The cost to renovate a section of the Park Theater balcony came as sticker shock to city officials, who have chosen to hold off on accepting the only bid received.
“I was absolutely floored when I opened the bid,” said city administrator Bill Brock. “It was about three times what we thought it would be.”
The cost estimate given by AEI Architects, Engineers and Planners president Peter Metts was $61,634 and included only the front part of the balcony before the partition. W&O Construction submitted the only bid and it was for $189,800.
Parks and Recreation Committee members Ben Newman, Steve Harvey and Jimmy Bonner met to discuss the bid. Brock said he reviewed the bid with Metts trying to figure out why there was such a vast difference between the estimate and actual cost.
“The seats went up quite a bit,” Brock said. “I talked to the seat people and they gave me an explanation I’m not convinced with.”
City officials purchased refurbished seating from Discount Seating in Jacksonville, Tenn., for the main floor of the theater. Using the cost of those seats, the estimate by Metts put the price at 200 seats for the balcony at $20,225. However, the price quoted by Discount Seating was $38,500.
The remaining items mirrored that, says Brock.
“All the other prices were higher than he thought they would be,” Brock said. “We went to Peter’s office and we started to whittle down the project. We took things out that we did not need. They put some stuff in there we did not need. They made a mistake in doing that. Like heating and air. We didn’t need heating and air.”
After removing heating and air, as well as other unnecessary items, the renovation cost was reduced to $126,822.
“We took out almost $63,000 from the project,” said Brock. “It’s still high but we can’t do without anything else. We need everything that’s there and that will complete the upstairs, get it usable and passed by the fire marshal.”
Newman suggested reducing the price even more by the city acting as the general contractor and hiring subcontractors to do individual items on the list, such as demo, installation of handrails and handrail modifications, concrete floor repair, and carpet installation.
“It seems like most of these items are small enough we could contract directly with somebody to do each of them separately,” said Newman.
Brock said he doesn’t mind acting as general contractor if that is what the committee wants him to do.
Harvey was hesitant.
“It sounds a whole lot easier than it really is to sub it out yourself,” said Harvey. “It slows the process down, for sure. Then, you do things you shouldn’t have done because you weren’t sure. That’s just the way it works out. I’m not saying I’m against doing it ourselves but it’s more difficult than you think.”
There are some performances in the near future that would benefit from use of the balcony, according to Park Theater manager Kevin Roberts.
“We would love to have the balcony,” said Roberts. “We have several groups booked during the summer which are pretty nice acts. We have Killer Beaz coming back. We have Restless Heart coming for a Christmas concert. We expect all those to sell out easily, including upstairs. In February, we have Confederate Railroad coming, which will also sell out.”
Brock added, “We were talking the other day that he’s gotten to the point that in order to move to better acts, you have to have more seating in order to generate enough revenue.”
Committee members unanimously approved Brock acting as general contractor to oversee the project using subcontractors.