Though nothing is “official” yet, the contractor in charge of renovating Mission High School’s Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium said it’s looking more and more likely the stadium will not be ready for the September 1 season opener and possibly not in time for week two’s ‘Battle of Conway’ football game between cross-town rivals, the Mission High School Eagles and the Veterans Memorial High School Patriots.
“We are working it as diligently and as safely as possible,” said Michael C. Montalvo, project manager for Holchemont Ltd., the McAllen-based construction company that received the go ahead in February to begin dismantling the original 50-year-old Tom Landry football stadium and replace it with a new, 9,000 seat, $8 million Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium. “But because of the changes that have come about, whether it be rain delays or just changes such as these graphics, these minor delays, we’re looking at probably the second or third week of September before the stadium is completed.”
Montalvo was referring to the graphics that will hang from the entry façade of the 70-foot tall stadium atop which will house a new press box. Montalvo made the statement to the Progress Times during a break for executive session during a special July 27 school board meeting at which trustees were asked to approve spending a budgeted $97,425 for the ornamental banners that will feature former Mission High School players who have been inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame.
News of the anticipated delay was no surprise to the school district’s athletic director, Leticia “Lety” Ibarra, who said she was instructed to begin finalizing arrangements for the use of other school’s fields when district employees returned from their summer vacation break on July 17.
Ibarra said the school district has a tentative contracts with McAllen’s Veterans Memorial Stadium for the VMHS home opener against the Harlingen Cardinals. If necessary, the game will be moved from Friday, Sept. 1 to Thursday, Aug. 31, Ibarra said. Ibarra said McAllen ISD Athletic Director Paula Gonzales has confirmed the availability of the stadium. With 13,500 seats it is the largest high school football stadium in the Rio Grande Valley, according to TexasBob.com, a website that compiles statistics on Texas high school football stadiums.
Ibarra said the week two game between the VMHS Patriots and MHS Eagles – ‘The Battle of Conway’ – will, if necessary, be played on Friday, Sept. 8 at Donna High School’s 12,550-seat Bennie LaPadre Stadium.
“It was the only stadium large enough for the expected number of fans and that was available on a Friday night, which is what both coaches really wanted, was to play on a Friday night” Ibarra said.
Though he would like to have played their first two games in the new stadium, VMHS Head Football Coach David Gilpin said in the end it doesn’t matter where his team plays.
On Wednesday while the perfectly marked 3-year-old artificial turf football field at Mission High School sat in a state of perfection ready for a game, everything around it remained in a state of flux. Framing for the stadium’s 9,000 seats have been erected on both the home and visitor’s sides of the field but as of Wednesday workers had installed only about half of the aluminum bench seating and flooring on the visitor’s side and none on the home team side.
Four new light stanchions have been installed, one at each corner of the field. Also Wednesday workers continued working on the frame upon which the stadium’s new press box will be. The press box has yet to be completed.
Ibarra said the school district is taking a wait and see attitude before trying to schedule a stadium for the third week of play but she told the district’s board of trustees Wednesday night she has been making preparations to move the first five games of the season elsewhere.
The trustees will be asked at its regular board meeting Aug. 9 to approve seven additional days to complete the project, which would move the current Sept. 5 completion date to September 12. In June the board denied a request from Holchemont for the additional seven days Montalvo said was caused when the board requested a change order that required additional time to bore holes and dig trenches for the stadiums new sound system. At Wednesday’s facilities committee meeting the board was offered three options to choose from ranging from about $250,000 to $545,000.
Montalvo reminded the board he has filed two grievances against the school district for failing to grant additional time for additional requests on the project. During Wednesday’s meeting it was disclosed Holchemont will be assessed a $1,500 a-day penalty for every day it surpasses the contractual completion date.
Though several board members urged Montalvo to take every step necessary to complete the project by at least Sept. 5. But board president, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez said given that the stadium will serve the community for generations to come she cautioned Montalvo not to rush the project just to meet a short term goal.
As for Gilpin he expects once his team takes the field in the new Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium it will have been worth the wait.
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