UCF sues over defects to football stadium

Source: http://www.orlandosentinel.com, September 29, 2017
By: Mary Shanklin

The University of Central Florida’s football stadium has some problems, according to a construction-defect lawsuit the school filed against architects and contractors.

Nicknamed the Bounce House when it opened a decade ago because it shifted slightly as fans jumped in unison, the venue’s metal framing for seating now has “defects and deficiencies” according to the university’s complaint filed this month. in Orange County Circuit Court. The school cited defects with “other framing accessories” in the stadium, too, although it did not elaborate on those in the lawsuit.

UCF has filed a lawsuit to hold the companies involved in constructing the stadium accountable for their role in creating premature wear of the steel,” spokesman Chad Binette said. “We contend that it is requiring more maintenance than it should for its age and use.”

UCF owns Spectrum Stadium and oversaw construction of the 45,000-seat arena together with the Golden Knights direct support group.

The lawsuit claims UCF was “severely damaged” by stadium defects but doesn’t specify details of problems with the seat frames. Other documents indicate rust is the issue. The university recently sought contractors for “Stadium Emergency Rust Repairs,” according to bid documents. UCF officials said the word “emergency” reflects deadlines for the football season instead of safety concerns. Other UCF documents cite ongoing rust remediation at the stadium, which was completed in 2008, records show.

Lawyers for the university charged that the defects were caused by failure to comply with building codes, construction plans, design documents and industry standards of “good workmanship.” UCF takes aim at its general contractor on the stadium — Wharton Smith. Other groups named in the legal filing include 360 Architecutre -FL Inc., Harris Civil Engineering, Engineering Technologies Corp., Universal Engineering Services Inc. and Fred Schmalzer.

Issues with the engineered underbelly of the stadium haven’t gone unnoticed by fans.

Lake Mary resident Lee Lerner, a longtime season-ticket holder and alum, said at the season opener this month he saw problems with the screws bolting support pieces together. He said he doesn’t feel unsafe there but believes maintenance crews will have to be vigilant to keep the structure well maintained in Florida’s unforgiving environment.

“I noticed the hexagon-shaped screwheads and all of them I saw had rust on them,” Lerner said. “I told my wife that they are going to have a real issue because they are going to have to replace them frequently. The entire stadium is sort of bolted together with these screws. If they get to them before the screws are rusted through completely, they can get the screws out quickly.”

The stadium expanded with premium seating and lounge areas near the 30-yard lines in 2015. This year, additional cabana areas were added at the south end zone and west side of the stadium.

The stadium had issues from its beginning, subtly swaying as fans jumped together to the song “Kernkraft 400” by Zombie Nation. UCF spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2008 stiffening the underpinnings of the stadium by bolting additional steel to about 160 beams. Fans say the work lessened the “bounce” but didn’t eradicate it, but officials said the stadium was never unsafe.

One of the companies named in the lawsuit — seating provider Dant Clayton Inc. — has worked on at least one of the UCF stadium upgrades and cited the need for maintenance.

Dant Clayton has had good working relations with the university over the years, chairman Bruce Merrick said, and has partnered with UCF on a recent stadium-seating expansion. Merrick said he was unaware of a lawsuit.

His company’s products continually evolve with marked improvements every three of four years, he said. But few metals, he said, can endure Florida’s weather without some issues.

“Most metal products in Florida need to be maintained on a regular basis.”

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