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Fans Cheer New Home Stadium for University of Virginia

Wed February 09, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Carmen Shirkey

The University of Virginia began in 1819 as Thomas Jefferson’s Academic Village, positioned at the heart of Charlottesville, VA. Despite the school’s reputation for academics, its football program — although one of the first in the country — had in the past hovered at the bottom of the rankings. In the past two decades, however, the University of Virginia football team earned national prominence and quickly outgrew its home, Scott Stadium. In the spring of 1998, the University’s Facilities Management team began an $86-million project to expand the stadium and its facilities.

Phase III of a three-phase project is currently under way, and largely consists of adding an upper deck with 13,500 extra seats and a 600-car parking garage. Plans also include adding 44 luxury suites — with 30 sold before the construction is even under way. In addition, a new press box will feature nine closed-in bays instead of the current open-air five bays, a brick entrance plaza and Jeffersonian columns. Most of Phase III is scheduled for completion before the football season in the fall of 2000, while the landscaping will follow after the season.

The Carl Smith Center expansion at Scott Stadium was made possible by an initial donation of $25 million by ex-football-player Carl Smith. The University then waged a massive campaign to match that amount from donors. All of the funding for the project is paid for by private donations and operational funds from the athletic department.

Barton Malow Inc., which recently opened a satellite office in Charlottesville, was selected as the construction management firm. The company is known for its work on new stadiums such as those for the Houston Astros, Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens. Barton Malow will also be working on the expansions at Penn State and Towson State.

Each contractor bid separately on a specific project within the grand scheme.

“There are currently 38 contractors on site,” said Dick Laurance, director of the Carl Smith Center expansion at Scott Stadium.

Phase I of the project consisted mostly of the $5-million work of putting in a new scoreboard, video board, advertising panels and a new speaker system. A hill closes in the north end of the stadium, and Phase I moved the hill in closer to the field by 9.1 meters (30 ft.), using 9,144 meters (10,000 yds.) of dirt. A new irrigation system was also part of this work.

In the past, the south end of the stadium was closed off by Bryant Hall, a facility used primarily by athletes that housed the locker rooms and a dining facility. Phase II began with the demolition of the old Bryant Hall to make way for the new Bryant Hall — with twice the space at 60,000 square feet and now mostly underneath the stadium. The first level of the facility will be used for game-day operations — a media room, locker rooms, referees area and support spaces. The second level will be used for a Virginia Student Aid Foundation (VSAF) office, the ticket office, the University’s Career Planning and Placement office, student tutoring, an alumni locker room and a recruiting area, which will hold approximately 150 recruits and their families for game-day festivities.

“The key challenge of this job was that we had to make the existing facility useable and safe in the midst of a construction project. Because of this, craning location was affected by the single most severe limitation of not being allowed on the field,” said Phil Kirby, project executive of the expansion for Barton Malow. “The craning plan was part of the proposals from the concrete contractors.”

That contract went to Cleveland Cement out of Richmond, VA, for the cast-in-place and pre-cast installation. The cranes used on the expansion include two 540-metric-ton (600 ton) capacity Manitowoc 888 crawler cranes, a Link-Belt Model HTC 8650 45-metric-ton (50 ton) capacity hydraulic truck crane and a 180-metric-ton (200 ton) Demag Model AC535 hydraulic crane, which are all rented from Commercial Steel Erection in Lynchburg, VA. Cleveland Cement used its own concrete pumps, 35-meter (114 ft.) Putzmeisters, in addition to its other equipment.

“For this job, we are using a little bit of everything as far as equipment,” said Steve Murphy, vice president of Cleveland Cement.

Not only does the job require a lot of equipment, but a lot of materials as well.

“We will use over 25,000 cubic yards of cast-in-place concrete, and 8,000 cubic feet of precast concrete,” Laurance stated.

A challenge for the expansion team was that each phase had to be completed and safety partitions installed before the start of each year’s football season. While getting ready for this season, the work force averaged 205 people a day on site and up to five cranes. During the season, the average was approximately 60 workers per day.

“We knew going in that we had six home games to work around,” said Laurance. “For home games, Monday through Thursday, the stadium was a construction site. Friday through Sunday it was an athletic facility with the teams and television and operation people in charge. You really do lose momentum.”

Water and underground utilities presented another challenge for construction crews.

“One of our biggest challenges was making the deadline for the season opener this year,” Laurance said. “We ran into a lot of water issues in the south end zone and we had to relocate a lot of existing utilities.”

“One of the things that everyone will notice when this expansion is finished is that the site around the stadium, as well as the stadium itself, will be part of the whole experience. It will say ’Virginia’ when you come in,” said Kirby. “Inside, when the horseshoe is complete, suddenly the stadium will be loud, which is what Coach Welsh wanted.”

Fans have already noticed the results, despite the fact that the job isn’t finished yet. During the 1999-2000 season opener with Wake Forest, ticket sales records were set, thanks to the new seats in the south end zone.

“During the Wake game, we heard a lot of ’wows’ from the stands,” Laurance said. “Most people couldn’t believe that we had gotten as far as we had. The fans really liked the closed-in effect in the south end zone, and said the expansion would really aid in the recruiting effort and add to the home field advantage.”

This story also appears on Crane Equipment Guide.

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