Stand or Fall?

The west stands at Dartmouth College's Memorial Field are in disrepair. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

The west stands at Dartmouth College's Memorial Field are in disrepair. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Around 2007-08, there was a plan in the works to refurbish the older, west grandstand at Dartmouth College’s Memorial Field. That’s where most Big Green fans sit, the side of the field on which the home team benches are situated and where the press box is located.

Then the economic downturn struck and that plan was put on indefinite hold. The aging structure has continued to slide downhill, however, and athletic director Harry Sheehy said this week that the situation is coming to a head.

“I’m in meetings all the time where the west stands come up and everyone’s eyes glaze over, because no one has the money,” Sheehy said. “But my sense is that in the next year or two, we’re going to get to a critical point and the institution is going to have to do something.

“I said to (new Dartmouth President) Phil (Hanlon) the first time I met him in my office that there are two possible embarrassments for you out there. One is the west stands and the other is the bridge at the (Hanover Country Club).”

Memorial Field was orginally built in 1893 and the west stands date back to 1923. The stairs are crumbling concrete and often uneven. Observers cringe at they watch elderly fans totter up and down the steps amidst a game-day crowd, with no railings for help. When it rains, the worry doubles.

A few years back, the underside of the west stands was enclosed in netting, presumably to save patrons below in case bits of the stands fell off. The whole situation is discomforting to the college and needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

What happens when someone falls because of the bad footing or has bricks of a chunk of concrete fall on them? In these lawsuit-happy days it seems like a court case waiting to happen and a potential wave of negative publicity that could be avoided.

Memorial Field’s east stands, it should be noted, were reduced in capacity and redone along with Floren Varsity House, which was dedicated in 2007. They’re very nice and complement the new FieldTurf field that was installed in 2006. It’s a pleasing complex overall, but half of it is in massive disrepair.