No basketball games at the TMP-Marian Billinger Fieldhouse for the time being.
TMP-M officials received an opinion from the State Fire Marshal Office Friday that the maximum number of occupants safely allowable in the bleacher area of Billinger Fieldhouse is 49 persons due to the current location and capacity of existing exits.
Staff are making alternative accommodations at the gymnasium in the former Kennedy Middle School as well as Holy Family Elementary for upcoming athletic events until necessary modifications of the fieldhouse can be completed. The school hopes to complete the modifications to the egress capacity during the upcoming winter athletic season.
The first athletic events to be impacted by the venue changes are the junior high boys’ and girls’ basketball games set for this Thursday, November 7, against Ellis. The boys will play at the former Kennedy Middle School, and the girls will play at Holy Family.
Several changes in occupancy load have been made the past few years, as outlined in a news release from TMP-M Advancement Director Jeff Brull:
“In a letter dated July 6, 2009, local officials placed the occupancy load of the bleacher section at 860 persons, a reduction from 1,600 which had been in place since the field house was constructed in 1950.
“On September 21, 2012, an email communication following a site visit from a state fire protection specialist from the State Fire Marshal Office (SFMO) indicated the occupancy load of the bleacher area was 850 persons.
“In further communication from the SFMO on May 28, 2013, that number was reduced to 346 persons. Since then TMP-M representatives have been working with the SFMO and the City of Hays Fire Marshal to develop a plan that will increase the seating at a reasonable cost.
“On September 18, 2013 school representatives shared a plan with the SFMO that identified constructing a new exit out of the court level of the building and a new exit out of the second floor bleacher area. This would increase seating capacity at court level to 600 and capacity of the bleacher level to 586 for a total capacity in the gym of 1,186 persons.
“Soon after this recent meeting, school representatives authorized their architect to finalize drawings for the exits. These drawings are being completed now and are necessary before the SFMO gives final approval and a building permit and final bids can be secured for the construction project.
“’We are mindful of safety in all of our facilities. We were initially hopeful that the construction could be completed before the winter athletic season but that is not possible. Our goal through this process has been to identify options that could increase our capacity at a reasonable cost,” stated Clare Gustin, chairperson for the school board. “We are confident the plan we have outlined will eliminate the concerns of local and state officials and are making every effort to complete the project so we can return to business as usual.’”