By Richard Kaufman
After being closed for several months, due to code violations and concerns for safety, the bleachers at Greenwich High School’s Cardinal Stadium will reopen on a temporary basis this fall.
Last week, the Board of Education swiftly and unanimously approved a gift of $120,000 from the Greenwich Athletic Foundation (GAF), a 501c(3) organization which works in cooperation with various town departments to improve, maintain and support Greenwich’s athletic infrastructure.
The funds will be used to shore-up the bleachers with rented equipment, such as steel and temporary footings, from Waco Scaffolding in Cheshire, Conn. A structure will be built under the current bleachers to create the wide-load capacity that is required under current building code.
At the meeting was GAF President, Robert Burton, Treasurer Randy Caravella, and board members Richard Fulton and Rick Kral.
“This is temporary in nature,” said Kral earlier this week, who noted the structure under the bleachers could be used for up to two years.
Funds from the gift would likely allow the bleachers to remain open until Jan. 1. By that time, the BOE should have some more clarity on the Cardinal Stadium improvement plan. The board is expected to take up the plan in September.
“Once they get that on track and they get a better feel for the permitting process and what it’s going to entail, then they can make further decisions as to how long they may want to continue the lease on the shoring equipment or decide to remove it in the shorter term,” Kral added, saying it would cost the BOE roughly $6,000 per month to lease the equipment. “This gives [the BOE] some flexibility and the ability to make some decisions and be sure that what we’re designing for Cardinal Stadium isn’t rushed in any way to try and beat some deadline.”
BOE members were happy that the GAF stepped forward.
“The Board is thankful for the continued partnership from the Greenwich Athletic Foundation and their support of the short-term fix for the bleachers,” said BOE chair, Peter Bernstein, in an email earlier this week. “We continue to press forward with a longer term plan that will benefit the students and community at large.”
For the first time, guests at this year’s commencement ceremony at Cardinal Stadium were seated on the track, as the bleachers were noticeably left empty.
Kral said it’s important that the bleachers are open for the students, faculty and community. He added that he was happy to help ensure that they’ll be open for the fall season.
“High school sports are very important and so are all of the events they have out there at Cardinal Stadium, right down to graduation. It’s a big part of the overall experience for the kids in our town. We have to make sure that as adults we’re putting our best foot forward to help our students and athletes and everyone else in the town have a good experience,” Kral said.
“Unfortunately, we ran into the condemnation of the bleachers. I don’t think anybody expected the bleachers to be condemned, but it happened. Now we have to step up and do the right thing and get on a path to getting that corrected and to also make sure that we don’t have to have our athletes playing over in a stadium in Stamford, or somewhere else. We still have a home field for our kids while they’re here in our high school.”
The GAF was able to raise funds through donations from the community, and Kral said they’re committed to raising more money going forward, especially if the BOE decides to partner with the GAF on Cardinal Stadium improvements.
For more information on the GAF and to donate, go to greenwichaf.com