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Opinions mixed on future of Pa. school's stadium

April 27, 2005|BY DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

The grandstands of Trojan Stadium were empty for Tuesday's track meet with the visiting Harrisburg (Pa.) High School team, only because the bleachers have been declared unsafe and the spectators surrounded the track.

Closed at the end of March after a floorboard on the visitors' side broke, the Chambersburg Area School District's Buildings and Ground Committee is supposed to come up with a recommendation tonight on the future of the 50-year-old stadium.

Several options will be presented to the committee, ranging from a total renovation costing approximately $6 million, to doing enough to get the stadium reopened for the fall football season.

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With the district planning to build a new high school, the question becomes whether the board wants to invest millions of dollars to make the stadium home of the Trojans for another five decades or do enough to keep it open until a new school is built.

"I think that is exactly what the board is going to wrestle with," said Business Manager Rick Vensel. "It's a multifaceted problem for which there are many issues and many constituencies."

There is no shortage of opinions on the stadium's future, either.

"I'd hate to think a board breaking would change our whole direction of going for a new high school at a new site," said school board member Thomas Orndorf, chairman of the buildings and grounds committee. "We need the new stadium at the new high school."

"The first thing we have to decide is if this is going to be the stadium, if and when a new school is built," Athletic Director Don Folmar said. "I think that it would be hard for them to make all those renovations and then decide a new stadium is needed at the new high school."

"Ideally, you'd like to have all your facilities at the high school," Folmar said.

The reality is that different sports teams practice and play at different venues. For example, the boys baseball team plays at the borough's Henninger Field and the girls soccer team plays at Chambersburg Area Middle School, he said.

"It's not new for us to have to travel to practice facilities," Folmar said.

"The best decision is to renovate the whole stadium and do it right," said Chambersburg High School Principal Barry Purvis. "We're not even close to a new high school. We don't even have any land yet. What are we going to do for the next six or seven years?"

Planning and constructing a new high school will take up to six years once a site has been purchased, Vensel said. Designing a new stadium is included in the contract with Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, the Mechanicsburg, Pa., architectural firm that is expected to present conceptual drawings for the new school at tonight's meeting, he said.

"What we plan to do is to give as many options as there are out there," said Richard Bender, the district's buildings and grounds director.

At the April 13 board meeting, coaches and others made their pitches for what they want in a renovated stadium, including a synthetic surface, an eight-lane track, locker rooms, bathrooms, concession stands and other amenities.

Paul Taylor of Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates said at that meeting that repairing or replacing just the bleachers will cost between $1.3 million and $1.8 million.

"My main goal is to repair or replace the existing facility so it meets code," Bender said.

Bender said he will recommend the district tear down the older home grandstand, which engineers have determined is structurally unsound. The visitors' grandstand, which has seating for 2,500 and was built in 1961, has a structurally sound foundation and frame that Bender said can be repaired in time for at least part of the football season.

The visitors' side would need risers between the floorboards and seats, fencing around the sides and handrails on the stairs to bring it up to code, Bender said. It would be no small repair, as 1,709 boards of various sizes would be needed.

He said the repair would also require 17,000 bolts and a like number of nuts, washers and lock washers. He estimated the cost of materials at $30,000, but labor and other costs would not be known until the project is bid.

That option would still require the approvals of architects, engineers and building code inspectors, Bender said.

Bender said he will not recommend replacing the home grandstand unless the board decides Trojan Stadium will remain its primary sports venue for many years to come. If it does, he said he could quickly get a new grandstand designed and ready for bids.

That would still mean the stadium would have about 4,000 fewer seats this fall, Bender said.

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