Dozens of people gathering at Raymond James Stadium/Shanks Field early Saturday morning for a youth league jamboree were not allowed in the concrete bleachers that the Pioneer faithful have sat in for more than 50 years, as it has been condemned by the city as being structurally unsafe.
An official, who did not want his name used, told East Ridge News Friday night that the crumbling stands were condemned and that East Ridge High School’s home opener against Signal Mountain will be played at Baylor School this coming Friday night.
Barricades were placed on the track on both ends of the home field side blocking access to anyone from climbing into the stands. An ERPD officer was posted at the stadium and directing people to the visitors’ stands for the Scenic City Football Jamboree.
East Ridge City Councilman Denny Manning has been sounding the alarm about the condition of the stands for months, if not years. Manning has stated numerous times that the concrete bleachers have holes in them big enough for a man to fall through.
The official who spoke anonymously on Friday night was unsure about what may happen now. He said the cost to replace the stands could be as high as $500,000. The Hamilton County School system owns the property.
One source said the city’s Fire Chief, who is over building inspections, condemned the structure on Friday after acting on a complaint.
Fire Chief Mike Williams said early Saturday evening that city officials had sent a letter to the school board and that he had met with its safety representatives last week. East Ridge Codes Enforcement Department officials had supplied the school board representatives with photos of the conditions of the stands. A question was posed to school board officials about what they wanted to do about the deteriorating conditions, Williams said.
“The bottom line is we have to look out for the safety of people going to the games,” Williams said. “Heaven forbid that we’ve got stands full of people and it collapses.”
Williams said that the school board will have a structural engineer inspect the stadium.
“The ball is in their court,” he said. “Nobody in the stands is deemed safe.”
A police officer allowed East Ridge News Online access to the crumbling stands. It appears the concrete has degraded to the point of crumbling and pulling away from the supporting structure. Gaping holes were visible in several different parts of the stands.
Dozens of steel plates have been used to patch the holes. At least one of the steel plates had been removed and is leaning against a row of bleachers.
East Ridge News Online will update this story as more information becomes available.