A letter from Joe B. Hutcherson III of the engineering firm March Adams & Associates sent to the Hamilton County Department of Education states in part, “the existing stadium has now moved beyond the point at which remediation and renovation is possible and still be economically feasible. Furthermore it is our opinion that the stadium is no longer safe, should not be occupied and should be demolished.”
Last week the City of East Ridge informed Hamilton County Schools that codes enforcement officers had condemned the stadium built in the late 1950s. The letter contained 14 points about concerns over the structural integrity of the stadium and the deteriorated condition of the concrete bleachers.
March Adams officials compared photos provided by East Ridge officials during its inspection last week and compared them to some taken by the engineering firm in Jan. 2011, the letter states. “Based on the photo comparison there appears to be additional deterioration of the stadium structure since 2011,” Hutcherson wrote.
The engineers concluded that the locker rooms and offices below the stadium were not quite as deteriorated as other parts of the structure, but those rooms should not be used as “the upper level’s stability is questionable …”
Dr. Lee McDade, Deputy Superintendent of Administrative Services, said the school system will be accepting bids from company’s to raze the nearly 60-year-old stadium. Dr. McDade said the issue of dismantling the facility will most likely be on the agenda for the next Hamilton County School Board meeting on Sept. 24.
Pioneer football coach Tracy Malone was busy Wednesday afternoon putting his undefeated Pioneers through their paces in preparation for its “home” game against Signal Mountain. Coach Malone said Friday’s game will be played at The Baylor School, whom he said “has rolled out the red carpet for us.”
But, Malone said the rest of the team’s home games he intends to play on Shanks Field, with an empty Raymond James Stadium behind them on the “home field” side.
“We are going to put some temporary bleachers right over there and some others over there,” he said pointing to the empty areas to the southwest and west side of the field. “Stump (Martin) said he was going to get us some from down at the park.”
Malone said the Pioneers will dress out in the old East Ridge High School gym locker room and the visiting team can use facilities in another part of the building.
“I hate to see it go, with all the tradition and everything, but stadiums don’t win games,” Malone said.
He said that he had a talk with his team about the issue of the stadium being condemned and the team is taking it in stride. “I’m not going to allow this to distract us,” Malone said, as he resumed practice.
East Ridge’s marching band will not be making the trip to Baylor, said long-time band director Perry Vandergriff. But it’s the only game in which the band will not perform.
Vandergriff said that he met with the band’s booster club Tuesday night and there was “an outpouring of support.”
“We sat down and put our heads together and worked some things out,” said Vandergriff, who at the time was not aware that the football team would play on Shanks Field in its home games other than this coming Friday. Vandergriff said that it costs the band as much as $1,000 to travel to far away games like Polk County.
“This is true of the football team and the band, without parents’ support we’d have to shut this place down,” he said.
Dr. McDade said that there was no problem with the Pioneers playing on Shanks Field. “They can use the bleachers,” he said referring to aluminum stands on the visitors’ side. “Other people can bring chairs.”