The cityâ€™s school board on Monday unanimously agreed to demolish the deteriorated visitor bleachers at Blankenship Field.
Inspections have determined that the bleachers are no longer safe for fans, would cost too much to repair, and should be demolished immediately, a school official said this month.
â€œThere is a very, very significant issue that we need to get on with,â€ said Bob Eby, Oak Ridge Board of Education vice chair, before the 5-0 voice vote on Monday.
The board hasnâ€™t approved a replacement plan yet, but Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent Bruce Borchers said the goal is to have new bleachers by the start of the next football season this fall. The school system is looking at all options in case the bleachers arenâ€™t available by then, Borchers said.
Allen Thacker, maintenance and operations supervisor for Oak Ridge Schools, said the bleachers could be demolished in about two weeks, and the steel and aluminum will be recycled. The recycling money could be used for repairs and renovations at the field.
Thacker said it could take about four or five months to build new bleachers, not including site preparation and rebuilding a retaining wall under them. Construction work should start no later than May 1, and Thacker would prefer to begin by April 1.
The visitor bleachers now hold 3,400 people, and replacing them could cost between $350,000 and $450,000, depending upon whether the stands hold 2,000 people or 3,000. The smaller bleachers would allow a small parking lot at the field for handicapped parking, a feature that doesnâ€™t currently exist, said Manuel D. Herz of Adams, Craft, Herz, and Walker, an architectural and engineering firm that evaluated the bleachers last year.
Itâ€™s not immediately clear how the project would be funded. Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said the city does not have the money for the bleachers. He said they are used five to six times a year by visitors, and he suggested that perhaps portable bleachers, such as those used for the Rose Bowl parade, could be used. Portable bleachers could also be used for other events, such as rowing races, or regattas, at the Oak Ridge Marina, Watson said.
There is a separate initiative that has involved citizens and has been under way since at least last fall that includes more comprehensive renovations at Jack Armstrong/Blankenship Field. Supporters have said those renovationsÂ could cost several million dollars, and they would be the first major changes at Blankenship Field since 1975.