By Kimball Perry
Enquirer staff writer
Three months before Opening Day, officials are scrambling to make sure that fans who sit down in Great American Ball Park to watch the Reds this spring don't land on their fannies - on the ground.
"There are problems with the seats and we're working to get them fixed by Opening Day," Hamilton County Commissioner Pat DeWine said Wednesday.
Brackets that attach the seat pan - the seat bottom - to the rest of the seat have failed and caused a few minor injuries.
County commissioners approved an agreement Wednesday - signed Dec. 21 by Hussey Seating of Maine - for the company to replace "not less than 20,000" seat pans at the ballpark before March 20 - two weeks before the April 3 Opening Day.
"They will replace 20,000 seat pans this year and probably all of them over time," Eric Stuckey, assistant county administrator, said Wednesday.
This isn't the first time Hussey, which installed the ballpark's 42,059 seats, has had to repair seats at Great American.
After its first season, most of the seats were repaired after about 200 broke and two people reported minor injuries. Hussey replaced the brackets on about 39,000 seats at its own expense.
"They've done different work each year on different (seat) problems," Stuckey said. "We think total replacement of the seat pan is the better long-term solution."
Hamilton County owns the $280 million ballpark, which opened in 2003, but leases it to the Reds.
Commissioners also agreed Wednesday to take any further seat disputes with Hussey to mediation.
The sides have agreed not to sue and instead would take any future disputes to nonbinding mediation. If that doesn't settle any disputes, the sides have agreed to use a binding resolution process.
"The bottom line is there should be no concern at all by the general public about the safety of the seats," Commissioner Todd Portune said.
Tim Pierce, Hussey operations manager, declined to comment Wednesday. He referred questions to Hussey's president and CEO, Tim Hussey, who didn't return calls.
Hussey's $3.4 million bid was the lowest in 2001 when it won the contract. That was less than the $4.1 million officials expected the seats to cost.