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Chris Murphy, Published August 14 2013

Fergus Falls to be without main bleachers for football, soccer

The main bleachers on the Fergus Falls (Minn.) High School football and soccer fields will be closed this season after an engineering study revealed a defect in the support beams.

“We got our construction manager to see what it would cost to beef up the structure and get it handicap accessible,” Fergus Falls public schools Superintendent Jerry Ness said. “We just got a letter from the structural engineer that we couldn’t use the bleachers, so we’re flipping our home side to our visitor side. We’ll be studying the cost over the next month and see whether it makes sense to make changes to the current bleachers or tear them down.”

With the Fergus Falls football home opener against Brainerd 15 days away, desperate times call for desperate measures.

“We’ll have to hire extra supervisors to make sure no one gets on those stadium seats,” Fergus Falls athletic director Gary Schuler said. “The city is bringing in some portable bleachers to put on the track where the visitor’s side is going to be, and we’ll have to come up with some adjustments. It is what it is, and we’ll make do with what we can. People will have to be patient. When we get bigger crowds, it will be interesting. There’s nothing we can do at this point.”

As of right now, the idea is to put all press box workers at the top of the portable bleachers and create some kind of crow’s nest for coaches.

“On the visitor’s side, we got some bleachers and have some radio on the top row of those bleachers,” Ness said. “On the other side we have a crow’s nest. We’re just making sure everything meets the fire marshal’s approval.”

According to Ness, he is not aware of there being a law or requirement for an annual check of the bleachers.

“There’s been some crumbling,” Ness said. “They’ve had to do a number of repairs. These have been deteriorating for a number of years. Just before we put people on those bleachers, we wanted to see if we could spruce them up, and he found a defect in the structure.”

Ness says the board will make a decision in the next few months.

As for press box workers not being covered during winter, Ness suggests they bundle up.

“Just like always, you’ll have to dress warm,” Ness said. “Rain is our biggest worry.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548