Stadium at LHS has ADA issues

The home-side grandstand at Lawrence High School’s new football stadium remains unfinished, but that’s not what could prevent the Lions from playing their home opener on Sept. 4.

Work still needs to be done to make the stadium accessible for the disabled.

Compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act is one reason the school board deferred a bid for a press box at LHS at its Aug. 10 meeting.

The $370,000 bid for the work included an elevator, which bumped up the price. At Free State, where a football stadium also is being built, the district can build a ramp with a lift to be ADA-compliant.

“We can’t do a lift (at Lawrence High) because it’s too high,” said school district facility planning director Tom Bracciano. “Anything over a certain footage, you need to do an elevator. The reason the cost is so expensive is they have to be accessible.”

“Those are the things that would keep us from being able to use the facility as opposed to a couple rows of bleachers at the top,” said the district’s chief operations officer Frank Harwood. “(With) 4,000 seats, we can probably get by when a couple hundred aren’t done yet.”

The grandstand issue is still in dispute with Centennial Neighborhood residents.

“We’ve had meetings with them about restrooms and concessions and about landscaping,” Harwood said. “We’ve talked to them about bleachers. We’re actually looking at some changes to the top of the bleachers.”

The LHS home side is on the west side of the football field, closest to the neighbors. The district believes it has solid direction from the neighborhood on a restroom and concession plan, which includes a dual purpose building on the south side of the field and another restroom in the northeast corner of the facility.

But neighbors have concerns that the district is altering plans without communicating with them.

“Things keep changing,” said Jeanne Wright, one of the neighbors who have raised objections to the new sports fields, which led to a lawsuit that was settled. “It’s different from what we talked about in terms of the settlement agreement, so that’s why we want to know what’s going on.”

But Harwood said part of the reason the tops of the bleachers aren’t done is because the structure is just one of those outlined in the settlement and conversations need to be had.

Even though work is behind thanks to about 70 rain days, the district has directed contractors to work on the parts of the upgrades where outside input isn’t necessary.

That includes preparing the football fields to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“You’ll have wheelchair access coming in and coming back,” Bracciano said. “We have wheelchair seating all the way down and spaces down the front row.”