Stadium safety issues found, steps are taken
MICHAEL A. HEERY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Director of Student Services and Facility Planning Kyle Spotts (left) and Supervisor of Building and Grounds Joseph Hauser (right) inspect the vinyl mesh fencing that has been installed as a safety precaution at Lehighton Football Stadium in order to prevent fans from using the top three rows of the bleachers
With a balmy late summer weather forecast for this evening, the Lehighton Indians will kick-off the new varsity football season by hosting the Marian Colts.
A good crowd is expected as Tom McCarroll will walk the sidelines for the first time as the new head football coach for the Indians. He is a former assistant football coach for the Colts.
A few additional changes will be unveiled at Lehighton Football Stadium as well.
During a routine safety inspection of the stadium this summer, possible structural concerns were discovered and brought to the attention of Lehighton Area School District.
With the safety of all fans, workers, and volunteers in mind, Lehighton Area School Board hired a certified, licensed engineering firm for assessment.
Barry Isett and Associates, Inc. inspected the bleachers and deemed them to be overall structurally strong, but found certain safety issues - specifically, with the height of the upper railing of the bleachers.
According to LASD Supervisor of Building and Grounds Joseph Hauser, "The upper railing of the bleachers should measure 42 inches from the seat, but is actually only approximately 30 inches."
The engineers also had concerns with the safety of the old wooden press box.
With only about a month to go before the football season would begin, temporary, short-term modifications were recommended to ensure safety.
First and foremost, fans are prohibited from using the top three rows of the bleachers on both the home and away sides of the stadium. These rows are blocked off with vinyl mesh fencing. Security will enforce the non-use of the top three rows.
As for the press box, the possibility of obtaining a portable one was investigated. However, by the time it would arrive and be game-ready, the season would be almost over. The Lehighton varsity team will host five home games this football season - the last being October 26 against Pocono Mountain West.
Instead of obtaining a portable press box, the current one has been shored up with wooden beams for additional support. As part of the safety precautions, only four occupants will be permitted to be in the press box at any one time.
A special meeting of Lehighton Area School Board to discuss the stadium issues and permanent, long-term options is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. at the newly-renovated Lehighton Area Middle School Gymnasium. The public is encouraged to attend.
Lehighton Football Stadium, then known as "the new athletic field", was dedicated on Oct. 5, 1940. On that day, Lehighton defeated Mauch Chunk Catholic High School by a score of 13-0.
A quarterback by the name of George Bibighaus - captain of the 1940 team - helped to lead the Indians to victory. Bibighaus went on to serve the school district as a teacher, coach, and administrator.
For more information about LASD, visit www.Lehighton.org .