Richardson Stadium’s safety issues will be resolved in time for football season – at the cost of over a thousand lost seats.
Queen’s unveiled a series of temporary bleachers at a press conference held at Richardson this morning, outlining the steps they’ve taken since May, when an engineering report commissioned by the University deemed the stadium’s upper seating tiers unsafe.
Twelve sets of metallic stands, each 10 rows deep, will be installed on the student side of the stadium in place of the old upper bleachers, which have been demolished. Several other sets will be positioned on the field behind each end zone.
Despite the temporary additions, Richardson’s seating capacity will drop from 10,258 to roughly 8,500. The upper stands on the alumni side haven’t been replaced, but they’re shackled off from the lower bleachers and won’t be used.
The project – which cost $700,000 for demolition, installation and other expenditures – should be completed by mid-August, according to representatives from Physical Plant Services. Queen’s football home opener is set for Sept. 2 against McMaster.
“We’ve come a [long way] in the last two weeks,” said Brian Makosky, project manager at Physical Plant Services (PPS). “We figure we have another two weeks of assembly – then they’ll be set up and ready to go.”
Each set of aluminum bleachers, assembled on site after arriving at Richardson earlier in July, will be equipped with a safety rail. Positioning half of them on the field will allow Queen’s to recoup some of the lost seating on the alumni side, according to Makosky.
With so little time before football season, a temporary solution was the only viable option, he said.
“This is an interim step but gets us the seating we need quickly and efficiently,” Makosky said. “I think in terms of [a] permanent [solution], that would be the end result of a new stadium.”
In 2005, the Journal reported that Queen’s had begun planning for a new football stadium on West Campus. While that never materialized, the school is hoping that external fundraising can subsidize a replacement for Richardson.
The Athletics and Recreation component of Queen’s Initiative Campaign has a $25 million target set aside for the Fields & Stadium Project, which could encompass the construction of a new football facility.
“We’d love to move forward with a new stadium, but obviously our plans are going to be determined by our ability to work with our donors and achieve that fundraising milestone,” said Athletics Director Leslie Dal Cin.
For now, Athletics and PPS have worked alongside one another to restore Richardson to something resembling full capacity.
While being ready for kickoff on Sept. 2 was of the utmost importance, Dal Cin said the addition of on-field seating could also be incorporated in the long-term.
“The opportunity to put [fans] on the field and bring them closer is something that we thought was really positive,” she said. “We think it’s going to be fabulous for our football program in terms of the proximity of the crowd to our athletes now, and the energy that’s going to flow back and forth between those two elements.”
The addition of on-field seats won’t change student ticket plans, as free student admission will continue to be offered exclusively in the east stands.
With sellout crowds expected for the home opener and Homecoming games on Oct. 5 and 19, Dal Cin said the stadium would be sufficiently ready.
“I think we found a positive solution to a situation that was unfortunate and that we had to deal with,” she said. “What we’ve been able to do here is replicate a configuration we think might work when we go forward with our plans for the permanent solution.”