New bleachers mark start of BAHS gym transformation
Belfast — For the last several years, administrators at Belfast Area High School have advocated for a new set of handicapped-accessible bleachers to replace the aging set of wooden ones that had been a part of the gymnasium for the last 46 years.
But this year, RSU 20 Maintenance and Transportation Director Mitch Brown said, the dream of new bleachers became a reality after the old set that held parents, students and faculty for many a game, graduation and pep rally finally started showing their age and became a liability for the district.
Brown said the old bleachers failed inspection this year, and portions of them were breaking away from the walls, occurrences that prompted the move to replace the seating that had served the school for nearly half a century. In the meantime, a 20-foot length of the old bleachers was actually removed from the gym until the district could get the new ones in place, Brown said.
Following a school board vote earlier this year to fund the replacement of the bleachers, Brown said the district ordered the necessary materials from Hussey Seating out of North Berwick and the work began Friday morning, June 1.
The total cost of the project to the district would have been about $67,000, but Brown said with a little creativity and a lot of recycling, the district was able to shave an estimated $9,000 off the cost.
"All the boards, we tore them apart individually and [Hussey] is going to buy the boards back from us," said Brown, adding that the recycled lumber from the old bleachers amounted to about 3,300 board feet.
The new bleachers, said Brown, will not only be safer but also feature railed walkways that will allow for handicap accessibility, something the old bleachers lacked.
"It will be so much easier for people to get in and out," said BAHS Principal Terry Kenniston.
Brown said after the new bleachers were installed, he immediately emailed photographs of the finished job to former BAHS Principal and Athletic Director Butch Arthurs, who he said was excited to see the job was finally completed.
"He worked for this for years," said Brown.
Thursday, June 7, the gym was decorated for the June 10 graduation, but the weather was favorable enough to hold the ceremony outside this year. Had the need arisen to move the ceremony inside, however, Brown said the gym was ready to safely accommodate the hundreds of families and friends who routinely turn out for the BAHS commencement exercises each year.
Brown said the bleacher replacement is the beginning of a broader effort to breathe new life into the gymnasium, as there are improvement plans in the works that include adding a fresh coat of paint to the walls.
"This has been years getting here," said Brown, standing alongside the newly installed spectator seating.