The University of Akron is suing Welty Building Co. and several other companies for faulty concrete railings at InfoCision Stadium that the university says will cost $1 million to repair.
UA blames the problems at the decade-old football stadium on “poor design, failed oversight and construction deficiencies.” The university included with the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Summit County Common Pleas Court, photos that show railings missing chunks of concrete and with large cracks.
“The way they installed the railing was wrong. It’s not safe,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of UA, said in an interview Friday with Beacon Journal news partner Channel 5. “That’s dangerous stuff — and we’ve got to get it fixed.”
UA spokesman Wayne Hill said the lawsuit and accompanying photos show the “serious problems the university continues to face due to faulty construction” at the stadium.
“We have tried to resolve this matter without filing a lawsuit but, unfortunately, those efforts were unsuccessful,” he said.
UA filed the lawsuit against HNTB Ohio Inc., which handled the design and construction administration of the stadium; Welty Building Co. in Fairlawn, the construction manager; Parsons Concrete Contractors Inc. in North Canton, which supplied the concrete; and EPI of Cleveland, which provided the grout to hold the railings in place. The university also is suing the surety companies that issued bonds on behalf of Parsons Concrete and EPI.
InfoCision Stadium, located at 375 E. Exchange St., cost $71 million to build and opened in September 2009. The stadium holds about 30,000 people but has consistently had poor attendance.
UA is still paying off the stadium, with an annual debt-service bill of $4.3 million owed through June 2038, Hill said.
The university first noticed the problems with railings inside the stadium around the seating, ramps and steps, and a grassy area more than five years ago, Hill said.
Yost, whose office represents state universities in legal matters, said the university has made some temporary, short-term improvements to make sure the stadium is safe.
“The bottom line is: We need the stadium fixed and built to the specifications that it was supposed to have,” he said.
Yost said taxpayers who are footing the bill for the stadium expect it to last for decades — not years.
“We all have skin in the game here,” he said.
In a prepared statement, Welty said the company served as the construction manager for the project but UA's lawsuit "relates specifically to railings at the stadium that were improperly installed by a prime contractor."
"Since the problem was discovered approximately seven years ago we have continuously worked with the university to address any safety concerns, to identify those responsible and to get them to fix the problem," Welty said. "We are not aware of any ongoing safety concerns at this point and we have attended numerous meetings and mediations along with the university and other parties in an effort to resolve the issue. We expect the litigation will assign responsibility for the claimed defects where it is due, and that Welty will be found to have fully and properly performed its contract with the university."
Requests for comment made to the attorneys or officials with HNTB Parsons weren’t returned Friday. Matthew Ventura, an attorney for the Pennsylvania-based EPI, declined comment Friday.
The lawsuit claims the companies involved in the project breached their contracts because of the railing problems. The suit seeks a judgment for damages in excess of $25,000, as well as interest and other costs.
The lawsuit is assigned to Judge Alison Breaux.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, email@example.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.