Van Wert City Schools | High School Outdoor Bleacher Replacement

  The original stadium, dedicated in 1936, holds a lot of history within the Van Wert community and was part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), created to provide jobs to people during the Great Depression. After a failed code compliance and safety inspection for the Visitors’ Side bleachers, the district knew it was time to rebuild. In September…

Outdoor Bleachers & Grandstands: Buying Options


Buying options have expanded over the last several years and now more than ever, buying through a purchasing agent is the most common way to go. SturdiSteel, our featured Outdoor Bleacher vendor holds a contract through TIPS (The Interlocal Purchasing System). Based in Texas, TIPS does the work for their members, Education, Government, and Non-Profit Organizations, across the United States, following state guidelines and purchasing laws for each state. Membership for you is free while Awarded Vendors go through a rigorous RFQ/RFP process.

SturdiSteel’s contract includes Design, Manufacture, and Install of Grandstands, Bleachers, Stadium Seating and Press boxes.

Few districts still opt for the traditional RFP (Request for Proposal Process). Taking this route, your request would include a general scope and intent of the project as well as evaluation criteria.  In this scenario for an Outdoor Bleacher Replacement Project, a prospective Design Build firm would then reply with their interpretation of the project including design, scope, scheduling, and budgeting as well as their qualifications and references.  Design Build projects work best when there is a relatively narrow project scope (i.e. replacement of auditorium seating or new grandstands).

The benefit of using Design Build for product procurement are numerous and include:

Substantially shorter project duration – Simply advertise the RFP, make the Best Value Selection and the project is underway!

Substantially lower the overall project cost.

No need to hire an architect up front because you’re soliciting for both design and construction services. This lessens the upfront work load and gives you more options from which to choose the final design.

No longer have to make your decision based solely on low-bid pricing. The Design Build option and Ohio Construction Reform (OCR) allow you to choose based on Best Value Selection criteria which is defined as, “a process used in competitive negotiated contracting to select the most advantageous offer by evaluating and comparing factors of both price and qualifications.” You set the criteria which are most important for the project (i.e. quality, duration, cost, features, etc.)

What this also means is that you are no longer tied to the traditional conceive-design-bid-construct project delivery model.  You now have the option to let the proposals come to you and to make the Best Value Selection based on your most important criteria.

Outdoor Bleacher Renovations: Where to Start


Where to start? With an inspection of course. If you haven’t had one within the last 12 months, get one scheduled and let them know this inspection has dual purpose: code compliance and renovation/upgrades options. Tell them what your initial renovation needs are and what you would like to do so they can be sure to give you everything you need. Be transparent about a turnaround time too – if you know you need to make renovations within the next three months, you don’t want to wait a month for your report.

Once you have an inspection in hand, look at your report. If you have deficient items, what are they? Do you have a clear understanding of what needs to be fixed? Is it a code compliance issue that needs to be addressed? Ask all the questions and get all of your answers – especially if you plan on doing a renovation yourself.

What is the End Goal?

Is overall safety your number one goal? (Ahem, the answer is always yes). But seriously, if you’re looking at the overall project from a safety standpoint, you’ll want to be sure you are fully aware of code compliance when it comes to renovations and upgrades.

Replacing wood planks with aluminum is easily done and cost effective. However, if you are changing seats, adding aisle-ways, rails, etc. you need to take into consideration that your modifications meet code compliance of a “new” structure.

Other goals might include a larger seating capacity, ADA seating options and access, or a press box.  Again, it all goes back to the structure.

Let’s crash-course a little Code Compliance, shall we?

It all starts with the Ohio Administrative Code:

4101:1-10-01 [Effective 11/1/2017] Means of egress.

1029.1.1 Bleachers. Bleachers, grandstands and folding and telescopic seating, that are not building elements, shall comply with Chapters 1-4 of ICC 300.

The (International Code Council) ICC-300 actually has 5 chapters and that is where existing bleachers are addressed:

Chapter 5 Existing Bleachers, Folding and Telescopic Seating, and Grandstands, Section 501.4:

“Alterations. Alterations to any tiered seating shall conform with the requirements of this standard for new construction. Portions of the structure not altered and not affected by the alteration are not required to comply with the requirements in this standard for a new structure.”

