Fix for leaks, mold at RFA stadium eyed

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“We’re very happy to do it for you, but it’s going to cost a lot of money.”

This response from the contractor who recently addressed an acute mold issue at Rome Free Academy Stadium, in response to Rome City School District Director of Facilities, Alex Rodriguez asking him for a quote to perform the remaining repairs needed to the facility. 

Rodriguez reported to the superintendent staff and the Rome Board of Education that quotes for resolving the issues plaguing RFA Stadium’s grandstand area are, short term, about $400,000 and, long term, $800,000 or more.

Rodriguez reported being very happy with the cost of and service provided by the contractor who cleaned up an acute and unusually expansive mold outbreak under a specific seating area in the RFA grandstand, where that area has been closed since the end of last summer, thanks to the unwelcome spores.

“I’ve never seen mold like that in my life,” said Rodriguez.

The price tag for that clean-up came in at $9,000.

Rodriguez approached the company regarding the broader issues in need of attention at RFA Stadium. He shared that water infiltration encroaching on the “tunnel” area of the stadium, where the snack bar, restrooms and team changing rooms are located, is being caused by the failure of an air-tight coating affixed on top of the concrete under and around the bench seating to create a waterproof seal.

“That coating has failed,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez shared that he had the district architects come out to RFA Stadium last week to “look at a few things” and he will need to summon them back again.

Board Vice President Tanya Davis shared with the board her experience of being at RFA Stadium for varsity sporting events in which her son was participating. She noted parents rushing into the tunnel for shelter during a sudden rainstorm and finding no shelter at all with water streaming right into the tunnel.

Said Rodriguez, “we need to solve the problem.”

Rodriguez advanced and explained two options for remediating the water issues.

• Option #1, the least expensive and shortest lived option, would be to affix what is called a “sacrificial coating” to the grandstand concrete. “It is similar to the coating you might put on your driveway,” explained Rodriguez. “It ‘sacrifices’ itself so your driveway doesn’t get eaten away.”

But, Rodriguez went on to point out that this coating itself gets “eaten away” instead, thus the name, "sacrificial."

Rodriguez confirmed this would be the significantly less expensive option, but that it would prevent the encroachment of the water for approximately five years before the coating slowly began to wear and water would slowly begin to breach, until the issue was once again acute.

All of the seating in the grandstand would need to be removed but the rest of the structure would remain in tact.

The estimated cost to the district for this sacrificial seal would be approximately $400,000 and the warranty on the work would be limited.

• The second option advanced by Rodriguez was, basically, reconstruction.

Where new standards and codes would come into play, Rodriguez warned that the stadium would basically lose what is located in the tunnel – the snack bar, the team rooms – everything.

“It is a more expensive way to go; about $800,000,” said Rodriguez, “but it will last for, like, 20 years.”

Rodriguez reminded that reconstruction would be similar to taking the roof off of a house.

“You’re going to find some surprises,” warned Rodriguez, “so, it will probably be more.”

Rodriguez pointed out that the warranty on reconstruction would be far longer than on the more temporary fix.

As the members adapted to the ominous news about the options to restore the stadium, Davis lamented an approach that was “not well thought out.”

“We invested an enormous amount of money on new turf and a new track, but now we don’t have a usable stadium,” said Davis. “I understand the severity of it. But, we’ve already made the investment to continue using that field, so we have to address this.”

Improvements for the turf field, at a cost of $666,364, and the track athletic surface, at a cost of $1,438,188, were authorized in connection with a larger, $14.2 million district capital improvement project, approved by voters in December 2019, that also involved various repairs at RFA school plus energy-performance upgrades at most district schools.

Member, Joe Mellace asked Rodriguez to speak to the overall structural soundness of the facility.

“We are still waiting for the report from the structural engineer,” said Rodriguez, “but, his first gander didn’t seem too alarming.”

Rodriguez reported some corrosion, rust and “things of the nature” being discovered, and that rust and corrosion would need to be removed to “get a closer look.”

“Will doing this protect the investment we’ve already made,” asked Davis, referring back to the new turf and outdoor track?

Replied Rodriguez, “It will have to.”

Rodriguez qualified his reply to say that, eventually, the district will have to address this again, at some point.

“We will have to consider a more permanent fix and get away from these coatings,” said Rodriguez. 

Mellace widened the net of the discussion to address the conundrum that has haunted the district since the ribbon-cutting on the then “new” Rome Free Academy, located miles away from the beloved RFA Stadium that once stood proudly adjacent to the “old” Rome Free Academy. The ‘new’ school has a football field, too; but the tradition of hosting competitions at “the stadium” has – to date – been one that the community, and thus district, has stopped short of bringing to an end — and has stopped far shot of investing in new turf and seating at the ‘new’ school.

Mellace pressed Rodriguez for the cost of a more permanent solution, to which Rodriguez replied that he would have to consult with the architects and get back to the Board.

“Can we explore the cost – get some ideas – of a more permanent fix,” asked Mellace of Rodriguez and, effectively, his fellow members? “We’ve got a building that’s in a different location than the football field. It’s been a debate since we built that school – where that field is going to be? Maybe not this board – but some board - will have to consider what we should be doing about that.”

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