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Bar Construction Holds Court on North Carolina Campus

Wed December 27, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Giles Lambertson

When Bar Construction Co. of Greensboro, NC, won the job of clearing away and then reconstructing some tennis courts on the campus of University of North Carolina-Greensboro, the task was clear enough to Charles O’Bryant, project manager.

It was simply a matter, he said, “of making the water go away and making the courts flat.”

Sounds simple enough, and the project indeed is on schedule for completion a few days before Thanksgiving. But it hasn’t been easy — because the water didn’t always go away.

The $1.6-million job site is a long rectangular slab of land sandwiched between a campus drive and concrete bleachers against the university’s soccer field. The bleachers form a concrete wall on the west side of the site. The campus drive to the east, which is an asphalt skirt for two three-story residence halls on its other side, sits fully 10 ft. (300 cm) above the work site.

Consequently, the tennis court area is a perfect catch basin for runoff water. Rainwater is carried from the pavement down onto the court level from which it has trouble escaping.

To carry the water from above down and under the court level, a system of terra cotta drain pipes 18 in. (46 cm) in diameter was designed and constructed years ago. The system clearly failed at some point: A sinkhole appeared in the middle of a court.

“That,” said O’Bryant of the subsurface water, “was the root problem.”

The solution proposed by the Greensboro consulting engineering firm of Sutton/Kennerly and Associates included replacing the reinforced concrete pipe. The engineers called for redirecting the flow of runoff water through more modern hard plastic pipe as a large as 24 in. (61 cm) in diameter, carrying it under and away from the courts and into a major storm sewer.

To accomplish that utility work and ready the site for new construction, “We had to move a lot of dirt,” O’Bryant said, as well as rip up and remove asphalt courts and some connecting concrete walkways. An assortment of excavators, including a Hitachi EX270LC and Case 9040B, and a Michigan 190B front loader easily worked the site until it was bare of pavement of any sort.

Much of the soil was found to be compactible and promised to respond to the eventual pounding of Rammax P33 and Stone Rhino compactors, so it was left. However, other dirt was unsuitable and had to be carried away.

“The site almost balanced out,” recalled the project manager, “but we had to bring in a little bit of soil.” About 900 cu. yds. (684 cu m) of material were trucked in from a local sand rock pit.

Excavation and hauling was the job of Irvin Contracting and KDT Contracting, both of Greensboro. Ransome and Son of Greensboro lay the pipe.

And then the rains came. O’Bryant described it as “two weeks of rain and abnormal jet-stream activity,” and it shut down this project and numerous others in the region. If the call had gone out to Mother Nature to send something to help snug the soil around the new pipes, she couldn’t have responded any more thoroughly.

Anyway, August brought a return to more moderate conditions, and Bar crews and subcontractors returned to the campus site.

Reinforced footings had been poured for a retaining wall running along the east edge of the site, which is about 1,000 ft. (304 m) long and 200 ft. (76 m) wide. When the weather cleared, O’Bryant picked up a second masonry firm to start building the wall on time and to keep it rising on schedule.

Deal Masonry of Greensboro and B&R Masonry of Lexington, NC, are erecting the 12-in. (30 cm) thick block wall, to be filled with concrete. It will stand about 8 ft. (2.4 m) tall and run for 600 ft. (182 m). Boren Brick Co. of Pleasant Gardens, NC, is supplying “Old Guilford” brick for the wall’s facade.

An Asheboro concrete materials firm, RMC, is supplying block for the wall, as well as some 600 cu. yds. (456 cu m) of concrete for extensive walkways and steps. Because of sharply different elevations between the courts and nearby student facilities, the site will be served by seven new concrete stairways and four original stairways joined with new sections.

Coordinating the various concrete pours in and around the new courts — including pouring wall fill, steps, walkways and flumes — will be “quite intricate,” O’Bryant said.

The 12 new competition-size tennis courts will stretch along the refurbished site like two rows of dominoes, six in each row, laid end to end the length of the site. Each asphalt court will rest on a compacted stone base. Each will be topped by several layers of tennis court finish material, that work being done by Carolina Courtworks of Charlotte.

Building tennis courts is not O’Bryant’s typical project assignment. In fact, this is his first in 14 years of construction work following his graduation from Appalachian State University in the western part of the state.

He has more experience with structural steel building — and so does the company.

Bar Construction Co. was founded in Greensboro 24 years ago by Boyd Allred. Dick Howard succeeded Allred as owner in 1985. Glenn Hodges now is president of the firm, which has 12 crews on various projects in central North Carolina and producing annual sales of $12 million to $15 million.

A signature offering of the company is its expertise in pre-engineered metal buildings, a facet of the building industry that Allred entered in 1968. Today, Bar is an American Buildings Co. franchise and is certified by Systems Builders Association 2000.

The SBA is an Ohio-based organization. It started a national certification campaign in 1997 so customers could weigh the merits of companies bidding to do jobs for them. Bar was the first to win certification in the central Piedmont region of North Carolina.

“We really do feel like the certification gives us an edge,” said Melinda Morton, company estimator. “It is really a big deal in the pre-engineered metal building industry.”

Perhaps because of its certified status, the company is busy. For instance, Morton characterized Bar’s current working relationship with Guilford County schools as “hot and heavy,” including a $4.4-million cafeteria construction and renovation job under way at Rankin Elementary School.

Other projects in Greensboro include the building of satellite offices for the dominant medical institution in the community, Moses Cone Hospital, and work on several facilities at another campus across town, North Carolina A&T State University.

Bar Construction crews also can be found working on a new bank building in Greensboro, on some Forsyth County projects, and on a new regional park on a main highway.

And, of course, on some tennis courts.

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