Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Feb. 7, 2000

Wright County hopes for change to bleacher law

By John Holler
Wright County Correspondent

Following the death of a youngster who fell through the rows of a set of bleachers in Hutchinson, the State Legislature took fast action. At its next session, the legislature put into law that all bleachers be upgraded to include safety features that wouldn't permit a similar tragedy from happening.

While the law is still on the books and all bleachers are still expected to be up to code by Dec. 31, the Wright County Board learned at its Feb. 1 meeting that the state is now considering repealing part of the law.

"The problem with the law is that there are thousands of five-row bleachers at ball fields and other areas throughout the state that have counties, cities, townships and private groups concerned that they will face some form of liability," Wright County Purchasing Agent Craig Hayes said. "There's a good chance that the law will be changed to take that part of the regulation out."

That would be good news for Wright County, since Hayes came before the board to discuss options for paying for bleachers that need to be upgraded at the county fairgrounds. Hayes said the fairgrounds has 41 sets of the five-row bleachers that will be quite expensive to repair. He added that the 15-row bleachers at the fairgrounds will likely have to be replaced instead of upgraded and it will be an expensive proposition.

"The prices we're getting are between $35 and $50 a seat in the 15-row section," Hayes told the board. "With 500 seats in that section, the portion alone will cost up $25,000 to repair. So you can see why we're concerned about getting the legislation changed for the short bleachers, because we'll have repairs of 41 additional sections."

The board accepted the list of recommendations from the consulting firm that laid out options for the county to meet compliance standards, but held off making any firm decisions on making repairs until county officials learn what plans the state has for changing compliance regulations.

As it currently stands, all bleachers in Minnesota will have to be compliant by Jan. 1, 2001 or taken out. The board laid over the item for one week to get an engineer's cost estimate before proceeding.

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