Hamilton Co. Schools making stadium inspection list - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Hamilton Co. Schools making stadium inspection list

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The Hamilton County school system is trying to figure out its next move when it comes to aging school stadiums.

East Ridge High School's Raymond James Stadium was condemned last month after inspectors deemed it unsafe. Now school administrators are taking a harder look at other facilities.

There was a heightened concern that came with the closing of Raymond James. Officials at the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences recently closed a small portion of its stadium due to safety concerns.
Channel 3 asked the district if there is a sure-fire remedy if other stadiums in the county are deemed unsafe.

"As far as a list goes, we're preparing a list. We haven't that quite finished yet. Maintenance will go out and look at the different buildings. The ones we're worried about the most right now are the concrete structured stadiums. We want to make sure those are safe," says Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Lee McDade.

McDade says the county tries its best to stretch its maintenance dollars.
"We use our budget as wisely as we can use our budget to maintain 78 school buildings and campuses inside and out."

$3 million is set aside in the almost $350 million budget for maintenance projects.

Early estimates show it will cost about $400,000 to replace condemned Raymond James stadium.
"I'm not sure the school system has that just laying around," says Dr. McDade.

It has been up to the leadership at each school to oversee any repair needs for stadiums.
"Principals kind of monitor their own stadium."

Now the county plans to hire a private structural engineer to look at other stadiums in the county.

McDade will make a list of stadiums to be inspected.
When asked how much an engineer would cost, McDade answers, "I don't think it will be too terribly expensive. But I just don't have a figure for that because we've never really done it system-wide like that."

"Maintenance is always a problem in the school system," says Ooltewah High School Principal Jim Jarvis.

The stadium at Ooltewah High is one that will be put under the microscope.
"Like most things with time, deterioration is going to take place," says Jarvis.

He applauds the school system for taking a closer look.
"I think the county school system is taking the right steps in surveying these stadiums and making sure that they are safe," says Jarvis.

McDade says it is a matter of money and priorities.
"We're here for academics. Academics are going to come first," he says.

County commissioner Tim Boyd, whose district includes East Ridge, has been very vocal on this issue saying the condition of Raymond James is unacceptable. He wants to take a closer look at where money is going in the county.

In the meantime, the county will bid out for the structural engineer soon and hopes to have inspections done by January.

The idea has been thrown out to possibly consolidate stadiums if more have safety issues.

The school board will talk about possible funding for a new East Ridge stadium at their next meeting later this month.

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