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Retaining Wall Stadium Seating




Partially terraced berms support the structures from behind. The terraced bleachers were built on hills of soil covered with two feet of clean drainage rock. As the bleacher rows were added, more soil was placed and compacted on the hill.
Photos: VERSA-LOK
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When the Lawrence, Kansas School District decided to build stadium seating at its two high schools, it hired Landplan Engineering of Lawrence to develop designs for separate stadiums at its two schools. The designers began investigating traditional bleacher installations.

The school district preferred enclosed bleacher seats rather than an open design. Cost estimates for enclosed aluminum bleachers run about $400 per seat! Such seating could not be completed for more than a year, by which time the football season would be over.

Then, Capitol Concrete Products, a Lawrence manufacturer, gave a retaining walls presentation. Such bleachers would average about $300 per seat. There were other benefits. Retaining wall bleachers would be quieter than aluminum, which would help alleviate noise concerns of neighbors near the stadiums. Also, aluminum reflects about 95 percent of the infrared (the heat you feel). Concrete absorbs significantly more sunlight, and thus conducts more heat, which makes for warmer seating in the evening hours. Note: Albedo, or solar reflectance, is the ratio of reflected solar radiation to the total amount that falls on that surface, known as incident solar radiation. New Portland cement concrete has an albedo of 0.35-0.40, while new white Portland cement concrete is 0.70 - 0.80.




The Lawrence, Kansas School District opted for build stadium seating using retaining walls instead of aluminum bleachers. The installation saved tens of thousands of dollars and months of construction time.


Three of the four bleacher sites allowed for the construction of partially terraced berms to support the structures from behind. On the fourth, a near-vertical wall was built for support. The terraced bleachers were built on hills of soil covered with two feet of clean drainage rock. As the bleacher rows were added, more soil was placed and compacted on the hill. Geogrid runs under each seat row.

Bleacher walls were built up before pavers were installed on the seat rows to avoid damage to the pavers during wall construction. Standard cap units were used for seating. The center of the bleachers is the high point, so water drains in either direction.

Because the nonterraced bleachers dropped 16 feet off the top of the back wall, railings were secured to a 3-foot-square reinforced concrete beam that runs across the top of the back wall the length of the structure. A 50-foot conveyor was used to deliver drainage gravel over the top of the 16-foot wall.


Project Details

  • Designer: Landplan Engineering, Lawrence, KS
  • Contractors: BC Hardscapes, Claycomo, Mo.; VF Anderson Builders, St. Louis
  • Manufacturer: Capitol Concrete Products, Topeka
  • Stadium seating: Versa-Lok Standard, Smoky Hills Tan
  • Square feet: 65,051

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December 10, 2019, 7:08 pm PDT

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