Rogers Stadium construction hits snag

PHOTO BY BRIT MILAZZO/BASD Demolition of Rogers Stadium at Bellefonte Area High School on July 13. Completion of the stadium may be delayed until Oct. 12.

BELLEFONTE — A snag in the Rogers Stadium project may mean Bellefonte won’t be able to host a home football game until the end of the 2018 season, according to the project construction manager.

David Stezin, construction manager for Reynolds Construction Management, the contractor for the Rogers Stadium project, told Bellefonte Area School Board members Tuesday night that the stadium would not be finished until Oct. 12–more than a month after the original finish date.

Board members reacted strongly to this news, with several saying they thought the project would be done in the third or fourth week of September.

The 2018 football season was set to begin with a home game Aug. 24 against Jersey Shore High School and end with a home game Oct. 26 against Bald Eagle Area High School.

Superintendent Dr. Michelle Saylor (corroborated by Stezin) said the problem stemmed from actions taken at the last school board meeting. The contract was already negotiated with Field Turf, but some school board members wanted to use a local company for the field construction. They reached out to Glenn O. Hawbaker, which gave an estimate $100,000 more than Field Turf’s estimate. The board decided to use their original contract with Field Turf for cost reasons.

The total cost of the project is about $7 million, with $3 million covered by a grant, $3 million contributed from district savings and the remaining $1 million raised through the capital campaign (donations from the community), said district superintendent’s secretary Leslie Elder.

While the board was negotiating with Hawbaker, the stadium project did not move forward for about a month and Field Turf scheduled other jobs, said Stezin.

“Losing a month really hurt the schedule,” he said. “That’s something that’s out of my control, at this point.”

Several board members, including Rob Pacella and Jon Guizar, were upset that a supposedly small board action caused the project such a significant delay. Stezin clarified that the field would actually be done by Sept. 7 but the bleachers would not be fully installed until Oct. 12.

Pacella said the bleacher ordering should not have been compromised by the Hawbaker negotiations, since the bleachers are being handled by a separate company called Stadium Solutions.

According to a podcast released by the district on June 20, Aaron Barto, director of facilities, said that the stadium would be ready for the Sept. 7 home game against Philipsburg-Osceola High School. Though he mentioned some permitting problems and ordinance changes, he said the project should still be on track. In a another podcast uploaded July 17, he amended that estimate to the third or fourth week of September due to permit delays and study done that said the district would need to remove trees that might cause issues for the new track.

The first part of the project includes adding synthetic turf for the new field with football and soccer markings sewn in and a stormwater management system underneath. Construction teams have already begun tearing down the existing bleachers and will erect new bleachers that can hold about 3,400 people. New LED field lighting and a press box will be installed.

The second part of the project includes installing an eight-lane track and constructing two field houses, a concession stand and restroom facilities. This portion of the project will happen after the football season with completion before the 2019 football season starts.

“We’re in a bad place right now,” said Stezin of the construction delays. “I will do everything I can…to rein these guys (contractors and construction companies) in.”

The school board voted Tuesday to designate a lead project person from the district to promote better communication with the contractors, increase the project manager’s oversight days from two days a week to five days a week, work on scheduling change orders and negotiate a new contract for the next board meeting (Aug. 14) or sooner.

School board member Jeff Steiner said BAHS Athletic Director Jimmy Soltis has been arranging alternatives to hosting the home football games. In the first option, BAHS would switch with whichever team they are supposed to play and host all home games next season. In the second option, they could use BEA’s or State College Area High School’s fields for home games, but they would have to play on Saturdays.

Also Tuesday, the board approved the addition of lacrosse as a school sport and the retiring of the Community Service Club, which will be absorbed into Key Club and other similar clubs, and Sign Language Club, which is becoming a class.