The Union County High School Yellow Jackets will take on Broome in their first home game of the 2010 prep football season and the county wants everyone to know it’s expecting a huge crowd.
Supervisor Tommy Sinclair, county engineer Jerry Brannon, Union County Stadium Director Ronnie Wade and other officials also want the residents of Union County to be confident there will be no repeat of the events that occurred Friday, Nov. 13, 2009.
“The wall is fixed,” Sinclair declared Wednesday afternoon.
About a 30-foot section of the wall that separates the home bleachers from the field collapsed last fall during a Yellow Jackets home game at the stadium, sending several Union County School District students to the hospital with injuries.
Following that incident, the county took steps to make sure a similar incident would not happen again. Engineers were brought in to determine the cause of the wall’s collapse and a risk analysis specialist from the South Carolina Association of Counties came to Union last winter to do his own inspection.
That specialist then laid out his recommendations for the county which has since done the work, made the improvements and fixed the wall — to the tune of $20,000-plus from its capital expenditure funds.
“Everything’s ready,” Sinclair said.
The wall project took about four weeks to complete.
The entire 309-foot wall that sits in front of the home side’s bleachers was uncapped and rebar was placed inside down to its footing — about 2 feet down into the ground. Concrete was then poured over the rebar and let to set and cure, reinforcing the structure.
One of the issues the county had with the wall that was a factor in its partial collapse last fall was water running off the bleachers and pooling behind it. The project to fix and reinforce the structure added new weep holes at its base that will allow for most of that water to flow through the wall and relieve stress from that runoff and pooling.
Other improvements also were made, including new rails for steps onto the field from the home side bleachers and new yardage signs on both sides of the wall. Sinclair and Wade also pointed out the new warnings posted on the inside of the wall telling spectators to “Stay Off Wall.”
Officials want Yellow Jackets fans to understand the wall is not a retaining wall — it still is not meant to lean on and that’s why those warnings were put in place. Sinclair pointed out the wall, even though fixed, is not meant for people to crowd around and apply pressure. Its main purpose is to separate the fans from the action.
The supervisor said the repairs and improvements follow along with a short-term plan where the school district will use the stadium for its home football games for at least the next five years. That conclusion was reached through talks between the stadium commission and county and school officials.
The wall upgrades are more than a five-year fix, however, and county officials want everyone to feel safe when attending home games.
“This is not going to fall,” Sinclair said.
“It’s been reinforced from bottom to top,” Brannon said.
He and Wade said the stadium improvements went smoothly and were overseen by two engineers.
“I don’t think we’ll have any problems,” Wade said. “It’s safe from the ground up.”
Union County High School Yellow Jackets Booster Club Treasurer Roger Bailey and Union County Development Board Executive Director Andrena Powell-Baker reiterated the wall is completely safe and the stadium is ready for Yellow Jacket football.
All of the officials invited and encouraged everyone to come out for the first home game of the season and have a good time.
“We are ready for the Yellow Jackets to win,” Sinclair said. “So we’ll see you at the stadium Friday night.”