Monday, June 15

Veteran's Memorial Stadium Collapsing

Mecklenburg County officials said Thursday they're not sure how long it will take to repair a section of seats that collapsed at Memorial Stadium near uptown, nor what it will cost.

The stadium will remain open for now, though about 3,000 seats and a concourse area along the Charlottetowne Avenue side of the facility will be off-limits indefinitely, said James Alsop, director of enterprise services for the county's Park and Recreation Department.

The department closed off the area after staff noticed last week that about six or seven rows of seats had collapsed.

A preliminary engineering report released this week said the damage was likely caused by “severe distress” in portions of a stone tunnel underneath the stadium that led to soil erosion.

The underground tunnel carries water from a tributary of Little Sugar Creek and runs for about two miles, including the entire length of the stadium's field. But Alsop said that officials believe the field is structurally sound and there is no reason to close any further portions of the stadium.

The report also stated that a sinkhole appears to be forming near an entrance to a nearby pedestrian tunnel that goes beneath Charlottetowne Avenue.

The 24,000-seat American Legion Memorial Stadium was built in the mid-1930s as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal program. The stadium frequently is the host site of high school football games and other athletic events and community programs, such as a Fourth of July fireworks celebration.

The Independence Day program and a volleyball event this weekend are among the events that will go on as scheduled for now. Alsop said officials would also welcome hosting football games again this fall, noting the stadium could still hold spectators in other seats at the facility.

The report said it is difficult to predict how much the repairs will cost until further investigations, including an analysis of how big of a tunnel is needed to handle runoff from future storms. The pedestrian tunnel, stadium and other areas have flooded in the past because of inadequate drainage.

Paying for the work could be tricky because the county's proposed 2009-10 budget includes deep cuts to services all around, including a reduction to the parks department.

Alsop said officials from a variety of agencies will begin meeting soon about what steps to take next.

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