‘Prentis Park bleachers closed, declared unsafe

'Prentis Park bleachers closed, declared unsafe A barricade and sign warns people to stay off the 60-year-old wooden grandstand at Prentis Park. Engineers say the structure is unsafe. by David Lias The city of Vermillion has discovered that the wooden grandstand at the Prentis Park ball field isn't all that grand, and it has disrupted the schedule of improvements that have been taking place at the recreational facility.

"The grandstand is about ready to collapse on our citizens and our ballplayers," City Manager Jim Patrick told the Vermillion City Council Monday. "We had some concerns on the grandstand, and we had budgeted $2,000 to do an engineer's study this year."

The city paid $700 of that amount to officials of NOHR Engineering Company of Yankton to inspect the grandstand Sept. 16. The next day, they shared their findings with Dave Nelson, Vermillion's director of parks, recreation and golf.

Their report contains little to root about.

"It is NOHR's professional

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engineering opinion that the bleachers should be taken out of service and public access to the bleachers restricted for safety reasons until suitable repairs or replacement can be made," stated Rodney Nohr, professional engineer.

The city has put up small barricades on the entrances to the grandstand, with signs warning people to keep off the structure.

Nelson said that improvements that have already taken place at the ball field have made the Prentis Park venue a more popular place during the summer for America's favorite pastime.

"We have bigger crowds, and we've had people come forward to our engineer and to myself and say, 'Do you know that our grandstand moves?'" Nelson said.

The city had scheduled to make improvements to the structure in 2006. "Now we don't have that option," Nelson said.

NOHR Engineering found a host of problems with the wooden grandstand during its inspection.

"The bleachers are unsafe for the support of people and unsafe in strong winds," Nohr stated. "Luckily, the rotted two front corner posts are supported with 6-inch diameter creosote posts, which has prevented winds from flipping the grandstand's roof over and has helped to prevent a downward collapse."

Engineers discovered that all of the grandstand bleachers original 6 x 6 post bases are rotted and unsafe. The posts' rotted ends could be cut off and new concrete footings and piers added to support the bleachers. Additional post bracing may be needed.

The bleachers three main 2 x 10 east/west center support girder is badly rotted out and not safe for bleacher loads, according to Nohr's report. Removal and replacement of the center girder would be a major and expensive project.

The bleacher support framing, joists' top edges and bottom north ends are soft and rotted. NOHR notes that the joists are unsafe for support of people, especially large numbers of people. Seat support framing and joist replacement, the engineer stated, is a major and expensive project.

Nohr suggests the city consider replacing the structure rather than trying to repair it.

"A new, historically appropriate appearing grandstand and bleachers would be much more economical and cost effective than attempting to make safe, reliable repairs to the existing badly deteriorated rotted and unsafe bleachers and grandstand," he wrote.

Nelson asked the city council for permission to get prices on renovation or removal of the grandstand, and construction of a new facility.

He also told aldermen that steps need to be taken to make the Prentis Park ball field safe for the USD baseball team, which will start playing there in mid-March.

Nelson plans to set up a temporary backstop behind home plate this spring.

It is estimated that demolition of the old grandstand and construction of a permanent structure with backstop, bleachers, roof, broadcast booth and separate building for concessions may cost between $40,000 and $50,000.

Prentis Park is a historic district in the city. Patrick said the state historical department will grant Vermillion an exemption in order to remove or modify the 60-year-old structure.

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