Rickety seating at Richardson Stadium has finally forced Queen’s to take action.
The 42-year-old stadium will undergo radical renovations this summer, in light of a report that found the facility’s upper seating tiers to be structurally unsafe.
The discovery comes eight years after the University said it was making plans for a new stadium.
Queen’s has commissioned an annual review on the condition of Richardson Stadium since 2008. This year’s report, conducted by Roney Engineering, deemed the stadium’s east and west upper bleachers unfit for use.
“This year, they came forward and said it’s not to be occupied unless they do extensive, extensive repairs,” said Ann Browne, Queen’s associate vice-principal of facilities.
Rather than go through with those repairs, the University plans to replace the upper stands entirely. With two-thirds of the bleachers now out of commission, Richardson’s capacity will temporarily drop from 10,258 to approximately 3,700.
According to Browne, erecting a new set of bleachers is more fiscally sound than refining the existing seats.
“The [current] bleachers are very old, and like anything old, they have to have repairs done all the time,” she said. “You have to hit a point when you say, ‘Is it worth putting good money in anymore? What should we actually be doing?’”
There’s no exact timeline for the demolition and reconstruction, but the school hopes to have safe, permanent seating in place before the start of the fall football season on Sept. 2.
While Gaels football shouldn’t be affected, the teardown will have severe consequences for an international rugby fixture next month.
Canada’s senior men’s team will play Tonga at Richardson Stadium on June 8 — well before the revamped upper stands will be ready for use.
Queen’s and Rugby Canada are evaluating different solutions to account for some of the lost seating, including the installation of temporary bleachers and the enactment of standing-room areas near the pitch.
“We’re still weighing those options — we will make a decision very quickly, though,” said Jennifer Smart, manager of events and competitions for Rugby Canada.
Last June, Canada faced the United States in an international rugby test match at Richardson in front of 7,521 spectators.
Smart estimated that maximum attendance for the Tonga match would range between 4,000 and 5,000.
“Obviously we won’t have the same potential for attendance,” she said. “That’s a bit of a disappointment for us, but at the same time, I think we’ll still be able to get quite a good number.”
The Canada-Tonga fixture will be one of three matches played in Canada as part of this year’s Pacific Nations Cup, a five-team international tournament.
The sudden plunge in capacity likely won’t influence any decision to bring future Rugby Canada games to Kingston, according to Smart.
“I’m quite confident that following our match and any other rentals they might have this summer, [Queen’s will] do their due diligence to make sure they have a stadium that they can be proud of and that’s up to their standards,” she said.
With impending renovations on the horizon, the future of Richardson Stadium is still unclear.
In 2005, the Journal reported that Queen’s Campus Planning and Development Committee had begun planning for the construction of a new football stadium on West Campus.
Former Athletics Associate Director Herb Steacy told the Journal in 2011 that Richardson Stadium was “near the end of its time,” and that Athletics was seeking external funding to finance significant renovations.
According to Vice-Principal (Advancement) Tom Harris, Queen’s now plans to pursue whichever option “makes the most financial sense” heading forward — whether that be further repairs or a new stadium altogether.
“The university has been planning for the renovation of Richardson Stadium and has been investigating a number of options to meet the needs of our athletic programs for a number of years,” Harris told the Journal via email.
“Our priority for this year and the coming years is to ensure we have a safe and vibrant stadium for the Queen’s community to enjoy.”
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