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Campus Sports Complex Beats Rain to Finish Line

Reynolds Field is now the home field for the school's football, baseball, softball and tennis teams.

Thu November 20, 2014 - Midwest Edition
Dick Rohland

Last spring, students and teaching staff left the campus of the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minn., with a demolished sports complex and heavy equipment running 12 hours a day digging deep into the ground. When they returned in late August and in less than five months, what was then a deep cut where the original sports complex once stood was transformed into new and updated sports facilities.

Named after a former football coach, Reynolds Field is now the home field for the school’s football, baseball, softball and tennis teams.

Not changed but moved to the new gate into Reynolds Field is the school’s symbol and mascot, a 3 ft. (.9 m) golden hued statue of an eagle anchored in a half ton of rock and mortar.

PCL Construction, based out of Denver, Colo., took on the $11 plus million project. The company specializes in heavy industrial and building projects throughout the United States, Canada and Australia.

PCL Construction’s office in Burnsville, Minn., served as construction manager at-risk for the project. In the upper Midwest, PCL specializes in commercial buildings with a heavy emphasis on higher education campuses and sports facilities.

Peterson Companies, based in Chisago City, Minn., was the excavating and athletic installation contractor. Founded almost 20 years ago, it has grown to be a full-service contractor in mass excavations, site utilities, athletic facility construction, irrigation and large scale landscaping projects.

Kiefer Specialty Flooring, based in Lindenhurst, Ill., installed the artificial turf. Adolph Kiefer, a gold medal swimmer for the United States in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, founded the company in 1946.

Outdated, aging facilities and a growing athletic program were the primary reasons for university staff to make the decision to rebuild the campus sports fields.

“Our grass fields just could not tolerate the amount of usage we required of them by all of our teams. We needed playing surfaces that could be used all the time without worrying about over use and damage,” said Brian Humphries, associate vice president of facility operations and planning for the university.

“We also decided to light each field and the tennis courts,” “Humphries added. The lit fields “will allow the teams to continue to play or plan practices and games into the evenings.”

Surrounding a central plaza on the 10 acre site, a new football stadium which will also host lacrosse and soccer was built, as well as new baseball and softball fields and six tennis courts. The football stadium bleachers have a capacity to seat 1,500 people.

Sitting below the bleachers is a precast concrete building that houses four locker rooms, a training room, public restrooms and a concession stand. A pre-modular 60 ft. (18 m) 35,000 lb. (15,750 kg) press box sits above the bleachers.

Instead of high maintenance, natural grass fields, athletes will now play on a synthetic turf manufactured by UBU Sports located in Dalton, Ga. Known for its durability, beauty and performance, it is widely used in college and NFL stadiums throughout the country, according to the company’s Web site.

The turf sits on a base of 26,648,000 lb. (12,087,329.5 kg) of granite rock trucked in 70 mi. (112 km) from a quarry near St. Cloud, Minn.

Each square foot of turf received 6 lb. (2.7 kg) of infill made up of a combination of select sand and crumb rubber, which added up to 1,500,000 lb. (675,00 kg) for all three playing fields. There are more than 2 mi. (3.6 m) of drainage pipe running beneath the turf fields to remove storm water.

Other quantities include 750,000 lb. (337,000 kg) of rebar and 2,550 cu. yd. (1,938 cu m) of concrete poured between the cast in place walls, foundations and the paved areas surrounding the fields.

When PCL and Peterson crews hit the site in mid-March, it looked and felt more like the middle of winter instead of early spring. Deep snow still covered the landscape and the stubborn cold refused to leave the state.

There was no time to spare. With a five month construction schedule and a football team that would resume work outs and practice in August, time was at a premium on this project.

“We had to turn over the football field and stadium by August 15. It was a very aggressive schedule but one that met the owner’s needs and expectations,” said Tim Brown, PCL project superintendent.

Demolition by Peterson crews went well, Brown said. The workers enjoyed the late return of spring on the site for several weeks after the state endured one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record and one that was noteworthy for its length.

