As construction work continues on Rogers Stadium, the Bellefonte Area High School team has been on the road, living out of bags and traveling to various locations.
Although coach Shanon Manning said earlier that he didn’t think his team would be too affected by the travel, project manager David Stezin, of Reynolds Construction, said he and the contractors would like to do something nice for the players and fans — hold the rivalry game against Bald Eagle Area in the new stadium on Oct. 26.
“I don’t want to commit to that, because I don’t have control over the weather or anything else unforeseen like that. But right now, the bleachers and field could be finishing in relatively the same time frame, which is a good thing,” Stezin said in a podcast posted by the school district on Friday. “Then we can focus on just buttoning the things up that are going to need to be in place.”
Phase I of the $7 million Rogers Stadium renovation project began in April with demolition and was originally expected to wrap up near the beginning of Bellefonte’s season. However, with an early discrepancy with the site work contractor and a summer of record rainfall, the project’s timeline got pushed back.
When he addressed the school board on July 17, Stezin said they would work to make up some time and estimated that the field would be ready to play on by Bellefonte’s homecoming game against Central on Oct. 12. However, more rain put a wrench in those plans.
“They’re doing what they can,” Stezin said about the contractors, “but one of the problems you have on a project like this is that it can rain like it has been — with these huge downpours — and then you have to wait two to three days for the place to dry out before you can get back to work again.”
Since the board, at its July 17 meeting, voted to increase the scope of Stezin’s involvement in the project, he said the contractors have been working extended hours to help make up for lost time. He said they also have been working weekends when they can, but the rainfall keeps occurring toward the end of the week.
So far, Stezin said, a lot of the infrastructure work — drainage, plumbing and electrical work — has been completed, and they’re next set to work on the track and field features.
Work on the bleachers, beginning with paving under the bleacher area, is set to start early this week.
Stezin explained that rain was a hindrance specifically to the type of work they were doing — leveling out the site for the field.
“What we’re trying to do is level it out then bring it back to where it needs to be. And if you start driving on it and start getting in there to work on it, you do more damage to what you’ve already got in place,” he said.
Phase I of the project includes the demolition of the existing buildings, stadium and field, the installation of a new track and field features, such as long jump, pole vault, discuss and javelin areas, the football field and stadium seating. Aside from the addition of a track, the new Rogers Stadium will also look different with the new bleachers setup.
Instead of on both sides of the field, the bleachers will span about 200 feet between the two light standards on the east side of the field only, with a seating capacity of about 3,200-3,300, with a press box on top.
That will help the residents who live on the west side of the field feel like their backyards aren’t being as encroached upon, Stezin said. They also plan to erect a fence on that side of the field.
Phase 2 — the construction of the field houses, concession stand and bathrooms — is set for next summer.
In addition to the rain, the discrepancy in June over the site work contractor also set the project back about a month, Stezin said.
At its June meeting, the school board of directors decided to explore using a local contractor for the site work. However, that contractor, Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc.’s, bid came in too high, and the decision was made to continue with the contractors already set in place by Montreal-based Field Turf, the contractor handling most of the field work.
Stezin said that while Field Turf wasn’t opposed to using a local contractor to complete the site work, they had already had their contracts in place and ready to go. So going back to the drawing board and reworking numbers “put a little bit of a monkey wrench” into things.
“I think the board was genuine in what they were trying to do, offering local contractors an opportunity to have this work; unfortunately, it just evolved into something that was a negative for the project,” Stezin said. “If I had been on board at that point, I would’ve probably tried to interject.”
The board’s July 17 vote increased the utilization of Stezin’s services from two to five days a week and gave him the authority to work on the schedule, review and advise on change orders and serve as the owner’s representative on the project.
Stezin that like with any major project, extra time was built into the construction schedule for Rogers Stadium, but the combination of the two delays cost more time than what was initially planned for.
Despite the delays, Stezin is still optimistic Bellefonte can play at least one home game on its own field this year.
“We’d like to be done a few days before that (Oct. 26). I don’t really know how well that’s going to play out, but that’s what we’re shooting for,” he said. “I don’t want to commit to that, that’s just our hope and that’s what I’m trying to focus the contractors on. They’re all on board with that, and they’re all trying to do their best to give you guys the ability to have that last home game.”
Without Rogers Stadium, Bellefonte’s football team — as well as the other teams that utilize the field — have done a bit of traveling.
For football, the first game of the season, which was supposed to be played at home, was instead held at Jersey Shore. The Red Raiders on Friday played a “home” game against Philipsburg-Osceola at Lock Haven University. The Sept. 21 home game against Tyrone is to be held at Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Stadium.
The costs of renting other facilities and the loss of home ticket sales is offset by not having to pay for ticket-takers and field maintenance, district Business Manager Ken Bean said.
The Rogers Stadium renovations are funded in part by a $3 million grant, $3 million from the district and $1 million through capital campaign fundraising.
“It’s unfortunate what happened but it’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish,” Stezin said. “And I think if we can finish, give them a brand-new stadium with all the bells and whistles they paid for and are looking forward to having, I think that would go a long way.”