Cowboys’ Canopy Makers Seek Protection

The parent company of the firm that built the Dallas Cowboys’ ruined practice facility has filed for protection from its creditors – the Canadian equivalent to filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.

Cover-All Building Systems of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, said it will continue “limited operations,” but has laid off most of its 483 employees. The company has taken several hits over the past 18 months, not the least of which was the canopy collapse at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Irving, Texas, in May.

The practice facility was a steel and fabric structure built by Cover-All subsidiary Summit Structures, based in Allentown, Pa. The structure collapsed under winds estimated at between 55 to 65 mph, leaving team scout Rich Behm paralyzed from the waist down.

The Cowboys’ special teams coach, Joe DeCamillas, suffered a broken vertebrae.

The structure was supposed to withstand 90-mph wind speed as specified by engineering standards. At least five other Summit-designed buildings have collapsed since 2002.

Since the disaster, Texas A&M University and the University of New Mexico have hired independent engineering firms to examine their Summit-designed sports facilities. They have discovered flaws.

There are more than 35,000 Cover-All buildings shipped worldwide during the past 17 years, according to the Star Phoenix of Saskatoon. Annual sales peaked two years ago at $129 million.

Cover-All faces losses from replacement or repair of buildings and litigation. Company CEO Nathan Stobbe said in a sworn affidavit that Cover-All recently became aware of “potential engineering issues” related to one series of buildings that may make them “susceptible to collapse” in certain weather conditions.

The company has notified customers and suspended production of all of its buildings pending internal review.