REFUGIO – The Refugio Independent School District Board of Trustees received an update on the possibility of either repairing or rebuilding Jack Sportsman Bobcat Stadium, with a potential price tag ranging from $1.5 million to $5 million.
“Community members are asking what we are doing with the stadium,” said Superintendent Melissa Gonzales. She added that because of continuing COVID-19 concerns, the 2020 football is uncertain “but we will proceed like we will have football the following year (if not in 2020).”
Jay Boynton, managing partner for Boynton, Williams and Associates, presented options with “figures that are very preliminary because they’re six months old.”
He said he has talked with a firm that worked on the stadium in Port Lavaca. Based on an initial analysis, the cost to repair the stadium was estimated at around $1.5 million.
However, that amount would only temporarily prolong the life of a stadium built in 1955, he said.
School board President Andy Rocha expressed concerns that if repairs were made “we might find ourselves back in the same situation five years from now.”
Another option would be to demolish the old concrete stadium and replace it with a new mostly aluminum stadium that would resolve many of the concerns present with the old stadium, which has been labeled a safety hazard.
“At a minimum you’ll need to address concrete areas, and there will have to be protective coating that will keep water from penetrating into the concrete and rusting the rebar,” Boynton said. “Believe it or not, concrete even 50 years old is pervious (allowing water to seep in). The bleachers would need to be removed to complete that work.
“If you do repairs you will have to patch spalding (damage to concrete) and you will have to fix rebar. That would require getting an engineer to see if there is adequate rebar left. If there is, it’s cleaned and coated. If not, that’s where it gets tricky. Some of the rebar will need some type of work done to it.”
Repairs would require “going over the entire stadium top to bottom,” Boynton said.
If the old concrete stadium was removed and replaced with a new aluminium bleacher stadium, a larger pressbox with an elevator would be required to meet current Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
“If you do that, I would push real hard to move the visitor side south,” Boynton said. “That would allow you to build an eight-lane track around the stadium. You cannot have a regulation track meet without an eight-lane track.”
Boynton was asked about the possibility of the visitor side being decreased.
“You would save some money, but not that much,” he said. “You could also go with modular construction where the visitor side could be increased over time.”
The cost of building a new stadium would include the cost of a bus barn and a facility for junior high students, Boynton said.
Safety would also be significantly improved with a new stadium.
“One of the biggest problems is that the concrete stairs are a tripping hazard,” Boynton said. “If the concrete stands are torn down, then you’d go back with a concrete foundation and an aluminum bleacher stadium.
“On the home side, you could go with benches or individual seats. It’s kind of like buying a car. It depends on what you want. It would be somewhere in the $4.5 to $5 million range. A benefit would be that an aluminum structure doesn’t rust (unlike rebar inside concrete).”
Boynton pointed out that the stadium is now 65 years old.
“With all due respect this stadium was built in 1955 and it has not been maintained,” he said. “Coating would have helped preserve it.”
Boynton was asked if a new stadium could be completed in time for the 2021 football season.
“Yes, but not for the fall of 2020,” he said. “If you had pulled the trigger (on a decision) in February, you might have had it available for ‘20.”
Rocha said the school board needs a firm cost in order to make a decision.
“If we make repairs we could be doing this again in five years,” he said.
Having certified property values and knowing how much tax money will be available to help fund the stadium work will also help the board make a decision, district personnel noted.
“We haven’t addressed the stadium over time,” Rocha said. “We need to support football in Refugio for sure.”
Boynton said one option that would take even longer would be replacing the current stadium with a new concrete facility.
“If you pour concrete you won’t make the ‘21 season,” he said. “It takes longer to set up with a new concrete facility.”
Although COVID-19 concerns have caused major disruptions, it could result in providing more time to address the stadium issue and having concerns resolved by the 2021 season, Rocha said.
“COVID could actually buy us some time,” he said. “If we aren’t able to have football this year (on campus), hopefully we would be back in ‘21 and we’ve bought ourselves some time.”
The board took no action on the stadium issue at the June 26 meeting, and will further explore options before making a decision at an upcoming meeting.
Jeff Osborne is the editor of the County Press and can be reached at 361-526-2397 or at josborne@mySouTex.com.