FAIRFIELD – More than 3,000 new seats will greet fans when they come to watch the Indians on the gridiron for the 2015 football season.
A $2.68 million project approved by the Fairfield Board of Education Thursday will refurbish the 1940s-era football stadium and related structures and should put the district in position once again to attract football and track post-season playoff events.
It will also allow accessibility to seating for those in wheelchairs, improve lighting and create student seating adjacent to the band.
“It’s been a goal of mine since I arrived (six years ago) to bring those bleachers up to standard,’’ said athletic director Mark Harden.
“Anytime you’re adding bleachers, you have to meet (current) building codes. All six years we’ve constantly been putting on Band-Aid after Band-Aid.”
The home side bleachers are more than 50 years old and constantly needing repairs, officials say. It is becoming harder and harder to find licensed welding companies to do the work, said Tom Weiser, the district’s director of business operations.
“We’ve had over 100 broken welds on the home side; none on the visitors side,” Weiser said. “There are issues there and we can’t even (get) people to repair them.”
The plan calls for removal of the home side bleachers, which will be replaced by 2,300 home side seats and another 1,000 end zone seats for students and band members.
The bleachers will be elevated to improve sightlines at the lower seating levels. Sixteen wheelchair spaces and 16 bench seats for handicap accessible seating are being added, along with a ramp. A new press box is part of the project.
“Safety is the biggest driver of this project,’’ said board member Dan Hare. “We have no seating for students with disabilities.”
A new concession stand – with running water – will be constructed. It will have a prep area, service bays and side entries to access restrooms. The current concession stand will be torn down.
A new fieldhouse is also part of the project, replacing the current locker room built in 1971. It will include home and visitor football locker rooms, restrooms for the visitors’ side of the stadium, meeting rooms, offices, officials’ rooms and storage. Training and weight rooms are also included.
Funding for the project will come from the general fund and won’t require going to taxpayers, said Treasurer Nancy Lane.
Harden estimated a minimum of $490,000 of the cost could be recouped by offering seat licenses, naming rights and money from playoff rentals. He said he would also seek donations and other means to offset the costs.
Depending on weather, bleachers, restrooms and the concession building could be installed by April 1, with the fieldhouse, lighting and moved entrance completed by early August.
Contractors, projects, cost not to exceed:
*Wenco, concessions building, restrooms, fieldhouse, $1.7 million
*Dant Clayton, bleachers, $836,000
*Musco Lighting, lighting, $150,000