J. Fred Johnson Stadium upgrade being scaled back

Matthew Lane • Jun 3, 2013 at 4:16 PM

KINGSPORT — The scope of the J. Fred Johnson Stadium project is being scaled back in light of contractor estimates coming in around $1 million more than the initial estimate from a New York-based design company working on the project.

The stadium project calls for major improvements to the 1942 grandstand, adding an upper deck with 1,500 new seats, a new press box and new areas for concessions, handicapped accessibility and restrooms along with wider aisles and hand rails, an elevator and new covered concourses.

The $4.2 million project also includes a 1,200-square-foot dressing room near first base for visiting football and baseball teams, with family bathrooms available for non-athletic events.

After more than a year of discussion, planning and wrangling back and forth on when the project should and would start, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen gave the go-ahead for the project to be bid.

However, Kingsport canceled the bid submission date scheduled for May 1.

“Once the contractors started crunching the numbers and getting close to the bid opening, (the project) was coming in substantially over budget,” explained Hank Clabaugh, city engineer and project manager for the project. “That’s why the city decided to step back, cancel the bid opening and look at some value engineering, ... some areas where we could save money.”

During the pre-bid conference, Clabaugh said the contractors informed the city the stadium project would likely cost in the $5.1 million to $5.3 million range. CHA Sports, a New York-based sports facility design company, had estimated the work to cost around $4.2 million.

CHA Sports has been working with Kingsport City Schools, the city of Kingsport and a citizens committee for more than a year on the project, coming up with conceptual drawings and designs, along with cost estimates for the work.

Clabaugh said CHA has gone back and looked at some cost-saving measures to bring the project in closer to budget.

“They found a different way they could do the foundation that’s going to save some money,” Clabaugh said. “They took out some steel from the project. Now, it’s going to be concrete with a brick veneer. They took out one of the stair towers and changed the handrails to a standard, galvanized finish.”

Two other big changes: the 1,200-square-foot dressing room is now a bid alternate and the contract length has been extended to Aug. 1, 2014. Initially, those pushing the project had wanted it completed before the fall football season, or at least partially completed by then, with the remaining work done after football season was over.

Now, whoever gets the contract has more than a year to complete the work without having to hurry to finish the job.

“That’s going to save money. People will not have to work multiple crews with overtime. There’s not a rush to get it done and they can be as efficient as possible,” Clabaugh said.

A pre-bid meeting for the stadium work is scheduled for June 4 and bids will be accepted on June 13.

“The real aim and goal is to stay within the $4.2 million,” said Danny Karst, local developer and a member of the citizens committee working on the project. “I think if we get the bid and lock in the price, it will create more breathing room for those bidding, to have time (to complete the project) and wouldn’t be as likely for liquidated damages to happen.”

Though the committee has pushed for the expansion to be completed as soon as possible, Karst said he thinks the committee would be pleased if the project happens by 2014.

Though the stadium expansion project has hit a snag, the lighting project at the stadium is well under way and should be completed before Fun Fest. The $560,000 lighting project calls for the replacement of the existing light poles around the stadium with new ones.

Clabaugh said work started on this project two weeks ago, all of the foundations have been set and four of the new lights have been installed. Work is expected to wrap up by July 11. Reynolds Electrical Contractors of Dixon, Tenn., is performing the work.

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