Saturday’s graduation celebrations at Scotland High School will be moved indoors for the first time in a decade due to concerns about the structural integrity of Pate Stadium.
While working on construction of a new concession stand, school system maintenance workers noted some shifting of the stadium’s concrete components. Upon further inspection last week, representatives from both the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the South Carolina firm that originally constructed the stadium both advised against its use this weekend.
“It’s one of these things where a little bit, and I emphasize a little bit, of shifting had occurred, and we as DPI, with the folks at the school system, no one wants to take any future risk,” said Kim Lawson, chief of the NCDPI plant operation section, who inspected the stands on Thursday.
Zhengsheng Li, chief engineer of Florence Concrete Products, the company that built Pate Stadium, inspected the structure on Friday and also found it unfit for heavy use in its current condition. The stadium was dedicated and first put into use in 1979, and has undergone no major maintenance or repairs since.
“We do have an annual inspection on the fencing around the stadium, but we have not had an inspection on the concrete section,” said Roger Ammons, Scotland County Schools maintenance director. “We actually had the stadium cleaned three years ago front and back.”
No irregularities were noted with the stadium at that point.
“We do not know what caused that movement, but we’re not going to take any risk with any future movement,” Lawson said. “Any risk is too much risk.”
This weekend’s graduation ceremony will still be held on Saturday at 9 a.m. on the campus of Scotland High School. The ceremony itself will be held in the new gym.
“If we’re going to err on this, we’re going to err on the side of caution, making sure that everybody’s safe and that all of our guests who come for graduation are safe,” said school spokesman Andy Cagle. “Knowing that it’s not ideal to have them here, we could not in good conscience put them in the stands.”
Graduating seniors will still be given eight tickets to give to family members, friends, and supporters, but only four will be good for admission to the new gym. The remaining four, issued in another color, will allow guests to be seated in either the old gym or the Scotland High School auditorium, where the ceremony will be broadcast live.
While the schools are still estimating the cost of repairs to Pate Stadium, Gaston County Schools are facing similar repairs to three of its high school stadiums, with a total estimated cost of $4.5 million.
Ammons said that Scotland High School will aim to complete stadium repairs by mid-August so that they will be ready for heavy use in time for football season.
“We’re in the process now of trying to get a scope of work together and a proposal from this company in Florence,” he said. “We’re working with them on a daily basis.”