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Crews push to finish bleacher project before football opener

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The sound of pounding metal rang rhythmically through the air Monday at Columbus North High School’s football field, like a clock ticking away the last moments of a game.

Construction crews in charge of building the school’s new home-side bleachers are facing their own two-minute warning. Crews are working double shifts to tie up loose ends for Friday’s home game against Plainfield at the Max Andress Football Stadium.

Officials in charge said they are confident the crews will finish the most essential work in time to pass a county inspection Wednesday to ensure the bleachers are safe and can be utilized for the home opener.

“I was never really nervous,” said Jeff Hester, athletic director for the Columbus North Bulldogs. “These crews are very good at what they do. The fans are going to love it.”

They’re certainly not cheap seats

Project: New home-side and visitor-side bleachers at Columbus North High School’s Max Andress Football Stadium.

Cost: $898,750

Seating: 2,632 on the home side, compared to about 2,100 previously. Visitors side increased to 1,500 from 1,440.

Southern Bleacher, of Graham, Texas, has been working as primary contractor since May to replace home- and visitor-side bleachers as a nearly $900,000 piece of a $23.5 million renovation project that is affecting 14 of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s 18 schools.

Construction of a new press box, a new concession stand and other improvements that either are finished or in progress at the football field total about $2 million.

Bleachers on the visitors’ side of the ball field were completed and successfully inspected during the summer, said Patrick McKinney, project manager for Columbus-based Dunlap General Contractors, the general contractor.

On Monday, crews concentrated their efforts on the home-side bleachers. They worked to install handicap-accessible ramps, stairs on the bleachers’ north side and façade coverings that border the sideline.

Roger Cronkright, project foreman for Southern Bleacher, said everything that has to be done will be in time for the 7 p.m. Friday kickoff.

“We plan to wrap up Wednesday morning and be cleaning up more than anything for the inspection after lunch,” he said. “We’ll have some guys there during the inspection to take care of any punch list that comes up.”

Officials said work that won’t be finished by Friday will include wiring the new press box for Wi-Fi connectivity, completing the new concession and restroom facility and installing permanent lighting for the stands.

The concession building is expected to open in time for North’s second home game Sept. 6, according to construction documents.

John Green, assistant principal at North, said school officials will make the old concession stand and restrooms available until the new ones are ready.

Project leaders decided during a construction coordination meeting Monday morning to have subcontractor Gaylor Electric, of Columbus, install temporary lighting along the bleacher access ways for safety. Gaylor had already planned to install temporary lighting on the old concession stand and restrooms.

Steve Forster, director of operations for the school district, said that if for some reason all the necessary work wasn’t finished by Wednesday, workers still would have nearly two full days to get it finished and approved.

Green added that work on the bleachers started early to leave time for contingencies, such as waiting for materials to arrive and to address the discovery of hidden piping and wiring in the ground as it was uncovered.

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