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Archive for Wednesday, September 8, 1999

KU PRESS BOX ON TRACK

September 8, 1999

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It's countdown to kickoff for Kansas University's new $13 million press box, and KU athletics director Bob Frederick has two priorities.

"Everybody around the country has told me," Frederick said, "to make sure the toilets flush and the elevators work."

Those two items and more -- including the massive $3 million MegaVision scoreboard -- are on the checklist for tonight's test run.

On Thursday, following the comprehensive check, KU officials will walk through the entire facility with officials of Walton Const. Co. of Kansas City, Mo., to make a "punch list" of everything that needs to be completed, repaired or improved.

Friday and Saturday will be clean-up, hook-up and fix-up days. Some of that miscellaneous work may be done by athletics department employees -- including Frederick.

"Sure " it could mean I'll do it," he said. "A lot of people have volunteered."

By the 6 p.m. Saturday kickoff against Cal State Northridge, the three-level -- the fourth level is a mostly uncovered photo deck -- end zone-to-end zone structure will be ready for the media and the 600 or so patrons who will be seated in the 36 scholarship suites that rent for between $22,000 and $50,000 a year.

By then Walton Const. will have collected $250,000 of the controversial $300,000 bonus promised by the athletics department in August to ensure completion. The other $50,000 will be paid in early October after Walton's finishing touches.

In July, Walton officials told Frederick the project could not be completed until Oct. 4 unless the company had an additional $300,000 to pay for more personnel and for overtime.

KU has three home games scheduled prior to Oct. 4, so Frederick ponied up the bonus money, and he vows he's glad he did.

"Yes, I am," he said, "because we got the project done."

Actually, the target date has come and gone. Walton Const. will be nine days late by the time of Thursday's KU takeover, but the firm will not have to pay a penalty.

"We agreed to that extra time," Frederick said, "because of problems nobody could control."

That includes a one-day shutdown in August when union contractors refused to work while non-union painters were on the premises.

By July, the relationship between KU and Walton Const. Co. had become tense, but the mood changed abruptly with the $300,000 infusion.

"The whole thing has become very cooperative," Frederick said. "It's not a contentious thing."

An example of Walton's commitment, Frederick said, occurred over the Labor Day weekend when electricians worked all three days on wiring projects.

If Kansas hadn't paid the $300,000 bonus and decided to accept Walton's amended Oct. 4 completion date, KU could have theoretically saved more than $700,000. That's the 300 grand bonus plus $412,000 in late penalties.

Contractually, Walton was required to pay $2,500 a day for the first seven days past the original Aug. 31 deadline, $5,000 a day for the second seven days and $10,000 a day after that.

In other words, if KU officials wanted to exact a nine-day penalty the total would have been $27,500 -- $17,500 for the first seven days and $10,000 for the next two days.

Some people have said the KU athletics department should have included much stiffer penalties when it let the project for bids.

"I've heard we should have had tougher penalties," Frederick said, "but when you put in tougher penalties it's tougher to get companies to bid."

Whether Kansas would have been able to withhold payment based on the contractual late-fines is moot, but it's possible Walton could have sued for relief by arguing unforeseen circumstances prevented delivery of a finished product on time.

-- Chuck Woodling's phone message number is 832-7147. His e-mail address is cwoodling@ljworld.com.

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