School officials call for new stadium stands to avert violence

| 28 Sep 2011 | 03:03

WESTFALL - Not so long ago Delaware Valley football fans sat on rickety wooden bleachers and prayed their team would make a first down. Times have changed. With the district annually in the hunt for a championship, 3,000 people or more pack Warrior Stadium for home games. “It’s become ‘Friday Night Lights’, even for people who don’t have kids in schoo,” attorney Mike Weinstein said referring to the movie title. But many of them are there to cheer for the opponents and officials say there is more potential for violence in the stands than on the field. Meeting on Nov. 10, the board of education reviewed a letter from Athletic Director, Al Holtzer which voiced concerns. Superintendent Dr. Candis Finan said the problem is the adults, not the students. “The adults get so emotional and animated. We’ve had to break up fights several times,” she said. Finan said Westfall police and staff security are at the games, but they are not enough. Finan said it was time to consider building stands behind the visitors sideline to separate the crowd. As far as the law is concerned, “If we entertain the problem and don’t correct it, we could be liable,” Weinstein said. Finan said the district already owns the land that would be needed and she said there was “room in the budget.” She estimated a $250,000 to $300,000 cost for the bleachers, plus site preparation and related expenses. Stands to seat up to 1,200 would fit between the light standards already place, she said. Member Chuck Pike said the issue is also capacity. The stadium now seats 1,800 to 2,000, but “We can’t seat all the people who come. Some choose to stand, but it’s over-capacity,” he said. Member, Pam Lutfy said the district has other needs to attend to. “If there are problems get security,” she said. James Mooney said he would vote for the project, if there were reductions in other areas of the budget. Member Frankie Colletta predicted that violence would break out. “It’s just a matter of time before it erupts,” he said. Board Vice-President John Wroblewski cited an incident of crowd violence at a game at Minersville in Schuykill County. “My concern is not fist fights, but a full fledged riot. People can get killed in those situations,” he said. The board took no action last week, but agreed to revisit the question in the new year.