Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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August 28, 2013

Mark Maynard: Putnam Stadium needs community’s help with renovation: 08/29/13

ASHLAND — For the past six years they’ve been sounding the alarm at Putnam Stadium.

The renovation of the iconic stadium wasn’t just for looks.

It was for safety.

On Monday, the Ashland school board heard an engineering evaluation of the 76-year-old stadium and it wasn’t good news. A portion of seats, from the 25-yard line to the end zone on both sides of the open end, shouldn’t be used.

The crackling concrete wasn’t deemed safe enough to put added stress on it with 450 fans (900 on both sides). While it is unlikely the stadium would actually collapse from the weight, the breaking concrete itself provides hazards.

Greg Jackson and the Putnam Stadium Renovation committee have been banging the drum loudly about the need for some changes. They have done fundraising because they didn’t want the day to come when the stadium would have to be closed.

Most shrugged off the fundraising efforts and the pleas for help.

That committee has the best interest of Putnam Stadium at heart. They want to renovate and improve on the community icon that is listed as one of Kentucky’s historic sites, so designated that way in 2007 on the 70th anniversary.

The stadium has been in place since 1937 when it was first called Tomcat Stadium. Lights were added in 1944 and it has been the home of the Tomcats for the past 75 seasons. Ashland previously played at Armco Field, which is no longer with us.

It took two years to build the new stadium, which opened in September of 1937 with a win over Ceredo-Kenova. Since then there have been plenty of victories and a handful of state championship teams. It became known as one of the best places to watch a high school football game in Kentucky.

The stadium seats around 5,000 but this season will be nearly 20 percent shy of that number. In at least two games, tomorrow night against Raceland and Sept. 20 against Ironton, it will be a tight fit squeezing everybody that wants to come.

But it will also be an almost ghastly sight with chained linked fences blocking off seats from the 25 to the end zone. We are all creatures of habit and some of those seats are favorites for Tomcat fans. Several diehard fans even go to the visitor’s side of the field when the home stands seem full.

The Putnam Stadium Foundation plans were to take out the concrete after the 2012 season but the funding just wasn’t there. Ashland even had a ceremony recognizing the last game in old Putnam Stadium last November. However, bids for new bleachers and deconstruction came in about $300,000 more than was available. They had to delay the project until more money could be raised. It was put on the shelf early last winter.

The board asked for the engineering report to see if it would be possible to perhaps put off renovation plans for another year. The findings have revealed quite the opposite. New bids are being let for the enclosed aluminum bleachers and stadium deconstruction.

The alarm that’s sounding now is real. If you don’t believe it, check out the cordoned off seats in the stadium on Friday night.

It’s time for the community to step it up.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

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