Why a local football team might need to find a new place to play this season

Workers install the stadium lights for Bellefonte's Rogers Stadium Thursday, July 19, 2018 at Bellefonte Area High School.
Workers install the stadium lights for Bellefonte's Rogers Stadium Thursday, July 19, 2018 at Bellefonte Area High School.

Coming off a historic season, the district and Mountain League champion Red Raiders football team might be without a stadium for most of this season.

In an update Tuesday night at the Bellefonte Area school board meeting, David Stezin, construction manager for Reynolds Construction Management, told board members that the contractors now estimate the Rogers Stadium renovations will be complete by Oct. 12 — just in time for the homecoming game against Central, but with only two home games left on the schedule.

That date is about a month later than what the board said they were originally told.

Stezin explained that the reason for the delay was a discrepancy with the site work contractor when the board decided at its previous meeting to explore awarding the contract for the field to local contractor Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. over Montreal-based company Field Turf. However, Hawbaker’s bid came in too high, and the decision was made to continue with Field Turf.

Superintendent Michelle Saylor supported Stezin’s explanation for the delay, but said they were originally told that exploring the Hawbaker option would not set back the project.

Stezin said that the field itself is still expected to be completed by its contracted date of Sept. 7, but it’s the bleachers that won’t be complete until October.

Board members were upset by that news, saying that they specifically ordered the bleachers early, ahead of when the renderings were even complete, to avoid this issue. They also argued that discrepancy over the field contractor shouldn’t affect the bleachers.

Stezin said that because of the month’s delay, the contractor handling the bleachers, Stadium Solutions, held off on placing the order for the bleachers to avoid having the aluminum sit out in the elements for too long before assembled.

“Because the schedule was slipping, they did not want to order the aluminum because if it showed up on site, they were afraid that if it sat out in the weather, it’d get stained,” he said. “And that opens up a whole other can of worms, because there’s no way to get staining off.”

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When asked if they’d still be able to use the field without bleachers, Saylor and Director of Fiscal Affairs Ken Bean explained that they’re still looking into that possibility, but it’s unlikely the code office would grant a certificate of occupancy, with the field still being an active construction site.

Saylor said that Athletic Director Jim Soltis has been working with other teams to come up with backup plans for as far as Oct. 12, which she said was the worst-case scenario.

Bellefonte’s first home game of the season, which is scheduled for Aug. 24 against Jersey Shore, will now be played at the Bulldogs’ home stadium.

Aside from switching home and away venues with other teams, Saylor said they’re also looking into the options of playing at Bald Eagle Area or State College’s fields, either on Saturdays or when those teams are away.

Despite the delays, Stezin told the board there are still opportunities to make up for lost time.

To help speed things along, the board voted to authorize Saylor and Bean to make arrangements with Reynolds Construction to increase the utilization of Stezin’s services from two to five days a week and give him the authority to work on the schedule, review and advise on change orders and serve as the owner’s representative on the project.

Now that he has increased authority over the project, Stezin said he can start the process of having the contractors work expanded hours, including nights and weekends, and see what he can do about expediting the aluminum shipment.

The Rogers Stadium renovations are a $7 million project funded in part by a $3 million grant, $3 million from the district and $1 million through capital campaign fundraising.

In a podcast posted by the school district on Monday, Physical Plant Director Aaron Barto gave an update on what’s been done so far. He said the old buildings have already been demolished and removed, the scoreboard has been disassembled, the foundation for the bleachers is being put in this week, and the inserts for the field lighting poles have been set and the poles are expected to go up by the end of the month.

The project is planned to be done in two phases, the first consisting of the turf, bleachers and paving for the eight-lane track, and the second being the concession stand, field houses and track surface. The second and final phase of the project is expected to be complete by the start of the 2019 football season.