Loose Screws

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Despite the three-month delay in providing documentation of a possible serious structural problem in the 49,500-seat ballpark, the stadium district only mildly rebuked the team, issuing a verbal reprimand for failing to immediately disclose the controversy. Stadium district director Bill Scalzo says the team was warned that such a lapse of communication could not be repeated. The team, Scalzo says, offered only a vague explanation as to why it did not immediately notify the district of the potential structural defect.

"The only explanation to us was they felt they were pursuing it as rapidly as possible," Scalzo says.

The Diamondbacks offer a starkly different version of events.

Team president Rich Dozer says the stadium district was aware of Cook's concerns in late May. Dozer says the team immediately contacted Martin/Martin after it received Cook's May 16 letter. The engineering firm, Dozer says in an interview, verbally told the team there was nothing to worry about.

About a week later, Dozer says he was in San Francisco during cost-overrun settlement negotiations with contractors and the ballpark's designers, including representatives from Martin/Martin. During a break in the negotiations, Dozer says a Martin/Martin official gave him a letter stating "that there were no problems" with the ballpark.

According to Dozer, the stadium district's attorney, Tom Irvine, was present when he received the letter and participated in ensuing discussions about the Dywidag issue.

"So the district, at that point and time, knew what was going on," Dozer says.

Irvine says he never participated in any discussions during the May meetings in San Francisco related to the Dywidag controversy. "He may think I was there," Irvine says. "I wasn't."

Irvine says he didn't learn about Cook's letter until July 24, and that he immediately notified the stadium district director, Bill Scalzo. Scalzo, in turn, asked his predecessor, Bob Williams, to review the situation and develop his own independent assessment.

"When I heard about it, I went right over to the stadium and looked at the [Dywidags] I could see. You know, it caused a question in my mind," Williams says in an interview.

He says he began retracing in his mind all the issues that arose around the testing protocol and the required inspections of each nut. His first impression was that Cook's concern that the nuts could be loose was off base. "I didn't think it was a possibility," Williams says.

But, Williams says, there was a nagging doubt.

"What the guy says in the letter is kind of true. Those Dywidag bars have a kind of a coarse thread and that's a very big coarse nut -- it's not like a fine thread that you would think would tighten securely forever. I mean, I didn't know. It planted a seed in my mind and I went running right over just to have a look. You can't see all of them, but you can see a lot of them," he says.

The ones that are hidden are the most critical because they are on the upper concourse and support steel trusses that keep the grandstands from tipping forward.

"Those on the upper concourse are basically behind something, either behind a piece of drywall or behind something. I mean, they are concealed from view. They are all critical," Williams says.

Adding further urgency to the situation was an August 22 report from Dywidag International officials to the Diamondbacks that "reiterated that wrench tightening the Dywidag could not achieve" the recommended tension for fastening the nuts at the ballpark.

By late August, efforts to coordinate a meeting between Martin/Martin, Cook and representatives of Dywidag International were under way. But a September 1 meeting planned at the ballpark to resolve the issue was never held.

Once again, all efforts to resolve the issue -- or even test the tightness of the nuts -- came to a halt, records show.

In early October, a freelance reporter for the Phoenix Business Journal submitted a public records request to review all documents related to the Dywidag installation. The request triggered a panic within the team and the stadium district.

Williams contacted Diamondbacks president Dozer and relayed his concerns about a possible news story on the Dywidag connections. According to Williams' October 5 memo, Dozer says the team did not take Cook's concerns seriously.

"I told him I fundamentally agreed, but explained my concerns," Williams' memo states.

Williams, according to the memo, told Dozer that the district and the Board of Supervisors believed they -- and the team -- could not "stand the bad press that could be generated by an irresponsible report."

In addition, Williams told Dozer the district was also concerned that the issue had been on the table since May "and not one nut had been physically checked."

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty