The seating on the home side of Lenoir-Rhyne University's football stadium will be demolished due to issues of structural integrity, according to a press release from the university. The seating will be replaced with temporary bleachers for the 2019 season.
The university did note permanent seating should be in place for the 2020 season.
The issue with the stadium came to light when the university contracted Taylor and Viola Structural Engineers of Hickory to review the stadium. The firm identified issues of structural integrity that needed to be addressed immediately, according to the release.
Jeremy Zalacca, assistant athletic director for athletic communications at Lenoir-Rhyne, said the structural issues were primarily due to the age of the seating.
The university last updated their stadium seating in 1965 as part of a large renovation project, according to Zalacca.
At the time, the upgrades cost the university $244,393. This included the installation of drainage systems, improved lighting and restroom facilities, construction of a new press box and the replacement of temporary bleachers with permanent seating.
The university was unable to provide the cost of the project to demolish the current seating, replace it with temporary bleachers and add new permanent seating as of Monday.
The demolition of the current home side stands is scheduled to be completed by the end of July, the release said. Aluminum temporary seating will be installed on the home side in time for the start of the football season.
The football home opener is scheduled for Sept.7.
The university received approval for the demolition project on July 8, according to Amy McCauley, communications and marketing director for Catawba County. D.H. Griffin Wrecking is overseeing the demolition.
The university will contract with a national company to install temporary bleachers with a minimum of 3,000 seats on the home side of the stadium, the release said.
“Moretz Stadium is a special venue and is home to one of the top game-day environments in all of NCAA Division II,” Kim Pate, director of athletics at Lenoir-Rhyne University, said in the release. “The stadium is showing its age, and it’s critical that we preserve the integrity, safety, and long-term viability in support of our student-athletes, community, and dedicated alumni.”
According to Drew Cronic, head coach of the Lenoir-Rhyne football team, Lenoir-Rhyne already had plans to update the stadium with new seating.
“You’re always looking at your facilities and seeing what needs work and what doesn’t,” Cronic said.
Bears Club reserved seating will continue to be offered to season ticket holders with modifications to accommodate variations to the seating plan for the temporary bleacher layout, according to the release.
Cronic, said he doesn’t believe the temporary seating and construction will affect attendance in the 2019 season.
“My understanding is that it will be near what it is now,” Cronic said. “I want [fans] to be here,” Cronic said. “Be here, be excited. We have the best atmosphere in the country. We need that and our players feed off that.”
Cronic said the field will still be open for use through the summer for camps and other events. The bleachers are blocked off and everyone is asked to stay on one side of the fence and away from the home bleachers.
“As we celebrate our 100th year anniversary of football and our 10th year of men’s and women’s lacrosse, this circumstance presents a timely opportunity to build on the storied tradition of LR athletics Between the Bricks,” Pate said in the release. “We remain committed to our traditions of tailgating and making the game-day experience a destination for our community and visitors.”