The days until the first home opener between Kansas and Jay are ticking away as work continues on the Kansas Dome Arena.
Seats have been installed, and the scoreboard is in place, leaving Kansas Superintendent Jim Burgess hopefully optimistic the district's newest facility will be ready for the first basketball game of the 2017 season.
No major issues are left to be finished, but Burgess knows its the little things that can slow down the building's progress.
“We are still hoping it will be done when we open the season with Jay,” said Burgess. “They are trying but to many little things to finish up.
"I will be surprised if it is ready for our first basketball game. We would like to open with Jay here but like I said we will have to wait and see.”
Burgess said things at the beginning of the construction project slowed the progress down from the start.
“The framework for the bleachers was supposed to take eight weeks and it took 18 weeks. That just threw everything else off," Burgess said. "The contractors couldn’t come then because they had started another job.
"It just snowballed. I don’t know if you can put your finger on just one thing.
"They can’t sit and wait 10 weeks on us to get ready, so they have to go start other jobs and then when we are ready for them they are busy and can’t come for a while.”
But Burgess remains excited about the way the finished arena will look.
“They are supposed to pave the parking lot in a couple of weeks. Just a lot of finishing work to get things done," Burgess said. "Scoreboards are up and seats will be put in this week and they say it won’t take them long."
A few things left to complete include some finish work in the restrooms, lockers for the locker rooms, and one of the most important pieces - the floor for the court, lobby and bathrooms.
Burgess said the entrance to the facility is close to being finished.
“Now that roof is done on the entrance and concession they can start sheet rocking the walls and finish that part up,” said Burgess.
The arena is a FEMA approved storm shelter.
“The F5 category storm shelter will begin where the dome structure begins," Burgess said. "The door on it will be rated to withstand an F5 tornado. The whole dome is category F5 shelter."
The new FEMA approved generator has been installed.
“The generator is in place but not quite hooked up yet as is the big water holding tank. The generator cost $180,000 and FEMA will reimburse us 80 percent of the cost of it or around $120,000,” said Burgess.
Burgess knows some people are frustrated by the slow process with the construction project.
“We were hoping it would be done by [the Class of 2017's] graduation but delays threw us way off," Burgess said. "Hoping for the beginning of basketball season. Still hopeful it could happen but don’t know for sure.
“Once completed we will have to bring the fire marshal in and make sure everything has been done up to code."
Burgess said he's happy with the building with the exception of one part - the size of the locker rooms.
“It started out and was supposed to be 160 foot diameter but because of cost we had to cut five feet off each dressing room," he said. "You have a dressing room that is 40 foot long and you cut five feet off the width of the dressing room and that is 200 square feet you have lost.
"They are not really any smaller than what we have now and are used to but you would have loved to had something bigger."
But in the end, he said, he'll be happy to have the project finished.
“I will just thankful when it is all over," Burgess said. "Sure has been worrisome at times and a headache at others. But I will be glad that school, the kids and the community will have some this nice."
Behind the project
Kansas’s public school voters approved a bond issue with a special election on March 5, 2015 for the construction of the new arena to house the basketball facilities for Kansas public school programs. The groundbreaking took place on May 9, 2016 to start the construction of the project.
The arena was approved also as FEMA certified storm shelter that could hold up to 3,200 in the event of a severe weather or tornado event.
The original seating in the arena was to be 980 chair back seats and other bleacher areas that will hold another 428 people.
But it was determined to put large chairs in the seated area to make it more comfortable on those attending events. It will now have 796 seats and capacity to hold with the other bleacher seating in the 1,200-1,300 range instead of the original 1,600.