Who is Out of Bounds?

Telescopic Bleachers & Portable Seating


The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) has rules and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has rules, then there is the Ohio Building Code, the International Code Council, and the National Fire Protection Association…What is the bottom line and who do you listen to?

I recently received a couple of phone calls about new guidelines that have been set by the OHSAA in reference to the required clearance of 3-feet to the out of bounds lines on the basketball court. Callers were concerned that with the bleachers opened completely and their team chairs set up, they do not meet this new requirement. “What do we do?”

Let’s clear up some confusion.

After some research, my interpretations are as follows:

For the most part, “NOTHING HAS CHANGED”, this is not a new guideline. The way I see this is: The kind people of the OHSAA are trying to be helpful by emphasizing that there is a rule. They are trying to help keep you and your school out of trouble by eliminating risk and hazards that can be very expensive if someone gets injured because someone is not following the rules or is unaware of the guidelines.

The 2012-13 OHSAA Coach & Official Basketball Guide states (page 6):

“More and more schools are placing chairs near the court to use as the ‘team bench’ instead of the front row of the bleachers. Though it is certainly acceptable to do so, special note should be made to the Playing Court Dimensions (Rule 1, Section 1) and the Supplement to the Court Diagram. This rule and supplement require a minimum of 3 ft. of unobstructed space outside boundaries (sidelines and endlines) between those lines and the seating. The preferred amount of space is 10 ft. This simply means that IF you utilize chairs for bench seating, you MUST insure adequate space (3 ft.) from those chairs to the sideline. The design of many older courts does not permit this and player’s feet and/or chair legs are within a foot or so of the sideline, which is not permissible.”

This is stating that there is supposed to be 3 feet from the out of bounds line clear to any obstructions even though they do recommend 10’-0 clearances. We all know that no one wants to have players or spectators injured and everyone tries to prevent it.

The majority of facilities meet code requirements for this clearance. The problem lays with up-grading your team benches to folding chairs in front of the bleachers. Now, add a nice score table and it brings you up to the big league standards. Unfortunately, this may also get you in trouble with Building Code Officials, Fire Marshals, Health Departments, Insurance Companies, OHSAA Officials AND, if you think this is bad – just wait until someone gets hurt and see who all gets involved.

One more thing to remember, there is also a required clearance, known as aisle egress, between the chairs to your bleachers. This varies though depending on your total seat capacity. If you’re unsure of the required egress, feel free to contact me.

NOW RELAX, it will all be ok…. All we have to do is think before we do, right?

You could leave a couple of rows closed on your bleachers to gain some space, but I guarantee you will have damages to your bleachers from people sitting on the upper rows while they are only partially open.  This type of damage comes with expensive repairs to ensure proper operation. Also, this type of damage is not covered under your manufacturer’s warranty, as stated in all telescopic bleacher manufactures’ Operation & Maintenance Manuals. This is not the option to take.

If your bleachers open completely and have the required 3’-0” in front of your team chairs and the proper aisle egress in front of the bleachers, that’s fantastic. If you do not have the proper egress, we recommend that you choose whether or not you want to have chairs for team seating in front of your bleachers.

If you choose yes, the good news is that we can help. We can remove a row or two of your bleachers to allow for the proper clearance and aisle egress to accommodate your needs and keep spectators and players safe. In the end, it’s all about safety. If you’re interested in adding team chairs, we can provide those too.

I would be happy to provide further information if you would like to contact me directly.

Good luck this season and be safe!

Rocky Baker, Service Manager