The bleachers of their discontent

Katie Brickman
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Ross Wells renos could leave fans standing

There might be some disgruntled seatless baseball fans this season.

“I can’t speak for anybody else, but I was certainly disappointed when I walked in there and saw what had happened,” stated Charlie Meacher, president of the Ross Wells Park board. “They aren’t what we expected them to be.”

Along the third base side at Ross Wells Park are new aluminum bleachers that replaced the old wooden benches.

Leeville Construction Ltd. of Moose Jaw completed the job, which was tendered by the city this spring.

The wooden bleachers have been in place since 1996 and had begun to rot. The decision to replace the home side was made by city council during the 2013 budget process.

Construction began in the fall and wrapped up in the spring with “20 feet of the stands missing,” said Meacher.

“Basically, the statement was that they wouldn’t cut down the number of seats. That was basically the promise that was made to us. We would have the same number of seats when they got done. Obviously, the aluminum would be built differently and the walkways had to be built to code, but we weren’t going to lose any seating capacity,” said Meacher. “It is not even close. I didn’t measure, but it is probably 20 feet of stands that are seven rows deep. Probably 70 seats at least.”

Neither the board nor the Moose Jaw Miller Express organization are pleased with how the bleachers ended up.

“What we were told from a Miller organization standpoint is that they were going to mimic the old seats that were in there, just aluminum instead of wood,” said Cory Olafson, assistant coach with the Express. “The old bleachers went approximately to the end of our dugout and now they are about a third of the way down the dugout.”

Olafson added that the catwalk at the top of the bleachers was supposed to be level with the top of the outside wood fence, “but it is a five feet below that mark.”

“I’m ecstatic that the city earmarked funds for Ross Wells Park … The bleachers definitely needed replacing. It just didn’t turn out the way we were told it would,” said Olafson.

The organization is troubled with the lack of seating for fans this summer.

“We have lost a lot of seats on that side of the field, which is our side,” Olafson said. “That side fills up first because that is the home side.”

When the city put a request out for contractors, Meacher met with six companies throughout the fall in ongoing discussions.

“They would call me and I would go down. It was over a span of a month and a half or two months,” said Meacher. “The one that did the job, I didn’t get to talk to.”

All Meacher saw were the technical drawings from the company that was hired to do the work.

“According to the city, they got what they paid for,” said Meacher.

When Kelly Mintenko, operations manager for parks and recreation was asked what company was hired, he said “I can’t remember the company, but it was a local company.”

He stated that the city put the job out for public tender and the standard process is usually advertised for 10 to 15 days.

Mintenko agreed that there might be some seats missing, but not as many as Meacher and Olafson estimate.

“The current stands are up to current building code. So, the number of seats are what they are,” said Mintenko. “They aren’t really missing either. It is because of the design of the bleachers and the angle. It is the building code that only allows for so much to put in that location.”

Meacher understands the need to upgrade the bleachers in the historic park, but he couldn’t help but realize how much it takes away from the feeling of the diamond.

“Having to go with aluminum took away from the atmosphere. It is a different park without the old-timey wood stands,” he said. ““There are pros and cons with having to go to aluminum.”

The solution might not come until next year when the city puts out another tender job for the first base side to be completed.

“That was the talk (during) the last conversations I had with Kelly (Mintenko) … that when they tender next year’s, they can make up the difference by putting more on the other side. That is what it is looking like at this point,” said Meacher.

However, Meacher hardly seemed satisfied with the compromise.

“Do we really have a choice? It is not our park and all we do is operate it for them,” said Meacher. “So, is it the best solution for the problem? Probably given the circumstances, it is the only solution for the problem.”

Mintenko did say that they will try and maintain the number of seats on the first base side and the design will be similar to the third base side.

“We are trying to maintain the number of seats over there,” said Mintenko. “It all depends on budget at the end of the day.”

So far, Meacher hasn’t heard much feedback from fans, but he said he expects that to change once the Express season opens this Friday.

Follow Katie on Twitter @katiebrickman.

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