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Dallas’ $1B Stadium Begins to Take Shape

Tue September 18, 2007 - West Edition
Lori Lovely

Work on the $1 billion, 80,000-seat Dallas Cowboys stadium continued on schedule; however, Jack Hill, stadium construction manager of Blue Star Land L.P., Dallas, Texas, said he hopes to beat the ample 40-month deadline.

Hill explained that he is shooting for July, well before the 2009 football season begins, and he said his abbreviated goal is entirely possible because crews and everyone involved with the project are highly motivated.

“It’s a special job,” he gave as reason for the widespread enthusiasm. As for the reason everyone is working so diligently, he offered, “We just want to provide the team a great place to play.”

Other contributing factors to the smooth progress include an involved owner who stays close to the project and the fact that there has been very little change in plans along the way.

“We’ve had a few interior changes,” Hill admitted, “but not much. It’s a good design.”

Beyond stability of design and abundant enthusiasm, timing, coordination and communication were the keys to keeping the project on target and surmounting challenges, although Hill said there have been surprisingly few for a project of such magnitude and when issues have come up, a solid team effort has made it a smooth process.

“The sheer magnitude of the project has been the biggest challenge,” he claimed, explaining that coordinating such a huge project requires cooperation, coordination and communication.

Hill credited the “huge amount of cooperation and communication” with solving problems and aiding progress. He read off a long list of groups, including the owners, the Rangers, the city of Arlington and the developer of the lifestyle/mixed use area that will feature residential, restaurant, retail and commercial space, who continue to hold ongoing meetings.

In addition to facilitating communication, the meetings led to effective planning. Material delivery was strung out to coordinate timing.

“We did a lot of pre-planning,” Hill said with a hint of pride. Steel and concrete were purchased a year ago at a good time, “before the market got volatile.” But Hill managed to save the cost of storage by scheduling delivery of the steel from Luxembourg to the fabricator in Oklahoma to the job site.

Timing also came into play with the weather, although none of the groups can take claim for resolving that in any meeting. A dry summer in 2006 enabled excavation to be completed with little trouble.

“We were fortunate to start excavation last summer when it was dry. We dug 50 feet below street level and installed a dewatering system and a retention system. It was a lot of work, most of it out of the public eye.”

Foundation work also is completed, as is pre-cast, including 3,000 pre-cast risers for seats.

Although the spring and summer of 2007 have been much wetter, Hill said it has not hindered work or affected the schedule.

“We worked between showers,” he said, only half in jest. “We got all the concrete poured and began erecting steel on July 2nd.”

Four abutments were poured in the southwest corner, requiring approximately 2,000 cu. yds. (1,529 cu m) of concrete. The abutments will hold up the roof 320 ft. (97 m) above the playing field, which sits 50 ft. (15.2 m) below the main concourse. Once the last two or three pours are done on the south side end zone, Hill said concrete work on approximately half the building will be done.

Crews had been erecting 1,225-ft.-long (373 m) arched trusses since July, with three of eight sections on the south side completed. The arch structure evolved out of the initial design featuring a retractable roof and end zone doors that open. The owners chose the unique design from a selection of 17 schemes. After it was chosen, Hill says it “dawned on us that the arch is not only graceful, it’s efficient. That allowed us to do some things.”

One of those things was to add a center-hung scoreboard similar to what’s seen in hockey arenas. By eliminating the super columns that support the roof, the arch structure allows the scoreboard to be suspended 110 ft. (33.5 m) directly over the center of the playing surface, closer to spectators.

But much of the work was less easy to see, as some of the focus shifted to interior work.

“It may seem slow, but that’s because a lot of the work has shifted to the interior,” Hill said.

The main utilities are in and the HVAC contractor is working on the third level. Electricians are following, although a lot of the electrical work is already done.

Hill said 72 to 75 percent of the cost is bought out and contractors have billed 33 percent.

“It’s fun to watch the progress,” Hill added.

To-Do List

The two major road contracts have been let and an underground duct has been laid. With 1,100 workers on-site, crews created their own rush hour, so the new roads will come in handy.

Tarrant County is handling road access and the parking lots. Workers are already using the main parking lot, which has been paved.

Paving of the second big lot is under way. The primary transformers will be set this fall and next spring, but the next big step, as Hill puts it, is to continue erection of the arch. After that, crews will concentrate efforts on the interior. The scoreboard, electronic system and sound system projects have been bid. Hill said they are still in negotiations with the vendors. The clubs and suites package came out Aug. 3.

As work progressed and Hill checked items off the list, he noted, “there’s something new to see every day. It’s an exciting time.” CEG

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