900 seats closed off at Putnam

Mark Maynard, The Independent

ASHLAND — Anybody wanting a seat for the Raceland-Ashland game on Friday night in Putnam Stadium, better get there early — and not just because of the rivalry.

Putnam Stadium will have 900 fewer seats this season after structural concerns were raised from an engineering report at Monday night’s Ashland Board of Education meeting.

The 76-year-old stadium continues to show significant wear and deterioration of concrete.

Temporary fencing will be erected from the 25-yard line to the end zone — both home and visitor side — on the open side of the field.

That amounts to be about 900 seats, said Ashland Athletic Director Mark Swift.

“We’re making adjustments,” he said.

The stadium seats around 4,500 to 5,000, but it will be down nearly 1,000 this season because of the structural damage.

The three biggest gates anticipated for home games will be Raceland, Ironton and Johnson Central.

“Raceland has become our second-biggest crowd, behind Ironton,” Swift said.

The report, prepared by Structural Design Group for Chuck Trimble, examined several large areas of spalling where concrete reinforcing is exposed and rusted. It was recommended nobody sit in those areas for safety reasons.

That was enough for the school board and Superintendent Steve Gilmore.

Gilmore said he remembered five years ago, when he became superintendent, that the same area was taped off for “Meet the Tomcats” because of structural concerns.

Some emergency funding was used to prop up the stadium from underneath.

“It was more than a Band-Aid,” he said.

He said making a “safe environment for fans and students” is paramount in the board’s actions.

“The stadium has reached the end of its usage and we’re all concerned about the safety aspect,” he said. “It isn’t a big surprise.”

After the 2012 football season, the plan was to refurbish the stadium with the first phase of a $5 million renovation. It would have included taking out the old concrete and putting in enclosed maroon aluminum bleachers.

However, the bid for the $1.6 million project came in about $300,000 more than expected and the plan had to be put on hold.

The continued deterioration of concrete raises concerns again.

The board wanted to have the stadium looked at before agreeing to putting out new bids for phase 1 of the project.

The engineering report shows the stadium’s infrastructure continuing to crumble.

Gilmore said the bids will be broken out instead of one package.

“The board wanted to know can we wait another year or do we need to move?” he said. “We were close (in the spring). Maybe there are people who have the ability to step in and help us.”

Gates will open at 6 p.m. Friday, Swift said. Also, there is no smoking in the stadium and no designated smoking areas.

“We are making adjustments with the end zone seating to provide more seats,” Swift said.