Details behind UNR's planned $3.9M lawsuit against Mackay Stadium renovation architect

Mackay Stadium
Mackay Stadium needs further renovations to become ADA compliant. (NSN)

The Nevada Wolf Pack athletic department's renovation of Mackay Stadium is likely headed to court.

The university will request approval during Friday's Nevada Board of Regents meeting to sue the stadium's renovation architect, Worth Group, for $3.9 million as it aims to make the stadium ADA compliant, a goal that wouldn't be accomplished until the 2020 season at the earliest.

UNR hired Ed Roether, an industry recognized architect with national experience in ADA design of sports facilities, to issue a report on the current state of the stadium from an ADA perspective. Roether reviewed the design services by Worth Group and concluded the services failed to comply with applicable ADA standards, which will require an additional renovation.

Nevada first renovated Mackay Stadium, at a cost around $14 million, prior to the 2016 season. After being alerted that the stadium was not ADA compliant following that renovation, the university did a second renovation with Worth Group at a cost of around $2 million. UNR argue Worth Group "is contractually responsible for additional construction costs that result from negligent errors and/or omissions in its design services." The university said it has demanded Worth Group pay for the costs of the renovations but the company has refused.

"Attempts to informally resolve this matter with the Worth Group have been unsuccessful," the report reads.

UNR's full 20-page report to the Nevada Board of Regents is here, but here is the main gist.

University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) Mackay Stadium underwent renovations in 2015, and the architect of record, Worth Group Architects, P.C. (Worth Group), breached its contract with UNR by, among other things, drafting and providing designs that failed to comply with accessibility standards required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). After construction was complete, UNR discovered the design deficiencies and brought them to Worth Group's attention. As a remedy, Worth Group prepared new designs and represented that the new designs complied with the ADA. Worth Group’s redesign led to a second round of renovations, which were completed in 2017.

In an initiative unrelated to the Mackay Stadium renovation projects, and as part of its continual effort to ensure accessibility to its programs and services, UNR hired Environmental Management Group, Inc. (EMG) to update the UNR’s ADA Transition Plan. In part, the purpose of the ADA Transition Plan is to identify ADA barriers at various facilities both on and off-campus, and Mackay Stadium was one of the facilities included in this study. At completion of its work in June 2018, EMG opined that accessible seating installed at Mackay Stadium pursuant to Worth Group’s designs did not meet ADA standards.

As a result, UNR obtained the services of and a report by Ed Roether, who is an industry recognized architect with national experience in the area of ADA design of sports facilities. Mr. Roether has reviewed the design services rendered by Worth Group in 2015 and 2017 and confirmed that those services failed to comply with applicable ADA standards, necessitating additional renovations (attached as Exhibit 1). Mr. Roether has further concluded that a reasonable basis exists for filing action against Worth Group. UNR’s contract with Worth Group provides that Worth Group is financially responsible for additional construction costs that result from negligent errors and/or omissions in its design documents. Efforts to amicably resolve this matter with the Worth Group have been unsuccessful, and UNR will have sustained approximately $3.9 million in total damages to correct Worth Group’s errors and bring those areas of Mackay Stadium into ADA compliance (attached as Exhibit 2).

UNR wrote the renovations to make the stadium ADA compliant are "significant" with construction "planned to commence following completion of the 2019-2020 football home season."

At issue is the number of wheelchair seats in the 25,799-seat stadium. Per Roether's report, the number of compliant wheelchair spaces is 76, far less than the 140 required by ADA standards for a stadium that has 25,601-25,800 seats. Additionally, the east side boxes are required to have wheelchair spaces but do not. Finally, the west side boxes do not provide lines of sight over standing spectators for spectators in wheelchairs, per Roether.

"Based upon my observations of the 2015 design documents, it is my professional opinion that the Worth Group lacked a basic understanding of the accessibility requirements for incorporating wheelchair seating in assembly areas with fixed seating," wrote Roether, who has 40 years of experience in the field. "Although a sufficient number of wheelchair spaces and companion seats were were provided with the seating alterations, they were not provided with substantially equivalent, or better, viewing angles as other spectators during football games and few of them were integral with other seating. This opinion was reinforced with the 2017 accessible seating remodel. While greater integration was provided with the 2017 design, essentially a little over half of the wheelchair spaces provided fully complied with the standards.

"It has been my experience that architects familiar with the accessibility requirements for wheelchair seating in assembly areas with fixed seating would not make basic mistakes observed in the Worth Group's design documents. It is also my professional opinion that it is technically feasible for the design to incorporate wheelchair seating in compliance with the standards. Therefore, as much as I don't want to say this about another architect, I have concluded that there is a reasonable basis for filing action against the Worth Group."

Worth Group also was the architect behind UNR's $40 million E.L. Wiegand Fitness Center and its athletic academic center. UNR's planned lawsuit was first reported by the Reno Gazette Journal.

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