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$60 million Texas prep football stadium deemed ‘not safe,’ will close this season

By Julieta Chiquillo The Dallas Morning News (MCT) • Updated May 20, 2014 at 11:16 PM

ALLEN, Texas — Officials for a Texas school district said that design flaws appear to have contributed to problems with cracking of concrete at the Allen district’s new $60 million stadium, prompting them to close the stadium for the next football season.

Previously, PBK Architects, which designed the stadium, said the problems in the concourse level were probably caused by shrinkage in the concrete.

But an analysis commissioned by the district shows engineers have found design deficiencies at the concourse level, according to documents released to The Dallas Morning News. Partial findings by Nelson Forensics indicate that some support structures were not designed in a way that would hold the weight anticipated on that level of the stadium.

“The stadium is not safe for public assembly,” Superintendent Lance Hindt said Monday.

Nelson Forensics’ analysis is at least 70 percent complete, Hindt said. The final report is expected in June.

Approved by voters in 2009, Eagle Stadium rivals college facilities in grandeur. It opened in 2012 but shut down in February, when officials got a preliminary report about the cracking.

Allen ISD leaders have decided to keep the stadium closed this fall, sending the district’s state champion football team to neighboring Plano.

The district has contracted with Plano ISD and worked out a tentative schedule to play three home games in two Plano stadiums. No season tickets will be sold. Allen ISD will pay its neighbor $5,300 per game.

Hindt said he is confident taxpayers won’t shoulder the costs of repairs at the stadium. Both PBK and Pogue Construction, which built the stadium, are working with Allen ISD to find a solution, he said.

The district is also keeping a tab of lost revenue and expenses related to the stadium problems, Hindt said.

“I can’t speculate whether this will be litigated in the future,” Hindt said. “All I can tell you is we’re going to get the stadium we paid for.”

Representatives from PBK and Pogue said Monday that they are committed to correcting problems at the stadium. However, an escrow account to pay for the repairs has been the subject of some wrangling.

On April 11, each company agreed to put $1 million in an escrow account as a sign of good faith, according to letters obtained by The Dallas Morning News through an open records request.

Both companies told the district the escrow wasn’t an admission of liability. They said experts estimated $1 million or less would cover the repairs.

But Pogue later declined to participate in the escrow, according to an April 24 letter. The company cited concerns from its insurance company, which threatened to pull coverage.

“Pogue believes such an action would be irresponsible and leave the district less, rather than more, protected,” the company said in a letter.

PBK indicated in an April 11 letter that it was “ready and willing to fund its portion of the escrow funds” if all parties could agree to certain conditions.

District officials said PBK hasn’t put money in escrow yet.

“Once a repair solution has been agreed upon, PBK and Pogue Construction will implement the repair at no cost to the district,” PBK said in a statement Monday. “At the end of the day, our goal is to provide the taxpayers of Allen exactly what they paid for.”

Both companies have hired independent engineers to assess the problems at the stadium. In the April 24 letter, Pogue denied that its work caused the issues but stressed that it has ample insurance coverage.

Pogue said in a statement Monday that its consultant has not issued a final report, though his findings are consistent with Nelson Forensics’ descriptions of design problems.

However, Pogue’s analysis also found failures to completely fill the concourse pan deck during concrete pours, which created a “honeycomb effect,” letters show.

“These construction failures exacerbate the already deficient design,” the district’s attorney wrote PBK and Pogue in an April 4 letter.

PBK’s team will present its conclusions and a repair solution to district officials in upcoming weeks, the firm said in a statement.

Nelson Forensics described several structural weaknesses in the concourse level in an April 2 letter to the Allen ISD attorney.

For example, in isolated areas, the space between stirrups — bent rods used to reinforce joists — was 1 inch larger than the building code allows, Nelson Forensics found.

The firm identified areas in the stadium where the load demand on the structure exceeded accepted building standards by 10 to 20 percent. In isolated locations, that number was greater than 70 percent, according to the firm’s analysis.

“The deficiencies are outside of acceptable margins for error,” the firm said in a letter.

Nelson Forensics studied construction documents and as-built drawings for its review. It made a drawing that shows an extensive web of cracks throughout the horseshoe-shaped concourse.

Not all cracks would be visible to visitors, though long, thin ones can be spotted as soon as one steps through the main entrance.

District officials noticed the cracks around the time the stadium opened in August 2012 and notified Pogue and PBK. The companies said it was normal concrete shrinkage, according to the district.

Allen ISD staff observed the cracking getting worse. In August, the board hired Nelson Forensics to investigate. District leaders announced in February that they had closed the stadium as a safety precaution.

Officials said they will wait until the report is complete to make decisions about repairs. Fixing the stadium could take six to eight months, Hindt said.

In a preliminary report, Nelson Forensics had suggested tearing down the faulty structures or sealing the cracks with epoxy. The school board will be prudent in deciding how to fix the stadium, board President Louise Master said.

“The district is more than committed to getting that done as quickly as possible,” she said, “but at the same time we’re not going to put a Band-Aid on it.”

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