Cowboys didn't have roof work on practice facility inspected

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by By BRANDON FORMBY / The Dallas Morning News / The Dallas Morning News s Chuck Carlton and Brooks Egerton contributed to this report.

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Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:46 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 12:30 PM

The Dallas Cowboys applied last year for a building permit to replace the high-tension fabric roof on the indoor practice facility that collapsed Saturday and injured 12 people. But the team never had city officials inspect any completed work, which is required by Irving's building code.

DAVID WOO/DMN
Workers looked at the damage in Valley Ranch on Monday, two days after the Cowboys practice facility collapsed during a storm with about 70 people inside. The site will not be cleared until the investigation is complete.

In city documents released Monday, the team is listed as the general contractor for the reroofing project that was estimated to cost $600,000. Irving does not issue a building permit unless the general contractor is registered with the city. The Cowboys registered as a general contractor on the same day they requested a permit for the roof work.

City officials were aware that work began on the roof last year but never received word from the team that it was complete.

Team officials declined to answer questions about the work Monday.

Officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were in Valley Ranch on Monday investigating what caused the 85-foot-tall facility's high-tension fabric shell and metal structure to fold onto itself and collapse Saturday. The National Weather Service said a microburst of up to 70-mph wind carried by passing thunderstorms struck the facility.

About 70 players, coaches, team support personnel and members of the media were inside. Ambulances transported 10 injured people; two others sought help on their own, officials said.

Scouting assistant Rich Behm was permanently paralyzed from the waist down after he suffered a spine fracture. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis successfully underwent surgery Monday to stabilize a fractured vertebra in his neck and was expected to be released from the hospital later this week. Assistant athletic trainer Greg Gaither was expected to remain at Baylor University Medical Center while his broken right leg heals.

It was unclear Monday what level of rains or winds the building was built to withstand. The roles that weather and the structure's design or construction played in the collapse may not be known for months.

OSHA investigators will interview witnesses, survey the site and "get as much information as we can" to determine what specifically brought the building down.

No findings will be made public until OSHA completes its investigation, which could take up to six months.

"Every case is different," said OSHA spokeswoman Elizabeth Todd.

The site will not be cleared until agency officials have completed their investigation, Todd said.

Gary Miller, the city's planning and inspections director, said the city probably will not pursue a building code violation citation. He said that if the building were still standing, the city's approach would have first been to issue a warning notice.

But he said city officials will closely watch the results of any investigations.

"We would rely on any reports that come out of this investigation just to become more intelligent out of what happened," Miller said.

Permit application

The Cowboys' permit application does not list any subcontractors or other companies that may have worked on the reroofing project.

The structure passed all inspections during initial construction and was issued a certificate of occupancy later in 2003, city documents indicate. Miller said the city has never received any indication that there was a problem with the construction.

It was unclear Monday what led the Cowboys to request the reroofing permit last year. Miller said replacing a roof does not require an architect or structural engineer. In the practice facility's case, Miller said the city's main concern was that the fabric roof was flame-retardant. City documents indicate that it was.

Miller said the city's building code requires contractors to inform the city when permitted work is done so city officials can inspect the projects.

"We rely on them to be responsible," Miller said.

An attorney for the Cowboys could also not be reached for comment Monday.

Summit Structures

The president of Summit Structures of Allentown, Pa., which built the structure, said in a written statement Monday that he was working with Cowboys and local officials in assessing the situation.

"We understand there is a great deal of concern and curiosity about what happened on Saturday, but rather than speculate, we are focused on being part of the effort to find answers and assist the team," Nathan Stobbe said in the statement.

In 2007, a Pennsylvania judge, relying on an expert's assessment, found that a structure Summit built for the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority on the Delaware River collapsed because of "failure of the design" to account for snow buildup on the roof, court documents show.

That structure had a double roof construction, which is different from the Dallas Cowboys' structure.

Judge Allan Tereshko wrote that the Philadelphia structure collapsed "under the weight of the first significant snowfall" of the year, conditions that "would have been easily tolerated by the building had it been properly designed and constructed."

In his prepared statement, Stobbe said licensed engineers oversaw the Cowboys facility's initial 2003 construction and the reroofing last year.

"As is the industry standard, Summit Structures designs, engineers and builds to meet local building codes," a spokeswoman for Summit, Mariellen Burns, wrote in an e-mail Monday.

According to city documents, Manhattan Construction Co. was the general contractor for the practice facility's construction. Manhattan is the same company serving as general contractor on the Cowboys' new $1.1 billion stadium in Arlington.

A Manhattan official who served as project manager on the practice facility construction did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Monday that the league would be reviewing the event with the Cowboys and following developments.

Staff writers Chuck Carlton and Brooks Egerton contributed to this report.

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