LIMA — Lima Stadium is set to get a $1.8 million facelift next year.
During Thursday’s Lima City Schools Board of Education meeting, board members approved initiating the bid process so work could begin early next year to demolish and reconstruct the west grandstand and make improvements around the stadium in time for the start of the Lima Senior Spartan football season in late August.
“I really think it will be very impressive,” Athletic Director John Zell told The Lima News during the meeting. “This will add to the atmosphere. The kids, the teams and the city will be able to take more pride in their stadium.”
“This is a nice set-up we have here and this is going to let us maximize our stadium and its use,” he said. “Right now we don’t have any concession stand or permanent restrooms on the east side and this project will allow that to happen along with nice new locker rooms for the teams on the north end. It will create a real safe environment for the teams.”
Zell said the improvements should help the stadium — which serves as the home to the Lima Senior Spartans and Lima Central Catholic Thunderbirds football teams and hosts several state playoff football games each fall — to continue to attract state playoff football games.
He said the improvements also should help the football and soccer teams, which both use the facility, to attract more fans to their contests.
During the meeting, Operations Director Randy Crossley showed a series of design drawings and overhead photographs with an overlay of the improvements.
“We are really at a point we have to replace the west grandstand and we have been doing testing and it is time to address it and this seems to be the most cost-effective way to address the situation,” Crossley said after the meeting. “The new standards that are mandated for grandstands should really give fans a better view of the field, the stair treads should be even, the aisle widths should be the proper width and things should be handicap accessible.”
He explained there have been ongoing evaluations and studies and consultations with structural engineers about the stadium and seating. During the annual evaluation it was determined that a load reduction would most likely need to occur prior to next football season.
When the improvements are completed, he estimated the seating capacity will be approximately 2,000, a slight decrease from the existing facility, but they have moved in temporary bleachers for the students and the band to help increase seating capacity. Seating the students on the field also helped encourage Spartan pride.
Crossley explained the scope of the project requires tearing down the entire west side of the stadium, which was built in 1936 during the Works Progress Administration, and constructing a new grandstand, two sets of restrooms at either end of the stadium, a concession stand, a covered vestibule and a new two-tiered press box.
On the east side, the project calls for building a concession stand, ticket booth and restrooms. The visitor grandstand was replaced in 2010 after being closed for several years.
Crossley told board members they are constructing a large building at the north side of the stadium for home and visitor locker rooms with a room for game officials and storage between the locker rooms.
Plans call for a new parking lot north of the building for buses for teams and their respective marching bands and for officials. More parking is to be added to the east lot, too.
Crossley explained the order of construction will start with demolishing the west grandstand followed by work on the east before reconstructing the home seating. Weather or other unforeseen events may delay the opening of the west grandstand, but the construction schedule has it completed before the next football season.
Treasurer Ryan Stechschulte said the school district is using $800,000 left over from a district-wide construction project in the late 1990s. He explained they will borrow the remaining $1 million against future permanent improvement money.
Superintendent Jill Ackerman said the district intends to conduct a large sponsor campaign to help pay for the project and reimburse the permanent-improvement fund.