
Board member Chris Christian, who represents the Church Hill area, said he agrees there are too many people on the roof of the press box during games.
Most of them are home team coaches. Some are filming and others are calling plays or scouting for their team on the field. And sometimes people who have no business on the roof find their way up there.
One of the reasons coaches don’t use the press box is due to the close quarters and the opposing team’s coaches being able to hear them.
A solution to keep people off the roof
Cherokee High School solved that problem by building new coaches’ booths at both ends of the press box.
Board members said that would likely be the best solution for Volunteer as well, but that can’t be done until the press box foundation is repaired, which means it’s not going to happen for the 2018 season.
Glass said that for 2018 he has some chain-link posts and fencing that were removed from other areas that can be installed to make a temporary fence on the press box roof for 2018.
Theres also a big crack inside the press box between the front wall and side walls. Glass said that crack will close up once the foundation is jacked up, but he recommends installing angle iron in that corner to further secure the wall and hide the crack.
The BOE agreed Monday to advertise the project for bids. Glass noted that by the time the bid is approved and the contractor receives the materials, football season will be ending and work can commence.
If the bid is advertised now, Glass estimated the work would begin around January.
Pathways Alternative School
The Pathways Alternative School (PAS) located beside Rogersville Middle School is in need of similar foundation repair at the back corner closest to RMS where nine large pine trees were previously located.
A storm drain was directly under those trees, but it was clogged with pine needles, which caused standing water and saturation at the corner of PAS.
Glass said the floor has sunk about a quarter of an inch in four years and estimated that the job can be done with 6-8 piers for about $30,000.
The BOE agreed to advertise for bids on the PAS foundation project as well.