NICEVILLE — The Okaloosa County School Board will vote Monday to approve spending $200,000 in contingency funds to pay for emergency repairs to the bleachers at Joe Etheredge Stadium at Choctawhatchee High School.
Dewey Destin, the board member assigned as a liaison between the School District and those who will work to accomplish the repairs, did not sound optimistic at a Thursday workshop that the funding would cover the cost.
“I hope that will be enough,” he told fellow board members. “But probably not.”
School Superintendent Marcus Chambers requested a few weeks ago that Jacobs/Titan A Joint Venture, out of Niceville, be assigned as the project manager for the work and committed to spending the $200,000 in contingency funding. Jacobs/Titan has hired Lord & Son Construction as the general contractor and Jeff McCarthy of McCarthy Engineering as the structural engineer. Schmidt Consulting is also involved in the project.
Crews working for Lord & Son were pressure washing the bleachers Thursday, said Ryan Chavers, a project manager for the construction company. Surveying work, "checking every little connection part and piece” inside the damaged stadium had been completed or would be within the day, Chavers said.
Destin said the team was still holding out hope Thursday that the project could be completed in time for the Sept. 6 home opener of the Choctawhatchee Indians football team.
“We will know a lot more by the end of next week. If we get people over there working we can get a better knowledge,” Destin said. “We hope to have people on site by the end of next week.”
The stadium was closed to the public in early July following a mandatory state inspection that uncovered shifting, misalignment and gaps in the concrete seating that engineers determined could cause the bleachers to collapse or large chunks of concrete to fall off the structure.
Built prior to the 1966 football season, and still the largest stadium complex in Okaloosa County, Etheredge's bleachers were constructed by stacking slabs of pre-cast double tee concrete on top of one another so their weight and gravity would keep them in place.
Heavy use and the Gulf Coast climate have been blamed for creating the current crisis at the 52-year-old stadium.
To repair the bleachers, construction crews will likely deploy hydraulics to lift the heavy rows of seating to move them back a few inches to their original positions.
Brackets, probably hundreds of them, will be used to prevent the huge concrete slabs from shifting again.
Crews will have to take additional steps in the area of the bleachers, about mid-field, that extends up to a press box at the top of the stadium. Cracked and chipped concrete must be smoothed and strengthened.
Brackets will also have to be placed across the back of the top rows of bleachers on the home side of the stadium to keep seating from shifting.
School Board Chairman Lamar White said during Thursday’s brief discussion that a constituent recently pointed out the symbolic significance of the failing bleachers at the iconic stadium.
“I had someone say, ‘If that doesn’t demonstrate the aging nature of our facilities, nothing will,’ ” White said.
“That is not our oldest structure, by any means.”