Times-News file photo.
KINGSPORT — The city of Kingsport is expected to award a contract in the coming weeks for the J. Fred Johnson Stadium expansion and renovation project, and according to City Manager John Campbell, the estimated cost for the work will come in “real close” to the targeted amount.
The stadium project — now more than 18 months in the works — calls for the addition of 1,500 seats to the grandstand, a new two-story press box, new restrooms and areas for concessions, improved handicapped accessibility, wider aisles with handrails, an elevator and covered concourses.
The 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.
During a Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session Monday, Campbell gave an update on the project, saying city staff has been working with the two prospective companies on getting the final price within target.
“The challenge has been to get within a certain range. The price is getting very, very close,” Campbell said. “If we get close to $4.6 million we could make it work.”
But is $4.6 million the targeted number?
While Campbell has said he feels comfortable with the stadium project costing $4.6 million, Mayor Dennis Phillips — with the BMA apparently in agreement — has said the target number should be $4.4 million.
Last year, the BMA held off on the stadium project due to the timing of the work (and not having it interfere with the football schedule) and the need for a more accurate cost estimate. The project made its way back in the pipeline this year, but in talks with prospective contractors and with a first round of bidding back in June, the cost of the work came in more than $1 million over estimate.
At that time, the BMA instructed Campbell to see if any companies were willing to do the project at a guaranteed maximum price and use “value engineering” to bring the project in at the desired amount. “Value engineering” involves the contractor making changes to the project — most minor, some major — and using less expensive materials during construction.
Though five companies expressed an interest in the stadium project earlier this month, when Kingsport re-bid it last week, only two replied — Goins Rash Cain of Kingsport and J.E. Green Co. of Johnson City. Both bids were roughly $5.7 million and less than $30,000 apart.
But the $5.7 million bid is not what the final cost will be. The “value engineering” and some major deductions have not been accounted for.
Both companies proposed their own lists of possible “value engineering” reductions, such as removing the second story of the press box, changing the type of brick used and using an alternative HVAC system.
A final decision on which “value engineering” options to implement has not been made, but if all were approved, the cost of the project could be reduced by $600,000 to $920,000.
In addition, city officials say the project would use cast-in-place concrete structures for the elevator shaft and a support structure instead of steel and reinforced concrete. These deductions could save the city $240,000 to $270,000.
A group of local volunteers has been working with Kingsport City Schools, the city and two groups of sports facilities consultants to make the stadium project a reality. Local developer Danny Karst, a member of this group, said the group remains hopeful to be able to fund the cost of the dressing room.
According to the bids, the estimated cost of the dressing room is $270,000.
“By what means, we’re not sure of yet,” Karst said.
On Monday, Campbell said the school system would be willing to cover the cost of the concrete stairs near the dressing room ($17,000 to $21,000).
Other possible deductions, such as eliminating the band seating expansion and 560 seats in the upper grandstand and replacing the chair-back seats with bleachers, will not be happening, Campbell said.
KCS Superintendent Dr. Lyle Ailshie said the school system could live with some aesthetic changes to the project as long as the functionality of the project is not changed.
“The sooner you make a decision, the better off we’ll be,” Ailshie said.