COLUMBUS — City officials are making a fourth-quarter push to give visiting fans a more-enjoyable experience at Pawnee Park’s Memorial Stadium when the high school football season begins in August.
Columbus City Council approved a contract Monday night that pays Omaha-based Crouch Recreation Inc. to design new bleachers for the visitors’ side of the stadium.
The business owned by Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch and his wife Nicole will receive $27,000 for the design services, then the city must pay Crouch Recreation to have the bleachers installed.
Spending on the stadium improvements, which also includes roughly $532,000 to replace the restrooms and officials’ locker room on that side of the field, drew a challenge flag from Mayor Jim Bulkley.
The mayor said the upgrades are “well overdue,” but he questioned whether the project’s price tag could have been reduced by shrinking the seating for out-of-town fans.
“I’m just trying to find a way to see if we can’t do it a little cheaper,” said Bulkley, who noted that he’s received “quite a few questions” about the stadium spending over the past month or so.
The current bleacher setup provides seating for about 1,000 fans on the visitors’ side. However, the bottom three rows don’t get used often because it’s difficult to see the field. That reduces the capacity to around 700 to 800 spectators.
Public Property Director Doug Moore said the original plan was to install bleachers capable of holding 1,200 fans on the visitors’ side — about half the capacity of approximately 2,500 for the home side — but the project was scaled back because the seating also impacts the number of restrooms required.
City council members voted last month to approve a $544,785 contract with Columbus-based B-D Construction Inc. to replace the restrooms on the east side of Memorial Stadium and renovate a restroom on the first floor of City Hall to make it handicapped-accessible. Most of that money — about $532,000 — is for the stadium work that’s already underway.
The 2,550-square-foot building, which will be shared with the adjacent baseball field, will include men’s, women’s and family restrooms and a changing room for officials with six lockers and two showers. It will also be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act for handicapped-accessibility and feature improved heating for cold-weather games.
Moore said boosting the visitors’ side seating beyond 800 fans would have required the city to more than double the number of restrooms, increasing the cost of that building.
He told the city council he’s “comfortable” with seating for 800.
“Probably 99 percent of the activities that we’ll have we’ll be OK,” Moore said. “Every so often they’ll be a game where we’ll have overflow on the visitors’ side and they might have to stand and things like that, but we’ll make it work.”
The stadium is used for Scotus Central Catholic and Columbus High home football games.
Councilman Rich Jablonski said the improvements, which will be paid for with local sales tax revenue, are needed to match upgrades completed in 2012 that added artificial turf, a new track and large video screen.
“I think what we’re doing is making it a quality facility all the way around,” he said.
In other business, the council:
• purchased 25 computers from CDW-G of Vernon Hills, Illinois, for Columbus Public Library. The computers, which cost $23,011, are replacements for the current machines that are about seven years old.
• approved the final plat for Canaday-Beiermann Addition, six residential lots located along 43rd Avenue north of 31st Street.
• granted a special use permit that allows St. Isidore Catholic Church to operate a day care and preschool at 1872 38th Ave. The day care and preschool will be moved from the current location at 1869 39th Ave.
• approved the preliminary plat for Meadow Ridge Sixth Addition, 18 residential lots west of 48th Avenue and south of 41st Street, and a waiver that allows an 800-foot cul-de-sac, which are limited to 350 feet without special approval.
• approved a $169,854 expense to upgrade Columbus Police Department radio equipment. That price includes the purchase from Motorola Solutions and installation.