But Ohio doesn’t enforce Chapter 5, so it gets a little muddy here doesn’t it?  While it’s not enforced, it IS the example of the highest standard of compliance and safety. So while you “don’t have to,” you absolutely should follow the guidelines if not for any other reasons than safety and reduction of liability and risk – those should be reason enough to look into the requirements of Chapter 5.

It all boils down to safety - ease of access for patrons and means of egress. Codes weren’t created to make our world full of crazy rules, they were created to keep our community and our children safe.

We at FEC will always reference Chapter 5 when it comes to code compliance, renovations, and upgrades because our ultimate goal is to keep you safe.

Back to the Bottom Line

You have options with renovations. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box either. If you know another district is tearing down their bleachers, see if salvaging their aluminum planks is possible to help you reduce costs when replacing wood planks with aluminum. And always – if you choose to do a renovation yourself, call in an expert, before for advice, during with questions and afterward to have them inspect your work, they will likely see what you don’t know to look for.


New Year, New Budget Planning: Outdoor Bleachers


When it comes to outdoor bleachers and grandstands, there aren’t too many differences when it comes to research before budgeting. Even the International Code Council (ICC) views them as the same entity when it comes to code compliance, defining bleachers as:

 “Tiered seating supported on a dedicated structural system and two or more rows high (see Grandstands).

Grandstand: Tiered seating supported on a dedicated structural system and two or more rows high (see Bleachers).” – ICC-300: Chapter 2, Definitions

As we mentioned in our previous post, New Year, New Budget Planning: Telescopic Bleachers, start with an inspection and do your research. If you know for a fact that you want to demo your existing bleachers, maybe an inspection isn’t necessary – but there may be options that you’re unaware of that may point you toward a renovation rather than a full replacement. If your aluminum planks are good, but your understructure needs to be replaced, there are options that may reduce costs for you. And if your understructure is solid but you want new seating – that is an option too. Ultimately, make sure that you and/or your consultant/contractor fully understand what it means to be code compliant, especially upgrades. We’ll go into this more next week with Renovation Options.

Do Your Research: What’s on Your Wish List?

  • Know what you like and don’t like about your current seating and seating in other districts.
  • Evaluate your major concerns with your current seating.
  • Know what is possible in the space you have available.
  • Know what extras you are willing to invest in either now or down the road.
  • Have a clear understanding of what it will take to maintain your new seating.
  • Realistic time frame from signed PO to installation date

Know what you like and don’t like about your current seating and seating in other districts.

This is everything from VIP Seating, Student Sections, Press Boxes, and access to the understructure. Maybe a neighboring district has riser boards that match their district color pallet that you like or perhaps another district has a Press Box that is too large or too small. Take some time to do some inventory. What creature comforts do you want to make sure are available for the community? Backrests/VIP seating is a great way to offset the costs of new bleachers, an annual fee for VIPS could go toward preventative maintenance plans lessening the financial burden.

Evaluate your major concerns with your current seating.

What is your Why? Why are you investing at this time? Are you outgrowing your current seating unit? Are your current bleachers unsafe for patrons? Take all of this into consideration to course correct for the next installation.

Know what is possible in the space you have available.

Maybe you have a hillside bleacher that will make design and installation a bit more complex or perhaps you’ve outgrown your current seating and need to make room for additional seats. Make sure to talk to the experts that can explain what is required of your space – and what is possible to get you exactly what you want.

Know what extras you are willing to invest in either now or down the road.

Are you wanting to add a Press Box down the road? Or maybe you want to add VIPS seating in lots of 10 at a time to reduce costs up front – whatever it is that you want down the road, be sure to include it in your initial plans so that when the time comes, you’re not losing seats or having to make a tremendous amount of upgrades to get you what you want.

Have a clear understanding of what it will take to maintain your new seating.

Did you know that according to the Ohio Building Code, the ICC-300, and Manufacturer’s standards you are required to have an annual inspection. But don’t stop at checking the task off the list, make sure you are looking at your report, a good report will have specific action items needed to maintain your bleachers. Keep in mind too that with the change in weather – aluminum contracts and expands which means you’ll need to check hardware and structural supports throughout the year, not just during inspections.

Realistic time frame from signed PO to installation date

As soon as you start to “think” you want to invest in outdoor bleachers, talk with an expert to make sure you are aware of delivery and installation times. This time of year gets heavy with RFPs and orders and the summer time slots fill fast for installation so the sooner you are aware of what you need, the sooner you’ll have a realistic understanding of what is possible for a completion date.