Fifteen months after Allen ISD shut down its $60 million high school stadium because of significant structural defects, crowds will once again stream through the gates starting with graduation on Friday.
The repair costs so far exceed $10 million, according to Pogue Construction and PBK, the contractor and architectural firm paying for the work. But bills are still coming in. A final total isn’t available yet.
While the expense is significant, the facility doesn’t have “$10 million worth of flaws,” said Dan Boggio, president and CEO of PBK. The company that designed the stadium estimates that putting in the required reinforcement would have cost less than $1 million had it been done during construction.
“It was just so tremendously expensive to go back after the building was done, to go back and add bracing where we had to and remove a lot of the architecture,” Boggio said in an interview.
Construction crews were putting finishing touches on exterior walls and the concourse last week. Allen ISD officials said they are pleased with the repairs.
“We ended up with the stadium that we originally asked for,” Superintendent Lance Hindt said. “We ended up not paying a penny for it.”
In addition to repairs, PBK and Pogue Construction have reimbursed the district for engineering fees. Those fees, which have surpassed $1.8 million, are separate from construction costs. The companies also paid the district $652,000 for costs incurred because of the stadium’s closure and the resulting loss in revenue.
Most of the repairs will be invisible to visitors. Diagonal beams to help the stadium resist wind pressure hide behind tiled walls in the concession stands. Extra columns to support the structure remain unseen underneath the seats.
And most of the cracks on the concourse that first hinted at the problems are now covered with a waterproof membrane the color of concrete.
Pogue Construction — the company that originally built the stadium — took the lead in making the repairs. But the types of repairs were designed by Datum Engineers, a firm hired by the district to oversee the fixes along with another engineering group, Nelson Forensics.
Ben Pogue, president and CEO of Pogue Construction, said in an interview that the district expedited the process by allowing the company to perform the repairs as a warranty obligation.
Pogue and Boggio described the speed of the repairs and their companies’ friendly collaboration with the district as “unprecedented.”
“When you have a problem of this magnitude, generally speaking, 90 percent of the time you’re going to see people start calling the lawyers,” Boggio said. “They allowed us to take this adversarial situation, turn it into a partnership, and get this thing accomplished in record time.”
Hindt has praised Pogue Construction and PBK in recent months for standing by their work. But he had harsh words for the companies when he inherited the stadium problems in March 2014 as the new superintendent. At the time, he called the project “a black eye” for Pogue and PBK.
Eagle Stadium opened in 2012 to much fanfare. Voters in Allen — a community that boasts a state football champion — had approved bond funding three years earlier. With 18,000 seats, a sunken-bowl design and a brick facade, the stadium matched some college facilities in luxury.
Around the time the venue opened, Allen ISD officials notified Pogue Construction and PBK about concrete cracking on the horseshoe-shaped concourse. In an August 2012 letter to the district, a PBK engineer attributed the cracks to concrete shrinkage.
But about a year later, as the cracking worsened, the school board hired Nelson Forensics to examine the concourse. The district shut down the stadium as a safety precaution in February 2014. By June, Nelson reported that defects throughout the stadium were “primarily engineering failures.”
PBK was in charge of the stadium’s structural engineering. Boggio said his company hadn’t had “a single issue of this magnitude” since it was founded in 1981.
“The absolute truth is we had two engineers on our staff that made errors. … It just so happens that those errors slipped through many different cracks and made it through some quality-control procedures that we have in our office, and those procedures were breached,” Boggio said. “We’ve since plugged those holes.”
The engineers no longer work for PBK, and the firm has since gone back to check its work on other projects, Boggio said.
It’s unclear how Pogue Construction and PBK will share liability. Company officials said they will determine that on their own without going to court.
One lawsuit related to the stadium is pending in Collin County. Potter Structures, a supplier of concrete labor and materials, accuses Pogue Construction of withholding payments of $1 million.
But a Pogue Construction attorney wrote in a December email to Potter that “it appears that the likelihood of Potter’s liability exceeding $1 million is great,” court records show.
Potter Structures said in a prepared statement that it contends the problems at the stadium “resulted primarily from the underlying structural engineering designs.”
During its investigation, Nelson Forensics found that support structures in some areas were not designed to safely carry the loads on those structures.
It pointed to reinforcement flaws in girders, the large beams used as main horizontal supports under the concourse, and joists, the small parallel beams that uphold that floor. In some areas, the plans showed stirrups — bent steel rods used to strengthen the joists — were placed 12 inches apart instead of the maximum 11 inches required by the building code.
Allen ISD attorney Mark Walsh said measurements taken at the stadium showed some of the stirrups to be even farther apart.
Engineers identified retaining walls without sufficient steel reinforcement. They also found inadequate columns and steel framing in the press box, which was supposed to withstand winds up to 90 miles per hour.
And the scoreboard? Engineers told the district the base wasn’t strong enough.
“There were isolated areas of this stadium that were underdesigned and poorly constructed,” Hindt said.
Taxpayers can be confident about the quality of the repairs, he said.
“Believe me, Nelson, Datum and our legal team would not allow anything less than what we originally paid for,” the superintendent said.
For future large projects, the district plans to hire experts independent from the contractor and architect to review the building process, Hindt said.
‘No cost to taxpayers’
It’s not unusual for a contractor to make an honest effort to remedy problems through a warranty, said Marc Gravely, a partner at the Gravely & Pearson LLP law firm, a recognized leader statewide in representing owners in construction cases.
But it’s “highly unusual” for parties to come to an agreement on how to address a significant construction problem, said Gravely, who was not involved with the stadium project.
A lot of times, Gravely said, insurance companies get involved and owners settle for less than what was promised.
But that wasn’t the case with Allen’s stadium, officials say.
School board vice president Susan Olinger said in an email: “We are happy that PBK and Pogue stood behind their work and that we are on track to get the stadium back open in time for graduation and at no cost to the taxpayers.”