WASHINGTON — The new home team bleachers that will be installed this summer at Washington Community High School's Babcook Field should be safer and more convenient for spectators after the School Board on Monday approved project changes.
A second passageway for spectators was added, and so was a lighted sidewalk below the bleachers that will make it easier to walk to the Panther Plex building, where concession stands and restrooms are located.
"These bleachers will seat about 2,500. We want to make it easy for people to get in and out," said Superintendent Kyle Freeman. "You hope it doesn't happen, but we've had to clear the stadium four times because of threatening weather in the five years I've been superintendent."
Under the former plans, Freeman said, spectators would have had to walk in front of the bleachers to get to the Panther Plex. Now they will have a better option.
"All of these changes will cost about $93,000," Freeman said. "Most of it will be concrete, including adding curbs and gutters that will collect water flowing from the parking lot behind the bleachers.
"We want to get this project right. The old bleachers were there about 40 years. It would be great if we could get 40 years from the new bleachers, which is about 10 years longer than their expected life."
Members of the board's facilities and finance committees recommended the project changes.
The new bleachers will be on the west side of the stadium, formerly the 900-seat visitors' side. A new press box will be installed above the bleachers.
The former home team bleachers on the east side of the stadium will become the visiting team bleachers. Those bleachers seat about 1,600.
The home team bleachers were moved to give home fans closer access to the Panther Plex, and make it easier to see the action on the field as the sun is setting in the west.
The Panther Plex also contains a viewing area and a locker room.
"It's been our hope to have the home team bleachers on the west side of Babcook Field since we completed construction of the Panther Plex in 2010 and handed it over to the high school," said Kenny Hopp, former president of the 12th Man football booster club and a founding member of the high school football alumni association, to the board in July when project bids were approved.
The bleachers project is part of a nearly $6 million project on the high school campus that includes an addition for the music department and the transforming of current music department space into five classrooms.
The high school is paying for the project with $3.5 million in working cash bonds, $1.5 million that was set aside for the project, and $1 million in working cash.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.