257 overhauls bleacher seats aplenty



January 9, 2018 - 12:00 AM

The comfort and safety of local keesters took center stage at Monday’s USD 257 board of education meeting.
The board voted in unanimous numbers to spend in the ballpark of $50,000 to replace or repair bleacher seating at four sports and recreation venues used by the district — the football stadium in Riverside Park, a baseball diamond in the same park, and the gymnasium bleachers in the middle and high schools.
While improved seating has been a longstanding need in the district, explained Director of Operations Scott Stanley, the reason for initiating the upgrade now is that the district has come into something of a deal.
The Kansas Speedway — which holds about 75,000 people in its Kansas City, Kan., grandstands — is installing new seating and getting rid of the old.  
In talks with Shawnee-based Heartland Seating, Stanley was able — pending board approval — to secure possession of a sufficient number of high-quality aluminium bleacher seats, which in the coming months will find their new home in Iola.

The board’s vote on Monday clears the way for an upgrade to the football stadium in Riverside Park, which will include the installation of contoured aluminum bench seats throughout the arena.
Perhaps the most conspicuous renovation, however, will be in the stadium’s two center sections, where every seat will be equipped with a Mustang-blue backrest.
The cost of the upgrade, not including installation, is $17,000.
“This is a lot of money to look at with seating options,” offered Superintendent of Schools Stacey Fager, “but we’ve been putting this off because we couldn’t afford to go new with a lot of these bleachers. And, truthfully, I don’t foresee another scenario like the Kansas Speedway coming along anytime soon.”
Both Fager and board president Dan Willis confessed knowledge of various community groups and individuals who’ve signaled their willingness to donate to the project, potentially allaying the district’s final costs.
Local volunteer Donna Houser — the big-hearted doyen behind the most recent round of stadium upgrades — has already secured private funds for the bleacher project, explained Fager. “If Donna gets on board on something, she is pretty persistent about talking to the people in the community who have a soft spot for our facilities.”
Willis, too, was optimistic. “I think we’re going to recoup our money really fast, at least half or more of it. That’s pretty cheap for what we’re getting.”

The board’s vote also means that the rotted lumber bleachers facing baseball diamond 3 in Riverside Park — which Stanley called “dangerous and unusable” — will soon be replaced by rows of high-grade aluminum planks, again courtesy the Kansas Speedway.
While the metal frame will remain the same, the renovation will include new stairways and handrails, where previously there were none.
The district will split the cost with the City of Iola, who owns the baseball diamond for which USD 257 is its primary user.
The cost to the district will be just shy of $19,000. The stands will likely be completed in advance of the coming baseball season.

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