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Camosy Meets ’Complex’ Challenges for Wisconsin College

Sat January 22, 2000 - Midwest Edition
Lisa Hendricks

All construction projects face various challenges from time to time. A tight schedule, adverse weather conditions, site constraints, or other obstacles have the potential to wreak havoc on a project. Hopefully these challenges can be addressed and overcome without adversely affecting the timeline or compromising the project in any way.

Camosy Inc., a general building contractor in Kenosha, WI, was founded in 1910 and knows what it takes to succeed — even in the face of a good challenge. Currently run by the third generation of the Camosy family, Camosy Inc. primarily concentrates on commercial and institutional projects in Southeastern Wisconsin and Northeastern Illinois.

Camosy’s current challenge is a $23-million athletic and recreation complex for Carthage College in Kenosha, WI. The cost of the project encompasses new construction as well as renovation of the current athletic facility. The executive committee of the Carthage Board of Trustees approved the project in 1998, following a gift of $11 million by Pat Tarble in honor of her late husband, Newton A. Tarble. The donation is the largest in Carthage history and the second largest ever given to a private college or university in Wisconsin. The remainder of the necessary funding will come in the form of loans, bonds, and other private contributions.

When completed, the new athletic facility will span 13,680 square meters (152,000 sq. ft.) over three levels, and will be named after Newton A. Tarble, a cofounder of Snap-On Tools. It will include a 200-meter indoor running track that surrounds volleyball, basketball and tennis courts. A competition swimming pool will occupy a portion of the first level, and the facility will also contain a 450-square-meter (5,000 sq. ft.) fitness center.

Additionally, the complex will feature a climbing wall, racquetball courts, locker rooms and offices for athletic department staff. The existing athletic center will be renovated to complement the new construction. The scope and size of the athletic and recreation complex is obviously large, and when all is said and done the entire project will have utilized 3,800 cubic meters (5,000 cu. yd.) of concrete, 720 metric tons (800 tons) of structural steel and 100,000 face bricks.

According to Bob Dittus, vice president of business and finance at Carthage College, the project is progressing smoothly and the college is pleased to be working with Camosy — again. Camosy was responsible for the initial construction work on the campus in the early 1960’s, including the dormitory buildings. “We’ve been working with Camosy for a long period of time,” said Dittus, “and we’re happy with the work they do. This is simply an extension of our long-standing relationship.”

Ground was broken for the complex in May of 1999, and it was immediately apparent that Camosy had some challenges before them. Norm Cappellina, Camosy’s vice president — professional services, explained that one of the major issues was the construction of the swimming pool. The construction site lies on an old riverbed, and the ground consists mostly of peat — not the best scenario for erecting a 2,100-centimeter (70 ft.) tall structure. The swimming pool must be 450 centimeters (15 ft.) underground, but excavation crews hit groundwater at just 120 centimeters (4 ft.).

“What we had to do in this instance was take the ground out of the equation,” Cappellina said. So Camosy constructed a large cofferdam consisting of metal sheet piling. This water-resistant barrier, combined with culverts that pump water out of the site, allows workers and equipment to perform construction tasks unimpeded.

And since such a high water table was encountered, proper anchoring of the pool had to be addressed. “We have three cranes here that drill down until they hit bedrock and then concrete caissons are poured and anchored right onto the bedrock. The pool will be firmly attached to the caissons, making the high water table a non-issue,” Cappellina explained.

Drilling for the caissons, which are 90 centimeters (3 ft.) in diameter, extends approximately 1,800 centimeters (60 ft.) underground. In addition, the eastern portion of the site stands approximately 1,050 centimeters (35 ft.) higher than its western counterpart, and a portion of the facility will actually be built right into the side of a hill. A total of 172 caissons will be required not only to anchor the swimming pool, but to prevent any differential settlement of the building as well.

Cappellina indicated that although those issues were resolved, there are other challenges related to the construction of this athletic complex that must be considered on an ongoing basis. “Carthage is an operating college with little geography. We have to consider the implications to Carthage and the students, because the college has to be able to remain functional while construction continues,” stated Cappellina, “plus the construction site abuts an outdoor running track and therefore it’s very congested. We can’t have equipment here that we’re not ready to use, so coordination and timing is critical.”

As the construction manager for the Carthage athletic complex, Camosy is also responsible for coordinating all subcontractor efforts. Cappellina is responsible for evaluating and securing the quality subcontractors and suppliers that are contributing to the success of this project, and there are many.

Edgerton, based in Oak Creek, WI, is the excavating contractor. Edward Gillen Co., Milwaukee, WI, is responsible for the drilling and caisson work that continues through the end of October. Once the caissons are completed, work begins on the grade beams and foundation walls that will bear on the caissons. Zalk Josephs Fabricators, Stoughton, WI, is the steel contractor. Work on the steel superstructure is expected to begin in early January. A five-month steel erection process is anticipated.

Hastings + Chivetta Architects Inc. in St. Louis, MO, is the architect of record on the project. Hastings + Chivetta is responsible for project design and development, and has more than 100 sports and recreation facilities to its credit. The southwest perspective of the architect’s renderings illustrates the blending of the original building with the new construction, as well as the wall of glass on the southern exposure that is a highlight of the natatorium.

Like Hastings + Chivetta, Camosy has a great deal of experience with athletic centers and fieldhouses. In addition to the numerous high school and college athletic centers and natatoriums they have completed in the past, the Carthage College complex is just one of three athletic facilities that Camosy is involved with at the present time. Also under way is the Buffalo Grove Health and Fitness Center (approximately $10.1 million) in Buffalo Grove, IL, and the Condell Centre Club (approximately $9.4 million) in Gurnee, IL.

As for the Carthage College athletic and recreation complex, completion is slated for spring 2001, and all indications are that the project is indeed on schedule. Carthage and its students are eager, though. “Obviously, we wish it was done now,” said Dittus, “but it’s going to be a great facility when finished and we’re really looking forward to its completion.”

While construction continues, however, progress on the site can be easily tracked. Camosy has installed a digital camera at the site dubbed the “Camosy Cam” that films progress on the complex and downloads an image to their Web site ( every minute. When the project is finished, the images will be combined to produce a time-lapse film of the entire construction process.

According to Cappellina, Camosy is involved with roughly 30 projects at any given time. Besides athletics, the firm’s portfolio includes work in the industrial, health care, government and hospitality industries, among others. Camosy has also completed numerous air traffic control towers including the one located at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport. Camosy’s work on the FAA Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility in Elgin, IL, earned them the 1998 Chicago Building Congress Merit Award.

In addition, Camosy’s safety track record is outstanding. Camosy took top honors by garnering four major safety awards in 1998. The Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin, Associated General Contractors of America, Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce Inc. and the Lake County Contractors Association in Waukegan, IL, all bestowed Camosy with awards.

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