By Kevin Coughlin
Morristown High School’s football team — and its fans– will attempt to tough it out at Memorial Field all season without home bleachers.
The Morris School District had considered shifting some home games to Madison High School, because Morristown’s bleachers have been deemed unsafe.
But Colonials Athletic Director Smitty Horton said on Wednesday that the district has decided to rent bleachers, capable of seating 820 fans, to temporarily replace stands on the visitors’ side.
“We are not going to need other venues at this point,” Horton told Morristown Green.
“Our coaches as well as our players want to play home games on the Morristown High School field so we are doing what we can to make this happen,” he added in a message to MHS fans.
Horton said eight area venues were approached about hosting Morristown football games, but “unfortunately, extenuating circumstances will not allow this option,” he said, without elaborating.
Madison High School, it turns out, was unable to accommodate the Colonials, according to Morris District Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast. Madison’s athletic director could not be reached for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
A “significant crack” discovered in the home bleachers during the spring prompted inspections and the immediate closure of the structure, which is more than 80 years old, Horton said in his message to fans.
A stream below the bleachers raises environmental issues that have complicated matters.
“As it stands right now, we will be replacing them with new ADA [handicapped-] accessible bleachers in the exact same footprint as the current bleachers,” Horton said.
The existing visitors bleachers could not support the extra weight of home fans, so the district is replacing those stands with rental bleachers, he said.
Spectators also will encouraged to bring chairs from home, to use along the visitor side fence and on the hill under the trees. The school band will face the crowd from chairs behind safety netting, Horton said.
The athletic director said school officials are taking “every possible precaution” to provide the safest environment for fans while the district explores options for a new sports complex.
“While we understand that this is not the ideal situation, we are confident that we will be able to create a safe and enjoyable environment,” Horton said. “We are looking forward to debuting our newly renovated sports complex in the near future. Thank you for your patience.”
Plans to upgrade the high school’s sports facilities will unfold over the next few months, said Pendergrast, the superintendent.