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Joint-Venture Completes El Paso Ballpark in Record Time

The $74 million stadium was built in 11 months via a joint-venture that brought together CF Jordan (Jordan Foster Construction prior to the company's reorganization — JFC) and Hunt Construction G

Thu July 10, 2014 - West Edition
Irwin Rapoport

On April 28, the El Paso Chihuahuas Triple-A baseball team (Pacific Coast League) played its first game in the brand new El Paso, Texas, state-of-the-art Triple-A ballpark. The ballpark features 7,400 seats and 23 upper-level box suites. The $74 million stadium was built in 11 months via a joint-venture that brought together CF Jordan (Jordan Foster Construction prior to the company’s reorganization — JFC) and Hunt Construction Group (HCG).

Construction began on May 6, 2013 with a retaining wall and the structure — Southwest University Park — was delivered on April 28 (minus some cosmetic work). The joint-venture brought together CF Jordan, a construction company that has been involved in many El Paso projects, and Hunt, which has been building sports facilities since 1970 with the Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pa., and of late, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Mo., and Marlins Park in Miami, Fla.

When full, the ballpark can accommodate 10,000-plus spectators, and can be used for concerts and other outdoor events. The structure has a 360-degree concourse, public art spaces, great sight lines, 40,000 sq. ft. (3,716 sq m) of floor space on the concourse level with retail (including food vendors), team offices and elevated seating decks. It is expected that Southwest University Park will immediately become an iconic landmark in downtown El Paso.

The new stadium was a requirement of the agreement between MountainStar Sports Group and the Pacific Coast League.

“The existing Cohen Stadium was not acceptable to AAA baseball, and couldn’t be retrofitted to work,” said Alan Shubert, project manager of El Paso. “The stadium was build on the site where the El Paso City Hall and Insight’s Science Museum sat. Prior to the construction of city hall in 1979, there were other structures on the site — it is part of Anson Mills original plan of the city in the late 1800s.”

The ballpark was constructed to secure LEED Silver certification.

“The city decided in 2008 to adopt LEED Silver as a standard and the City Council passed a resolution requiring that all buildings built that are over 5,000 square feet be LEED Silver,” said Shubert. “A subsequent resolution allowed compliance with the Green Globes standard. The city has a strong commitment toward sustainability, and this proves that. There will be no solar panels, but LEED Silver makes the park very energy efficient, as well as sustainable.

“We installed show power into the park for concerts and other events,” he continued. “The plan is for the ballpark to be open year round. People can hold conferences, meetings, and other get-togethers when the baseball team is not playing. This facility is designed to be an asset for downtown El Paso all year long.”

The rapid construction, according to a press release from the joint-venture, “sets an unofficial record for the quickest completion of a Triple A ballpark — just 11 months. Huntington Park, Columbus’ AAA facility for the Clippers, took 20 months to build, Fifth Third Field for the Toledo Mud Hens took 19 months to build, and Allentown’s Coca-Cola Park, home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, took 19 months to construct.”

Mark Gudenas, vice president of corporate communications of CF Jordan, pointed out that the speed of the construction surpassed the 13.5 months needed to build 8,631-seat stadium for the Round Rock Express in Austin, which was built in 2000.

“We could not have done it any faster,” said Paul Bauer, CF Jordan’s executive vice president of commercial operations in El Paso.

Populous Architects, a long-time partner with HCG, designed the ballpark. Mark Palmer, the lead project architect on the project, managed the design, the completion of the drawings and worked closely with the project team on site.

Bauer stressed how important it was for the joint-venture to have the cooperation of the city in meeting the delivery deadline. “We know El Paso,” he said. “Tom Maguire is chief building inspector, city development department, and he was on site full-time. Without that, we couldn’t have done it. The city was also great in coordinating underground utilities and right-of-way issues with Union Pacific Railroad.”

The ballpark was built on one of the tightest sites ever for this type of sports facility.

“With that, came a whole new set of challenges,” said Raymond Smith, CF Jordan’s senior project manager. “Staging had to be done off site at the CF Jordan yard, soil retention walls needed to be constructed due to land slope, and concrete forms had to be built off site in the yard as well. When we looked at the existing utilities on the site, it looked like a bowl of spaghetti.

“Allen Shubert from the city of El Paso was invaluable in guiding this aspect of the project,” he added. “We had bi-weekly meetings with 30 to 40 people representing all of the entities involved — water, power, telecom. There was even an 84-inch storm drain running through the site. But we all worked together as a team with constant communication and coordination, quickly adapting to all of the necessary changes.”

The open-air ballpark is built on a 5.5-acre site, previously the home of the city hall, which was demolished on April 14 last year. The demolition, conducted by Controlled Demolition Inc., took six weeks to haul away the debris, which included 54,000 cu. yd. (41,286 cu m) of earth.

