Fifty-two years of cheering fans, enthusiastic pep bands -- and some major erosion under the bleachers -- have taken their toll on Seacrest Field, leaving the city’s prep football and soccer stadium in need of a $4.5 million facelift.

That’s the conclusion of Lincoln Public Schools officials, who are planning the biggest renovation of the stadium since it was built in 1962.

“It’s our only major district athletic facility and we felt we needed to overhaul it,” said LPS Operations Manager Scott Wieskamp.

First, of course, Lincoln’s football teams have games to play, beginning Thursday night. Work won’t start until November.

But when it does, the old, sagging bleachers and cracked stairs will come out -- and new ones will go in. There will be a new press box -- double the size of the current one, the gravel parking lots will be paved and the new bleachers will be situated so the field grows by 3 feet on each side -- allowing for a regulation-sized soccer field.

A separate project -- but one LPS officials hope to get done at the same time -- includes a new scoreboard with video capabilities.

They are considering allowing students -- possibly through the new career academy -- to run the video board.

On Friday, before the Southwest-Southeast football game, Jim and Rhonda Seacrest will present a $110,000 donation to the scoreboard project from the Joe and Ruth Seacrest Fund at the Lincoln Community Foundation. Total cost of the new scoreboard will be about $250,000, Wieskamp said.

The other renovations will be paid for with a portion of the proceeds from the $153 million bond issue approved by voters in February, and will coincide with the city’s draining of nearby Wedgewood Lake, so that trucks full of silt can be driven across the parking lot and out of the area during the Seacrest renovation.

At Seacrest, erosion on the hills on which the bleachers sit is the major culprit, causing the concrete stadium to shift and sag over the years.

LPS officials became aware of the problem about seven years ago, when “weeping holes” at the bottom of the bleachers installed for drainage started spitting out mud rather than water.

LPS officials had a study done then, confirming the erosion problems, and officials put stadium renovation on the long-term plan, Wieskamp said. A couple of years ago, they had the same company do another study that showed the problem had gotten worse.

Although the bleachers have shifted over the years, it’s not something fans would likely notice unless they’re looking across an empty stadium, Wieskamp said. But the stairs have also shifted and are uneven -- and becoming a safety hazard.

LPS officials considered just fixing the bleachers, but it was costly and wouldn’t have stopped the erosion problem.

So all the bleachers will come out, and the grade from ticket booths to the bleachers on the west side will be flattened out. A drainage system of gravel and tubing will be installed below the new concrete bleachers -- still 25 rows on each side -- to fix the erosion issue.

New stairs will be wider and have railings down the middle, and there will be more wheelchair access at field level, Wieskamp said.

Since the bleachers needed to be replaced, LPS officials decided to replace the press box with one that’s double the square footage, and pave the west gravel lots. Depending on cost, Wieskamp said, LPS may pave the east lot, too.

“If you’re going to invest in all those others thing, you should invest in the rest of it,” Wieskamp said.

Paving on the west (home) side of the stadium will add 153 stalls; another 72 would be added on the east if it’s paved.

This is the biggest but not the first renovation at Seacrest. About 10 years ago, LPS renovated the restrooms and ticket booths that will remain. Artificial turf was added in 1999 and replaced in recent years. A donation in 2008 by Ed and Mary Copple helped build locker rooms and training room space on the north end of the stadium.

It's likely the field turf will be rolled up during construction and then be rolled back out in time for the 2015 football season. Soccer matches will move to other locations in 2015.

Updating the stadium is important, Wieskamp said, if Seacrest is to remain the city’s major athletic facility. In addition to football and soccer, the stadium hosts band competitions and in past years hosted the opening ceremonies of the Cornhusker State Games.

There are other preliminary plans to further spruce up the stadium -- some sort of signage along A Street and islands for trees and lighting in the parking lots, Wieskamp said. Those are not part of this project, however.

“If this is going to be Lincoln’s facility for the next 10 to 15 years, it needs to be dressed up,” Wieskamp said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.


Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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