Then, the rain rolled in. Heavy and consistent rainfalls in late spring and early summer took a deep bite into the schedule and also caused serious flooding in other parts of the state.

“We had over 30 days of rain during the duration of our project which forced us to work longer hours,” Brown said. “We worked at least 15 Saturdays and averaged 12 hour days to make up for lost time.”

“So, the weather was an issue,” Brown said in a bit of an understatement after seeing rain fall on the project over 20 percent of the time during the peak construction season.

It also affected Peterson crews digging deep below the surface to relocate an existing sanitary sewer line.

“One of the more critical paths of the project was to relocate the existing sanitary line located 24 ft. below ground. Due to the rain, that activity was put on hold off and on for several weeks, which prompted us to begin working longer days early on in the schedule,” Brown remarked.

Though losing days to the bad weather, Peterson crews did not lack in equipment to keep the momentum moving forward. During the peak of the excavation, laying the sewer pipe, grading and compacting the backfill material, more than two dozen pieces of heavy equipment shared very limited space inside the tight confines of the construction site.

“We had multiple Cat backhoes during the excavation of the sanitary line. In one spot, the lower backhoe in the pit would dig and then cast the dirt up to the backhoe on top. That backhoe would grab the material from the edge and cast it aside,” Brown said.

“We had Bomag and Cat sheepsfoot compactors, drum rollers and Cat dozers down in the trench moving and compacting fill during the backfill operations of the new sanitary sewer,” Brown added.

On top side of the pit, large scrapers pulled by Case IH Quadtrac tractors relocated materials from one side of the site to the other. PCL mobilized the Case tractors and scrapers to move dirt because it is a “faster, more economical way to relocate material,” Brown said. Only “one piece of equipment instead of two is used and only one operator is required.”

Other pieces of heavy equipment included a John Deere 300B tractor and a John Deere 644K loader, two Cat skid steers and four Cat loaders. A total of three Cat backhoes, a Hitachi 200 DLC trackhoe and a Kubota KX 91-3 mini trackhoe also were on site.

Crews outfitted two Cat 345 DL dozers with Trimble GPS machine controls during grading operations.

When Peterson crews completed the ground work, they remained on site to complete the sub base and sub grade for all site features including the concrete, asphalt, landscaping and installation of the athletic equipment.

Kiefer Specialty crews then arrived to install the turf for the football, baseball and softball fields.

Using crush granite as a base, Kiefer crews rolled down the UBU turf product and sewed the separate panels of turf together. Once the turf was laid on the field, crews spread a silica sand ballast over the fields to hold it in place.

That was followed by a turf tractor towing a hopper and a Terramite TSS46 sweeper with nylon brushes to run several passes over the athletic fields to drop the crumb rubber over the turf.

“The speed of the turf that they’re looking for and the sport being played on that turf are the determining factors for the infill depth of the crumb rubber,” Brown said.

The hopper was set at a specific drop rate while the field groomer kept the individual fibers standing vertical.

“It takes multiple passes to build that crumb rubber up to the desired depth,” Brown added.

As the project began to wind down and with the newly installed athletic fields taking up an estimated 95 percent of the work zone, logistics became a key component to completing the project. With so little free space available, the timing of future construction activities and the delivery of materials became critical.

“We were probably down to 5 percent of available space for storing materials and moving equipment around. We had to know ahead of time what activities and what materials were cycling in and out of the site so we could coordinate the work load with the amount of space we had available,” Brown said.

By mid-August, with much of the major construction activities completed, the University of Northwestern football team took the place of construction crews. The athletes, looking forward to playing on the new turf, took to the field for its home opener in early September.

On game day, Eagle’s football fans informally inaugurated Reynolds Field with an overflow, fan packed crowd of nearly 2,900 students, staff, alumnae and other Eagle’s football enthusiasts.

University of Northwestern staff formally dedicated Reynolds on game day of the Eagles homecoming in mid-October, with the team adding the final touch to the day’s celebration with a 33 to 0 win over its opponent.

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