Bruce Franklin/Press-Herald Minden High School's football stadium at The Pit has been condemned. MHS Principal Robin Tucker says graduation will go on but it won't be at The Pit. School officials are also discussing how to handle the 2016-17 football season, but Tucker assures football will be played in the fall.

The decision whether to demolish the home side stands at The Pit remains up in the air.
A special meeting has been called for 6 p.m., Thursday, May 19, to decide whether to repair the stadium or take down the 61-year-old structure.

At 3 p.m., a District 6 committee meeting will take place to discuss options. Minden High School Principal Robin Tucker is in the midst of forming a committee made up of citizens with a stake at Minden High School to participate in the discussion.

The issue came up when the Webster Parish School Board was set to consider spending roughly $50,000 to rent portable bleachers so The Tide could play football in the fall. However, it is contingent upon the demolition of the stands so the bleachers could be placed where the stands currently are.

District 6 Board Member John Madden suggested the board needed to get a second opinion on whether the stands needs to come down. If it does, he’s fine with that, he said.

“We’ve got $120,000 we’re dealing with here,” he says, adding that $69,000 is for the demolition of the stadium (stands) and the roughly $50,000 is for the portable bleachers. “I’m not opposed to the idea, but if those stands can be salvaged, what is the cost on that and is that the best route to go?”

Buster Flowers, maintenance supervisor, says a second opinion has been given by a Federal Emergency Management Agency structural engineer who says it must come down. The agency has already accepted the reports, and in its current classification, the school board stands a very good chance of getting the money upfront to rebuild the stands.

“What they’re doing in mitigation is deciding how much money they’re going to pay us,” he said. “We should have some kind of response on it by June 1.”

Another issue Flowers brought to light is that even if it could be repaired, they can’t get equipment under it to repair it. Architect Perry Watson says it can be repaired, but it’s a question of cost versus benefit.

“There have been no proposals on how to fix it at this point, other than the idea of building a retaining wall to keep the hill from sloughing off anymore,” Watson said. “How are you going to get under the stadium (stands) to drill pyles? Until somebody comes up with a plan of rehabilitation, which is a structural engineer’s assessment, there really can’t be a cost put to it. It’s just not going to be cheap.”

Tucker says she’s concerned about two things: where The Tide will play football and the long-term solution.

She says in the long run, playing Tide football at The Pit is the most effective way to go. She thanked Lakeside Jr./Sr. High School for their graciousness in offering their field, but with Webster Junior High School and Lakeside playing four teams there already, it would tear up their field quicker. Not to mention the loss of income from not being able to sell reserved seating, she said.

“Regardless of where we play, I don’t see us having reserved seats for the next couple of years, and that’s a huge chunk of our revenue each year,” she said.

The stands are not covered under the board’s insurance, because it is in a floodplain, Flowers said. The only way it would be considered is if the area were backfilled and raised above the floodplain level, he added.

Watson sent in to FEMA the cost of replacing the stands with a new one in the same place with the same seating capacity, and he says it will cost upwards of $1.75 million. Flowers says, if FEMA agrees to pay for it, they will cover 85 percent of the costs, minus the foundation work over the creek that runs under the stands.

“We need to know that the stadium can’t be rehabilitated at a figure that we can afford in terms of bringing in the portable bleachers, tearing it down and the ditch work,” District 8 Board Member Jerry Lott said.

Asbestos and mold abatement on the press box and related areas inside the stadium begins Tuesday, Flowers said.

The meetings will be at Central Office, located at 1442 Sheppard St.