Allegheny Valley School District officials question if football team can play at Veterans Memorial Field due to wall issue | #schoolsaftey

Allegheny Valley School District officials are throwing a flag on the safety of Veterans Memorial Field’s bleachers, and the outcome will impact the upcoming high school football season.

Part of a wall at the field, which was built in 1938, is leaning toward the stadium from the Lincoln Avenue side of the facility.

Superintendent Pat Graczyk told the school directors Monday that Senate Engineering has been inspecting the wall, which, until recently, was in the clear.

But, Graczyk said, a May 31 letter from Senate Engineering stated that its investigation found the wall had experienced additional movement throughout the year, including some capstones becoming loose and one falling off.

The eastern end of the wall remains stable, but the middle section of the wall near the ticket booth and press box is where the movement and capstone failures occurred.

Graczyk said the engineering firm recommended closing the section of bleachers adjacent to the ticket booth to be safe.

“Based on that information, it is my recommendation to the board that we close the entire bleachers, because if one section is unsafe with the wall, obviously, the wall runs the whole way down alongside the bleachers,” Graczyk said.

What that means

With its field availability in question, Graczyk said, the district needs to determine where Springdale will play its football games in the fall.

He recommended that the team play an away schedule for the season, which is something he said Athletic Director Amanda Noel also advised. He said a meeting was scheduled with a neighboring school district to see what that would entail, and how much it might cost.

Graczyk said school officials sent a letter to borough officials about possibly ending the district’s lease agreement on the field.

“We did have a meeting with the borough. We shared with them where we saw items that were added to the stadium as of the date that the agreement was signed with them, and we are now sharing information back and forth with our attorneys in hopes that we (can) work something out. But nevertheless, we did send a letter … stating that we want to end our agreement with the borough at the conclusion of this (upcoming) season,” Graczyk said.

The school board did not take action on anything regarding the field when it met Monday.

“While this year is a safety act that we’re taking because of the bleachers, we would like to avoid any situation where we’re playing two away seasons back-to-back,” Graczyk said. “As I see the options in front of us — and there might be others — we should either consider investing the money in Vets Field or working something out with the borough, whatever that might be. Or, we need to consider building an athletic complex where all of our students can participate.

“Neither one of those are cheap ideas, and they do come with a price tag.”

Graczyk also said the district could use its soccer field for football games, or put portable bleachers at Veterans Stadium behind the visitors side.

Using the soccer field would be costly. For example, the district would need to purchase additional bleachers, a scoreboard and goalposts. Graczyk said one goalpost, without installation, would cost just over $16,000. Also, playing football on that field would tear it up “significantly,” he said.

“The positive part of that is that it would keep our games in Allegheny Valley School District,” he said.

Using portable bleachers also has a cost, he said.

“We have been unsuccessful in finding a Pennsylvania company that rents bleachers. They’ll let you purchase bleachers that are portable, but we haven’t found anyone that would rent bleachers,” Graczyk said. “There are also some unknowns, with the number of people that would be in those stands, we don’t know with the drainage on that area — because it does get a little soupy — if that would be a stable structure or not.”

The school district uses Veterans Memorial Field for football only. School board members also considered temporarily moving other bleachers in the district and borough to the football stadium or cordoning off the section in question and leaving the rest of the existing bleachers available.

The school board invited Senate Engineering to its next meeting to answer members’ questions.

Graczyk said the board needs to make a decision on how to proceed within the next few months.

“There also is a fourth option that might be an undefined idea at this point in time. We do want to act quickly because football season is around the corner. We also don’t want to act in haste to put something together that might potentially be more costly than we anticipated — or potentially dangerous,” he said.

Board members acknowledged that they want to do what’s best for all student-athletes and what’s financially responsible, while noting the field’s tradition.

“The board will have discussions. We’ll have more discussions with the borough, but we’ll now know that we have a year,” said board President Larry Pollick. “Our team, right now, if they can, they’ll play away. But they’ll play. And we’ll do what is best for the students and residents of our communities as well as we can with the information at hand.”

About the field

Veterans Memorial Field has a storied history.

The field was built as part of the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The Springdale High School football has been played at the field since 1939.

In the early 2000s, the district considered building a multimillion-dollar stadium near the high school, but instead was able to notch a lease agreement with the borough for Veterans Memorial Field.

At the time, the consensus was a field across from the high school could hold only about 1,500 fans, which was not enough for those who followed Dynamo football during its 11-season playoff run.

If the district opts to play an away schedule, it wouldn’t be the first time in school history that the Dynamos played outside the borough.

In 1947, Springdale played its home games at Dreshar Stadium in Tarentum while Veterans Memorial Field was undergoing renovations.

The team again played in Tarentum from 1973 to 1977 while Veterans Memorial Field during another extensive renovation. Dreshar Stadium now accommodates two youth baseball fields.

Kellen Stepler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kellen by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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