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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, July 25, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]

State Parks Division officials closed both wings of the Seashell Stage at Hampton Beach on Sunday after a portion of the concrete roof began to collapse.
[Patrick Cronin photo]

HAMPTON — State officials blocked off both wings of the Seashell Stage at Hampton Beach early Sunday morning after the concrete roof of the right side wing began to collapse from underneath.

Allison McLean, director of the state’s Division of Parks and Recreation, said crew members from the state Bureau of Public Works and the Department of Transportation were at the scene Monday assessing the situation.

“Right now our No. 1 issue is making sure this building is safe,” McLean said. “We are trying to determine why this happened and what the next best step, on behalf of public safety, is going to be.”

McLean said both wings are currently blocked off from the public but the stage remains open.

The concrete roof began to show signs that it was about to give way after a rainstorm on Saturday. Officials believe the collapse was because of the torrential downpour and the age of the building.

“We are in the process of determining what the next step will be,” McLean said. “We will either (fix) the areas or just remove the overheads (wings). We have taken precautions to keep people out of the area and we are coordinating our efforts with Chamber of Commerce and the Hampton Beach Village District so the impact will be minimal.”

Hampton Beach Village Precinct Commissioner John Kane said the nightly entertainment as well as this Sunday’s Miss Hampton Beach Pageant will go on as scheduled.

“The real impact is going to be on the tourists who use the wings to get out of the sun or when it’s raining,” Kane said.

McLean said the roof collapse is just another sign of why it is time for a new Seashell stage, which is about 45 years old.

“This building is starting to see its useful life come to an end,” McLean said.

In May, state officials told Hampton selectmen they were considering spending $10 million on constructing a new Seashell complex, adding additional bathrooms and establishing a visitor center.

McLean said the project was a recommendation of the finance subcommittee of the state’s Park Commission. The Park Commission was created under Senate Bill 5. One of the commission’s goals was to establish a long-range capital improvement plan for the state park system.

“Obviously, we recognize that this building does not meet the needs of today both from an operational perspective and a management perspective,” McLean said. “That is why we have been looking at having this building completely reconstructed. The issues with the roof have just added to the other problems that we have with the building.”

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