22 Jun 2016

How to Offset the Cost of Replacing Aging Bleachers with Durable Aluminum Bleachers by Planning and Budgeting

old wood bleachers

Weathered blue school bleachers that lost to the elements.

By Gerald Dlubala

Today’s the day!

The big game. It’s all that’s been talked about over the last month. The whole community will be heading for a good seat on those bleachers. They always are.

Your family and friends are all wound up about the annual rivalry game, and so are you. It’s all about the bragging rights for the year, and if you have a child playing in that game, well, I don’t have to tell you how important of an event this is going to be.

The car is packed, and off you go to the field, but on approach you notice that something is just not right. One whole side of the bleachers is empty. Not just a few fans, but completely empty.

This game, as well as most played here, is usually filled to capacity. “What’s going on?” you think to yourself.

And then, you see it. The people are indeed here, but they’re all on one side of the field, wedged together, twisting and turning for that little extra space needed to get a view of the field.

You glance back at the bank of empty bleachers, and see that they’re roped off with that yellow caution tape stretched across the hand railings of the stairs.

Clearly posted signs answer your question, with big block letters announcing Danger, Unsafe, and Do Not Enter. You look back to your family, wondering where you’re going to go now, and by the faces of all the others, you’re not alone.

Be sure to plan ahead and to switch to aluminum bleachers

Think it can’t happen?  These schools and communities likely thought the same. And then this happened:

  • February 2016. Growden Memorial Ball Park, Fairbanks, AK. The bleachers are deemed unusable. And so now, an unexpected and unplanned expense has the community trying to acquire funds from their local government. They put on fundraisers, apply for grants, and do anything they can to afford new, temporary seating to make sure the field can be used.
  • June 2016. Baynard Stadium, Wilmington, DE. A large section of the bleachers had to be shutdown over safety issues. Officially, the cause of the shutdown was determined to be “significant rust and failure due to loss of structural integrity”.

According to a spokesperson from the Delaware’s Division of Parks and Recreation, the community stadium has immediately lost 2,000 seats until a solution is found, with hopes that at least a temporary seating solution can be determined before this fall season.

Spokesperson Cynthia Todd said, “I don’t think it’s going to handle 2,000 on that side. Temporary seating is a different animal, so if I get half of that I think that would be great. At least we would have seating on that side”.

Five surrounding schools share the field, so seating is considered crucial.  The rest of their bleachers were considered OK, for now, but are in need of ADA compliant updates.

  • Fall 2015. Woodland High School, Woodland, CA. The school had to bring in temporary seating because their current bleachers were failing and labeled as unsafe. The families, friends and visiting fans had to use temporary seating for the games, including their big homecoming game. The school is researching long-term solutions to their seating issues, while having to spend additional money upfront on temporary seating.

The above examples show how integral long-term planning is for the maintenance, upkeep, and possible eventual replacement of your current or new bleacher seating. And when you make that replacement, consider the durability and low maintenance benefits of aluminium bleachers. It doesn’t take a very detailed search to come up with more situations like those described above.

Bleachers are one of those things that easily get taken for granted, not giving them a second thought after installation. Not, that is, until they deteriorate past repair, cause injury, or become totally unusable.

By not planning in advance for the maintenance or replacement of bleacher seating, you’re actually increasing your costs in the long run, because of the added expense of the temporary solution.

A worst-case scenario is currently unfolding in Grayson County, near Roanoke, VA.

Because of years of neglect, the Grayson County School’s bleachers were condemned late last year, being labeled “Unsafe To Use” and “Beyond Repair.” Because the bleachers had to be then torn down, the school now has no seating available at their field, with no budget money left, and no funds to buy new bleachers.

They have received emergency funding for about half the cost from their School Board Supervisors, pending conditional requirements. The Grayson County school board must raise the balance of the funds itself, as well as come up with a 10-year capital improvement plan so the Board Supervisors will know, in advance, of upcoming issues and can plan and budget for them.

Because of Grayson County School’s “surprise” bleacher project, the Board Supervisors had to cut many other area projects that were already on the table and in process.

Bleacher safety is a real issue, and is one that needs to be routinely addressed. With the amount and types of continual use that bleachers are subjected to, they need routine evaluation and inspection.

And let’s face it, considering the time involved in sanding, painting, and sealing, it’s not hard to see why older style bleachers can get neglected, especially wooden bleachers. That’s why more and more schools opt for aluminum bleachers when its time to make a change.

Between materials needed and the man hours necessary to maintain them, they can easily be overlooked and that time spent on other projects labeled as more urgent, with the promise of getting around to those bleachers, “in due time”.

elevated aluminum bleachers

Elevated aluminum bleachers

For more and more schools, the “due time” has come and gone, and now instead of repairing, performing preventative maintenance, or freshening up those old bleachers, they are scrounging and looking around for ways to afford new bleachers and grandstands.

With a little foresight and proper planning, like the Grayson County Board Supervisors are implementing, this type of expense can be handled as a regular expense rather than on an emergency basis. Below are just a few ways schools and communities can set aside or raise money for their bleacher projects, both current and for the future:

  • Long term budgeting and financial planning. Holding back a portion of your budget on a yearly basis, earmarking it for seating solutions, will help offset the cost of your new bleachers when the time comes. This is the intent of the Grayson County School’s Board Supervisors in requiring a long-term capital improvement plan from the individual school boards.
  • Schools and communities can set up fundraisers. Community members and local businesses/residents are more likely to donate if they know the money will stay in and serve their community.
  • Crowd funding. Many legitimate needs are being met with modest reciprocal recognition in return, so perhaps the donating parties would appreciate their names on a plaque, or on an attached nameplate on the bleachers in return for a predetermined amount of monetary help. It’s easy to set up your own individual page and start reaching out for help.
  • Advertising sales. Another revenue generating idea is to sell advertising, complete with the sponsor’s corresponding banners hanging on your bleachers. Local businesses and merchants can be a valuable asset, not only for funding purposes, but as an overall supportive community connection as well.
  • Special note: one strategy to definitely consider is to replace worn-out wooden bleachers with aluminum bleachers. The metal aluminum has incredible durability and requires little maintenance. (You don’t have to worry about spectators getting a splinter). Since bleachers are out in the elements – from a blazing sun to the frigid cold – all year long, it’s smart to use aluminum bleachers because they are not affected by the weather. Secondly, most aluminum bleachers are made from recycled aluminum, so there is the pro-environment, sustainability benefit as well.
  • Transportable bleachers. Another option to stretch your bleacher budget is to purchase transportable or portable bleachers. These can be towed from one field to another for multiple uses.
portable aluminum bleachers

Portable aluminum bleachers offer flexibility when it comes to seating.

Your bleachers are used in so many ways that go unnoticed, yet they are immediately recognized as a major component when they fail.

Fans and spectators expect that a safe seating environment will be provided for them when attending games and functions, as they should.

It’s important to build the care and future replacement cost of bleachers into a budget when planning your long-term expenditures or capital improvements, so that those special moments on the field can be watched, enjoyed and shared by all those in attendance, without the financial burden brought on by an unnecessary emergency situation.





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2 Responses to How to Offset the Cost of Replacing Aging Bleachers with Durable Aluminum Bleachers by Planning and Budgeting
  1. My name is Laura, and I am a coordinator with The Tanana Valley State Fair Association, and I see that you already have our town, Fairbanks, AK, listed as one of your examples! But back to my question: Where are you located, and how much would it be to ship bleachers up here? Our livestock committee is wanting/needing a new set of bleachers, and we would be benefiting as well, as they would be on our grounds for other uses. We are looking for portable bleachers that we can move about for our different purposes. I am scoping out pricing and such with various other companies, but I would greatly appreciate any information you can send us regarding your pricing and shipping costs.


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