A $3.8-million sports practice facility under construction at Mississippi State University (MSU) in Starkville, will bear the name of one of its former students, Baltimore Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro.
Palmeiro played on MSU’s baseball team through his junior season, when he left college to enter the Major League Baseball draft.
Heavy rains and problems with existing dirt have delayed completion of the Palmeiro Center until August. Construction was originally scheduled to be completed this spring.
“Existing dirt on the project site was of poor quality. Replacing that dirt and winter rains delayed the project by five weeks,” said Mike Nemeth, associate athletic director of media relations at MSU.
“The biggest problem was weather related,” said John Hanna Jr., co-owner of Hanna Contractors of Aberdeen, MS, the first contractor on the job.
Hanna’s father, John Hanna Sr., started the company in 1969. It does dirt work primarily in north Mississippi. Hanna’s brother, Jim Hanna, also is a co-owner.
Jim Hanna said heavy equipment on the job included: two Case dozers, 1150G and 1550; a Komatsu 250 track hoe excavator; a Kobelco 200 excavator and three Komatsu 65 dozers.
“It [the center] is going to be a magnificent facility,” he added.
His brother noted 50,000 to 60,000 cu. yds. (38,000 to 46,000 cu m) of dirt were moved on the site.
“We went back and took out 5,000 to 6,000 cu. yds. of dirt. We brought in 5,000 to 6,000 cu. yds. of good, red, sandy clay. It helped with the wet ground,” said John Hanna Jr.
According to John Hanna Jr., the project was located on top of a hill, which was cut down. One side required 15 ft. (4.6 m) of fill and the other side required 15 ft. (4.6 m) of cut.
“We cut down into a hole. There was a hill on both sides. Half the building was in a hole. We went into lime rock about three feet down,” he added.
Dirt work, which began in September, took approximately three months. Hanna worked all winter on the project.
John Hanna Jr. said the architect, Foil Wyatt of Jackson, was “super nice and super understanding about the weather. They and Mississippi State were great people to work for,” he added.
An official groundbreaking was held in November under the left-field grandstand of Polk-DeMent Stadium, when Palmeiro returned to the university for its football game against Arkansas.
While Hanna did most of the dirt work, Burns Construction of Columbus, MS, assisted.
The new indoor practice facility, which will be used by baseball and football players, will be located west of the Dudy Noble Field/Polk-Dement Stadium.
The 68,000 sq. ft. (6,300 sq m) floor area will accommodate a completed baseball infield within the context of a full football playing field. Three retractable batting cages, which may be lowered from the ceiling, and football goal posts also will be included in the facility. The building will feature a sprint turf surface.
It will measure 185 by 368 ft. (56 by 112 m) with a 60 ft. (18 m) ceiling.
Palmeiro, who gave the lead gift for the project, his wife, Lynne, and their two sons, Patrick Ryne and Preston Conner attended the groundbreaking.
“I want to thank Coach [Ron] Polk for bringing me the idea,” Palmeiro said. “I thought it was a great idea when you brought it to me. I could have done other things, but for me this was the right thing to do. Thanks to Mississippi State University for the opportunity. It is an opportunity of a lifetime.”
A native of Havana, Cuba, Palmeiro was a standout for MSU during his three year career with the Diamond Dogs.
The project also includes baseball offices to be located between the facility and the current baseball stadium.
A planned second phase of construction at the Palmeiro Center will be development of the parking area just west of Humphrey Coliseum. It will service the new practice facility and provide additional paved parking.
The general contractor for the project is JESCO Inc., which is headquartered in Tupelo, MS. The company is owned by Yates Construction.
Greg Wall, project manager of JESCO, said equipment at the job site includes: two Lorain MC-550A fixed boom cranes, a Lorain 40-ton hydraulic crane, one Ford Series 400 boom truck, two 80 ft. Snorkel TB personnel lifts, one Caterpillar D4CLGP dozer, one Lull 844B fork lift, one Lull 644B fork lift, a Ford 6550 backhoe and a John Deere 4100 backhoe
“We have poured our first foundation. We have completed the drilled piers and the underslab electrical and mechanical rough-in. Also, we have poured half of the floor slab along with approximately 85 percent of the grade beams and pile caps,” said Wall.
He noted job challenges include “just trying to get the work in” such as moisture sensitive dirt and concrete between rain showers.
Subcontractors are being used in masonry, electrical, mechanical, fire protection, painting, termite treatment, roofing, drilled piers and concrete finishing.
Currently, 13 people are working on the project.
“That will increase as the job progresses,” said Wall.
He said workers are on the job Monday to Friday and on the weekends “when the situation warrants it.”
Nemeth said most of the floor in the building will be Sprinturf, even the infield part for baseball.
Sprinturf manufactures, sells, installs and services the first all-rubber infill, artificial turf system, which looks, feels and plays like natural grass, but is considered safer and far more durable. CEG