More than 90 percent of the construction waste was recycled. The ballpark consists of 564 concrete pilings drilled to depths averaging 75 ft. (22.3 m) below the ballfield (a total of 3,700 cu. yd. [2,828 cu m] of concrete grout); 2.6 million lbs. of structural steel (2,500 individual pieces of steel held together by more than 15,000 bolts); close to 190,000 sq. ft. (17,651 sq m) of drywall; 140,000 cu. yd. (107,038 cu m) of concrete (million lbs.) and 810 of rebar enforcement, 10,000 ft. (3,048 m) of railing; 25,000 ft. (7,620 m) of copper plumbing pipe with close to 35,000 ft. (10,668 m) of PVC pipe; 12,000 linear ft. (3,658 m) of irrigation pipe and 6,875 ft. (2,095 m) of drainage pipe; 600,000 colored bricks for the façade and 170,000 concrete blocks; 14,500 sq. ft. (1,347 sq m) of heat rejecting glass windows and doors; 940,000 linear ft. (286,512 m) of electrical wiring and cable; more than 8,000 gal. (30,283 L) of paint and sealers, 142 individual light fixtures were mounted 110 ft. (33 m) above the field which provide 220,000 watts of lighting; a full colored scoreboard with more than 1.5 million LEDs, and 336 tons (304.9 t) of air conditioning; and more then four million BTUs of heating.

As well, the ballfield covers about 2.75 acres and 92,430 sq. ft. (8,587 sq m) of that is turf, and about 4,000 tons (3,628 t) of specially-designed sand has been placed to help the hybrid Bermuda grass turf thrive.

“The design was not actually completed at that point, as the architect only had from November to May to get the design to the point we could start construction,” said Shubert. “The design was very challenging, as the site was only five acres. I think we have the only four-level AAA ballpark in the country. In addition, there was a 22 ft. grade difference from the street on the north side (Missouri Street) to the trainway on the south side. We also had to obtain air rights over the trainway. We obtained the first air rights over the trainway since the El Paso National Bank obtained rights in 1962, thanks to the cooperation and hard work of the people of the Union Pacific Railroad Company.”

Frank Licon, project manager of Jordan Infrastructure & Concrete, put in 80-hour weeks, noting that 14,000 cu. yd. (11,706 cu m) of concrete were poured to build the ballpark. “Some pours took the crew ’round the clock’ with formers working until 8 p.m. and concrete coming in at 10 p.m. and finishers working through the night,” he said. “We had 40 trucks lined up when we poured the pier caps, bringing 500 cubic yards in. We did something new here at the ballpark to make the schedule — we poured the second floor first, after the columns and while we were doing that, the mechanical, electrical and plumbing subcontractors could work on the first floor."

He added that a unique challenge on the project was building a cantilevered deck 18 ft. (5.5 m) above the Union Pacific Railroad tracks during their busiest time of the year last fall. “Fortunately the railroad guys were very helpful when we were working on it,” he explains, “giving us two-to-three-hour windows when no trains would be rolling through.”

Several subcontractors participated in the project.

CF Jordan’s Superintendent Larry Diaz pointed out that “great team work” enabled the project to succeed. “We all worked hard together to make this happen,” he said. “From our M.E.P. (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) subs with more than 80 individuals working simultaneously on site, to the state of Texas elevator inspector, to Adrian Garcia from the city of El Paso, everyone involved in building the ballpark reflected a positive attitude and found solutions when we ran into obstacles.

“And there were some good ones, like the 69,000-volt overhead electric lines that only could be turned off on weekends,” he added, “and the discovery of the underground fiber optic lines that service downtown El Paso and the University of Texas at El Paso. But everyone had the goal to make this project a success and we quickly found ways to solve all of the challenges.”

At peak construction, towards the end, there were nearly 600 workers on site. Nearly 1,400 workers participated in the work for a total of more than 500,000 hours.

The joint-venture was able to fast-track the project by increasing the length of daily shifts and working on weekends. Mark McCaskey, construction manager of Hunt Construction Group, served as the overall team leader.

“Mark Palmer is great to work with, as he understands the construction process and is a great hands-on architect,” he said. “He has brought so much to the superlative design of the ballpark.”

The project brought together the vehicles and equipment of two companies, including Caterpillar and Volvo loaders, and Cat 140M motorgraders from CF Jordan. Neither firm purchased or rented any equipment for the project.

The majority of the CF Jordan equipment was repaired by it own mechanics via resources from the shop, which was 10 mi. away. While the actual work site was tight, there was sufficient space to do repairs and to store gasoline, various oils, and spare parts.

Maintenance was aided by the electronic monitoring of the Cat loaders and graders and Volvo graders.

Jerry Smith, manager of the Vinton shop, noted that the project provided a good experience for the maintenance staff as their expertise was needed to ensure that the construction schedule was met.

“Operators are a very important part of the equipment repair process,” he said, “These guys have many ways to get info to us at the shop. They are quick to report leaks and other things that would cause them problems, and by doing so, the repair time was cut down to a minimum. A good daily inspection of the equipment was also a factor in getting the machines up and going. Zero down time was what we were after. Sometimes it can be a little tight to get the machine and mechanic together, and in those times we would switch the machine out.”

There were two field technicians on site, as well as two lube trucks the were used and coordinated to ensure that the machines were always full of fuel and serviced when it was time for services to be preformed.

Smith said that all projects are used to help hone the skills of the repair crews.

“With all the things going on at the park, safety would be the most important thing — always let people know where you are, and what you are doing,” he said, “and getting the machine as far away from others, is always the best thing to do.”

He pointed out that the firm works hard to create a team ethos for its maintenance department.

“It takes all of us to get things done,” he said. “Every bit of recognition should be to the team at the equipment shop. From taking that first machine down call, to ordering the parts, to picking them up, and getting them to the mechanic for him to make the repair. Each one of these performances is crucial and brings everyone together. My thanks goes out to the Jordan Foster Equipment Group for staying focused to help with accomplishing the goal.”

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