Archive for Saturday, August 14, 2004

KU suing for leaky luxury skyboxes

KU suing for leaky luxury skyboxes

August 14, 2004

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The scholarship suites at Kansas University's Memorial Stadium were supposed to be a place to watch football while avoiding the elements.

But since the suites were built in 1999, they've leaked when it rains heavily.

Work is under way to correct the leaking problem, but who will pay for the corrections -- the subject of a 2-year-old legal battle -- is still up in the air.

"Just as you or I would expect that our homes not allow water to freely leak into the walls and windows and onto our floors, the university expects the same for its buildings," said Chris Burger, an attorney with the Lawrence law firm Stevens & Brand who is representing KU.

The legal wrangling began in June 2002, when Building Erection Services Co. of Olathe sued the university and Walton Construction of Kansas City, Mo., for $26,548.54 it said it was underpaid for completing work on the press box and scholarship suites it performed in late 1998 through September 1999.

BESCO completed the window work at Memorial Stadium for Walton, which was the general contractor on the $12.9 million project.

The university has since claimed the work completed at the stadium was inadequate and is seeking about $900,000 from Walton, BESCO or a combination of the two.

Danne Webb, the Kansas City, Mo., attorney representing Walton, said Friday a design change made by KU architects during the course of construction led to the leaking problem, making the two companies not responsible. The attorney representing BESCO could not be reached for comment.

"We've got to build it as it was designed," Webb said. "If the design doesn't work, that's not our responsibility."

Burger, KU's attorney, disagreed.

"We can only respond by stating that the contractor was hired to construct a watertight building that would meet the performance criteria of the construction documents," he said. "Unfortunately for all, the contractor did not install the walls or windows to anyone's plans."

In addition to the press box issue, KU has claimed another Walton subcontractor improperly poured concrete on a sidewalk near the west ticket booth. Walton has since agreed to replace the concrete.

As part of its $900,000 request, KU is asking that $250,000 in performance incentives paid to Walton be returned.

The university claims Walton officials used coercion when they told KU they would need more money for the project to be completed in time for the first home football game in 1999.

Webb said Walton didn't owe the money to KU.

"After it was earned, KU paid for it," Webb said. "If they felt they were under coercion or duress, they didn't have to pay it."

A trial in the case is scheduled for spring in Johnson County District Court in Olathe. Both sides said an out-of-court settlement still was possible.

Meanwhile, KU officials decided to proceed with repairing the suites themselves. Work began in late June with Ferrell Construction of Topeka serving as the contractor for the $728,100 project. Ferrell officials opted to subcontract the work again to BESCO.

Waterproofing on the middle third of the suites will be completed by Sept. 4, when KU kicks off its season at home against Tulsa. The remainder of the project will be finished after the football season.

"The university hoped that the contractor would make the repairs itself as required by the construction contract," Burger said, "but as that hope faded it became apparent that the work could not wait any longer, and KU therefore was left with no choice but to fix it themselves."

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