It’s 2013 and yet another heated rivalry match is taking place in Carmel High School’s gym. The gym is an explosion of cheers as the Carmel Padres take on the Pacific Grove Breakers in an intense basketball game. As the game powers on, an unexpected event halts play. On the visitors’ side, the Breakers live up to their name as the massive bleachers groan deeply and collapse onto the floor buckling down in the center, leaving ongoing complications for the district three years later.
Currently, plans are set for construction to begin February 2016, following this basketball season, explains CHS Principal Rick Lopez. The new bleachers, having to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards, will extend from wall to wall to allow for maximum seating. As a result, entrances will be moved to where the locker rooms are currently.
The project is scheduled to last until late July with faculty hoping construction to end before school starts. As French teacher Suzanne Marden notes, “The interesting thing about the gym is that it really does change the course of other things.”
With the bleachers out of commission during the spring, boys’ volleyball will be forced to make other arrangements, which will likely entail greater use of middle school facilities or more away games. Assemblies, as Lopez notes, will likely be held in the amphitheater, hopefully without the much-needed rain.
At the time of the incident, the district quickly inspected the bleachers and learned that they were beyond repair.
“The simple thought was just to replace the bleachers, but since those bleachers had been installed, ADA laws and requirements had changed,” Lopez explains.
So what was the problem with putting ADA-compliant bleachers in? Well, as Lopez observes, 50 percent of seating capacity would have been lost if ADA-compliant bleachers were installed. Considering the overfilled nature of the gym currently, this choice was ruled out.
With the problem being much more complex than anticipated, the district turned to a temporary solution. The decision was made soon after to weld the bleachers open and reinforce the beams, making them safe for use, but also impossible to close.
To comply with ADA standards the bleachers have been kept open for the past three years. If the district closed the bleachers, “it would be illegal to reopen them knowing that they are not legal,” explains varsity girls’ basketball coach Mike Deckelmann.
With a temporary plan in place, the district moved to create a permanent plan for the situation. Coming to a consensus, the full-scale project was penciled in to begin last school year following the basketball season.
“Because the gym was slated to be under construction, we were told at the end of 2014 we would not be able to use the gym for the 2015 graduating class,” informs Marden, who was in charge of Sober Grad in 2014.
However, the plans, like the bleachers, fell through. And the district will try again after basketball season this year.
Throughout this process bleachers have posed a significant problem for sports and classes for the three years. As Physical Education teacher Debbie French remarks, “It would be much better for P.E. classes and students if the bleachers were fixed and we were able to utilize the entire gym.”
With plans set to go this school year, students should be prepared for the gym to have a whole new look come next school year.