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Clintonville closes stadium bleachers

Clilntonville Common Council voted to close the grandstand at W.A. Olen Park. File photo

City seeks removal bids

By Bert Lehman

The bleachers at Don Jirschele Stadium, at W.A. Olen Athletic Field, will be closed to the public.

The city will seek estimates to remove the bleachers, which were found to have safety concerns during a 2019 facility study.

The Clintonville City Council decided on that action at its Nov. 14 meeting.

In a Nov. 14 memo from to council members, Justin Mc Auly, director of the city’s Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments, said the safety the bleachers was questioned at the Oct. 9 Finance and Personnel Committee meeting.

After that discussion, Mc Auly said Clintonville’s city attorney recommended presenting the issue to the city’s insurance company “to see if demolishing the structure’s is necessary.”

The memo included the response from the CEO of the insurance company.

“The known danger point you made is spot on and could impact any recreational immunity defense the City could rely on. But beyond that, I would hate to see something happen then the city be put through the ringer since they had prior knowledge of the safety issue. I would close access to the grandstand immediately and think the recommendation from your DPW director are good steps to correct the issue,” said the CEO of the city’s insurance company.”

Council discussion

Mc Auly said one of the safety issues is in regards to the covered bleachers directly behind home plate.

There are concerns about the support beams for the roof being undersized.

“During certain times of the year, they tend to buckle a little bit, or bow,” Mc Auly said. “It’s usually during the winter when it’s not being occupied, but they were concerned about that.”

There are also concerns about small children potentially falling through the bleachers at the stadium.

“It’s always been built this way, but they’re concerned about it and I don’t know the best route (to fix the concern),” Mc Auly said. “They’re recommending that we shut it down now, flag it off, and nobody can go on it.”

The main concern for the city is its liability should someone get hurt since the city knows there are safety concerns with the bleachers.

“I have a feeling our insurance company isn’t going to cover an incident,” Mc Auly said.

Clintonville City Administrator Caz Muske concurred with that assessment later in the meeting.

“While we have immunity as a municipality, there is a document that showcases some sort of liability, then there’s a concern whether our insurance will cover it,” Muske said.

Mc Auly said back in 2019 he did solicit estimates as to how much it would cost to replace the bleachers.

“We’re going to have to have some type of agreement with all the entities that are involved at that facility to make it happen,” Mc Auly said.

Currently, the stadium is used by the Clintonville School District for its boys’ baseball games, the Clintonville A’s Baseball Club (CAC), which is part of the Badger Amateur Baseball Association (BABA), and the Clintonville Legion Baseball team.

Mc Auly said he thinks the best course of action is to remove all the bleachers.

“I don’t know what else you’d do to be able to occupy the bleachers for them to be safe,” Mc Auly said. “Now that it’s pointed out, it’s something we’re going to have to act on.”

Ald. Brandon Braden said he was the one who brought up the bleacher issue at the October Finance Committee meeting. He said generally a municipality has a lot of liability protection if somebody gets hurt at a city facility unless the city knows there is an issue and that issue isn’t remedied.

He added that he was concerned about that since the issue with the bleachers was cited in the 2019 facility study.

“It sounds like our insurance company kind of agrees with that,” Braden said.

Clintonville City Administrator Caz Muske said the city has “earmarked” $30,000 in its next borrowing cycle for the stadium facility.

“However, I would recommend directing Justin to start looking at the removal, and then whatever is replaced, we can take time to decide what that looks like,” Muske said.

Muske said the city should work with all the entities that use the stadium, because the cost for new bleachers will be more than $300,000.

“It would be beneficial to have partnerships, and then obviously we would try to solicit grants if there are any that are appropriate for this project,” Muske said.

2019 estimate

According to a Clintonville Tribune-Gazette article in June 2019, after the city received the results of the facility study in 2019, Mc Auly solicited an estimate from Southern Bleacher Company to replace the current bleacher system and grandstand.

The request was for a 739-seat unit with a roof and new press box. That estimate came in at $455,000, not including permits and fees.

The Clintonville Parks and Recreation Committee discussed the estimate at its May 30, 2019 meeting.

Then City Administrator Sharon Eveland said it wasn’t financially feasible for the city to install the bleacher system that seats more than 700 people. But she also said the current bleacher system needed to be replaced.

Nothing has been done regarding the bleacher system since then.

Muske interview

The Clintonville Tribune-Gazette asked Muske, via email, what the city’s plans are for the spring baseball season for the high school team since the bleachers can’t be used, and the season is only four months away.

She said the current city administration was unaware of the facility study that was conducted in 2019.

“The entities who utilize Jirschele Stadium, the Clintonville School District and the Clintonville Athletic Club (CAC), were notified of the Council action and asked to meet in December to start the discussion given the immediate safety response. Our intention is to produce a plan for Jirschele Stadium and the 2024 season collaboratively,” Muske said.

Muske is hoping a collaborative effort with the Clintonville School District and the CAC will fund a new bleacher project.

She was asked what would happen if those entities don’t want to or can’t help fund the project.

Muske reiterated that the city has $30,000 earmarked for the facility in the city’s next borrowing cycle, but also acknowledged the cost for a new bleacher system could be in excess of $300,000.

“Our intention is to work with the School District and the CAC to find a funding plan that is equitable for those who utilize the facility,” Muske said. “Additionally, if we are unable to get monetary support from other partners and/or secure grants, our City Council will have to weigh this facility’s level of priority within our CIP (Capital Improvement Plan). If our elected officials feel we should increase the current earmarked amount, there will be a debt levy increase associated with the addition. We already anticipate a debt levy increase affecting the 2025 fiscal year; thus, this would add to it.”

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