Certain damage at Dwenger stadium may not have been vandalism, principal says

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Damage to bleachers at Bishop Dwenger’s new stadium that was believed to have been caused by fire or chemicals was actually oxidation, and bolts that were said to have been removed by visiting Homestead High School students may have been left behind by a contractor, the school’s principal said Tuesday.

It was Saturday morning when students at Bishop Dwenger arrived at the newly built stadium to clean up after Friday night’s game between the home Saints and the Homestead Spartans, and discovered apparent damage to the stands. Dwenger Principal Jason Schiffli said that bolts and nuts that support crossbeams for the bleacher were removed, foot plates were missing and bent, bleachers were bent, and a standing bar was missing. Multiple dark burn stains were also discovered on the bleachers, Schiffli said, as if someone used lighter fluid to set the bleachers on fire.

Nuts and bolts from bleachers at the Bishop Dwenger High School football stadium are shown by Principal Jason Schiffli.

After pictures and video on social media appeared to show students in the Homestead student section in the middle of the supposed vandalism, a police report was filed, and administrators at both schools pledged to fully investigate. Schiffli said he was “broken-hearted,” “angry,” and “disappointed.” The Homestead student section also issued an apology.

While the investigation carries on, Schiffli said Tuesday he learned that at least one part of the damage – and possibly more – was not caused by the students, or anyone else. Schiffli said he learned from bleacher maker Southern Bleacher that the dark, charred-looking marks on the bleacher floors was actually caused by oxidation, not fire.

“We were surprised by this discovery, since the stains were not noticed when the bleachers were constructed,” Schiffli said.

The bleachers were constructed in late July, and the material likely began to oxidize while it was still in the staging area, still wrapped and stacked, he said. He said Southern Bleacher was helping to eliminate the dark streaks and spots from the flooring.

A missing crossbeam from the stands at Bishop Dwenger High School’s football stadium is shown.

“Therefore, I retract my earlier allegation that these black/brown, charred stains were caused by either a chemical or flame,” said Schiffli.

Schiffli also said bolts that were found under the bleachers could have been “simply (unused) left behind by the installer,” and not removed by the students. He said he’s awaiting word from Southern Bleacher about the support structure.

As for the rest of the damage, officials are still investigating.

A police report released by the Fort Wayne Police Department Monday said the department planned to conduct an investigation into the vandalism, and that principals at both schools had been in contact and “following up.” The report said it was an “active investigation.”

Homestead Principal Dr. Park Ginder issued the following statement Monday:

“Homestead High School administrators are in contact with school officials at Bishop Dwenger High School after reports of bleacher damage surfaced following Friday’s football game. We continue to work with Dwenger staff as the investigation continues.”

Dwenger hosts the Carroll Chargers at the stadium Friday night. Schiffli issued this statement to families asking about the status of the game and the school’s Homecoming festivities in the wake of the incident:

“Everything will go on as planned. The company that installed the bleachers came to evaluate them Tuesday morning. They have indicated that the bleachers will be repaired, inspected, and ready for Friday’s game. There are a handful of bent benches that will need to replaced (parts on order), but in the meantime are still available for seating, and safe, for the spectator use until we receive the new ones.”

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