The current bleachers that back up to Ham Lane on the west side of the stadium complex. (John Bays/News-Sentinel)
Following questions from the Lodi Unified School District Board of Education, the board voted 7-0 to add the replacement of Tokay High School’s bleachers to ongoing track and field renovations during Tuesday night’s board meeting at the James Areida Educational Support Center in Lodi.
Despite agreeing that replacing the 40-year-old bleachers was important, school board Vice President Gary Knackstedt asked why the district felt that the $3 million bleacher replacement should be added to the existing $3,294,000 stadium improvement project that is scheduled to be completed by this summer, and whether this would take funds away from other projects.
“I’m not opposed to this proposal, but I’ve spoken with several people who expressed concerns about spending $3 million on bleachers and not in classrooms,” Knackstedt said.
Leonard Kahn, the district’s chief business officer, explained that athletic projects such as the bleacher replacement and stadium improvement account for significantly fewer Measure U funds than classroom projects, and that combining the two could save time and money as the district would not need to bid for new contracts.
“It is the fool who predicts, so I’ll be that fool. Between athletic projects representing about 5 percent of Measure U dollars and classrooms representing about 32 percent in construction costs alone, I believe there is ample funding for classrooms. At least, this fool is predicting it,” Kahn said.
Kahn then explained that the district was originally exploring the option of repairing the current bleachers and reusing them, but that contractors informed them that the bleachers do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act as they lack wheelchair access. George Neely, the board’s president, voiced his support for the proposal, citing safety concerns as well as timing and overall cost.
“What really gets me is the possibility of a stadium collapse. My concern is that if we don’t do this now, it could cost us more to become ADA-compliant later on, as well the safety issue,” Neely said.
When school board member Bonnie Cassel asked whether Tokay High’s staff supported the project or not, Kahn explained that replacing bleachers seemed to be a high priority for the school site administrators.
Michael Holst, Tokay’s athletic director and head football coach, added his support for the proposal, saying that it would allow the school to have a completed stadium instead of waiting for the bleachers to be replaced.
“I haven’t heard any negative comments from the staff. Everybody seems to be excited about having a new facility. The physical education teachers are especially excited to be able to use the facility for all of their classes,” Holst said.
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