The city has hired a forensic engineer to probe stadium safety after learning most speakers on the east side of Tim Hortons Field were in danger of falling from damaged brackets.
A 68-kilogram speaker — about the size of a bar fridge — plummeted into the eastern stands last week but didn’t hurt anyone in the nearly empty stadium.
The startling incident convinced the city to inspect and temporarily remove seven other speakers mounted in a similar fashion from the 30-metre-high light standards.
That inspection revealed some of the removed speakers were hanging from “cracked” brackets, with the remainder showing worrisome signs of “stress,” said facilities director Rom D’Angelo. Some speakers were also not tethered properly with back-up cables.
“We are concerned,” said D’Angelo Wednesday. “Just given the potential for a fatality … it is a serious issue. We need assurances that this stadium is safe.”
He stressed the building has been safe since late last week, when the at-risk speakers were removed, and will be safe for spectators and players for the upcoming June 17 pre-season Hamilton Tiger-Cats game against the Ottawa Redblacks. A rental system will replace the missing speakers on the east side. West-side speakers have been inspected and are considered safe.
D’Angelo wouldn’t comment on whether the city feels the speaker-mounting system was improperly designed, noting the newly hired forensic engineer still needs to conduct an investigation and submit a report.
But Coun. Lloyd Ferguson, a construction industry veteran who chaired the city’s Pan Am subcommittee, call the latest findings “troubling” because “someone had to sign off on the design” for the system that secured the speakers to the towering light standards.
The problem is just the latest for a problem-plagued stadium that was handed over to the city nearly a year late and still unfinished, just weeks before the 2015 Pan Am Games.
The city, contractor Ontario Sports Solutions, provincial agency Infrastructure Ontario and Ticats are all enmeshed in competing, multi-million-dollar court claims for damages over the late, deficiency-prone stadium. Negotiations continue to settle the financial tug-of-war out of court.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger called the latest speaker safety revelation “maddening.”
He said quality control measures used during construction “have been a concern since the day we took over the facility,” adding he expects the city to “vigorously” pursue restitution from the builder for any damages or additional work costs.
“Thank God it was caught before anything significant happened (when) the stadium was occupied,” he said. “Certainly I expect we’ll be doing enhanced inspections on all safety aspects of the facility going forward.”
In a statement, Infrastructure Ontario confirmed Ontario Sports Solutions “is being held accountable” for removal, repair and replacement of the affected speakers “at their cost.”
“Clearly, there was a performance issues with the speaker assembly,” says the statement, while noting the agency is still waiting on the final reports form expert reviewers.
The Spectator was unable to reach a representative of Ontario Sports Solutions Wednesday, but the contractor had already brought back the original audio installer, AV Solutions, to examine the fallen speaker last week.
D’Angelo said the city is formally notifying the main stadium contractor and Infrastructure Ontario of its intention to conduct a more in-depth forensic investigation. It has also requested whatever “quality control” documents exist for the audio system installation and design for the forensic engineer to review.
In future, D’Angelo said the city plans a more comprehensive stadium safety inspection, including the hanging stadium lights, scoreboard and other pieces of equipment that could fall.
But that won’t happen until the speaker probe is complete — something D’Angelo said could take two weeks or more.