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Las Vegas Sees Largest Job in Over a Decade

Not since construction of the City Center nearly 10 years ago has Las Vegas seen a project the scope of the Las Vegas Arena.

Fri April 17, 2015 - West Edition
Lori Tobias

Not since construction of the City Center nearly a decade ago has Las Vegas seen a project the scope of the Las Vegas Arena. Spread over 16 acres right near the Strip, the arena will have the capacity to seat 20,000 people for events like boxing matches, concerts, award shows and other sporting events and entertainment.

Workers broke ground on the $375 million, 650,000-sq. ft. (60,386.9 sq m) arena, owned by AEG and MGM Resorts International, in May 2014 and it is expected to be completed in April of 2016.

“I’ve worked on several sports projects, arenas in particular,” said Monte Thurmond, vice-president of Hunt Construction, an AECOM Company. “There’s always challenges to overcome. This one is no different. It has rather unusual geometry. The structure is six levels. It slopes at the back of the building, slopes out at the front, then transitions to vertical at the sides. It has a 120-ft. curtain wall sloping toward the street, and balconies on four different levels. None of the geometry is consistent. There is a perforated metal screen that wraps the balconies that creates another layer, adding to the unusual geometry. It kind of looks like a spaceship landed on the strip.”

Because of the unique design, the project is relying heavily on 3D modeling, said Rob Stephans, senior vice-president of ICON Venue Group, the project manager. In addition to the extensive balconies, which were included to take advantage of the Las Vegas climate, the design also features a two-acre plaza and an abundance of extra space.

“Arenas like this are often set down into the ground partially below grade, for cost if you able to do that,” said Stephans. “It gives you the opportunity to have fans come in at the concourse level. It also changes the style of the building. Because of our site, the soil types —caliche rock layers — make it hard to excavate out. It was one of the cost efficiency decisions that was made. Everything is built from grade up so that it differs from a lot of other arenas. It’s a more extensive and more prominent structure when you do it that.

“There is a lot of glass. On the main entry to the east and northeast we have a lot of glass. We don’t have much at all on the west to avoid the heat issues. The building is oriented, everything is driven around location and climate.”

Constructed largely of steel, the project calls for approximately 7,000 pieces of the material, weighing about 7,100 tons (6,441 t). The shortest piece of steel is 2 ft. (.6 m), the longest, 350 ft. (106.7 m). The average weight of the steel beams is 1,000 lbs. (453.6 kg) and there is 665,000 sq. ft. (61,780.5 sq m) of metal floor and roof decking.

“There’s just a lot of coordination between the steel, relative to design,” said Thurmond. “A lot of the 3D computer modeling is to make sure all of that fit together in prefabrication ahead of time. The precast risers that form the seating bowl all have to go in ahead of the long span roof trusses. All of that has to be prefabricated precisely.”

The roof structure is designed with a rigging grid that has a 200,000 lb. capacity for hanging equipment for concerts and events. The long-span roof clear spans the seating bowl of 350 by 450 ft. (107.7 by 137 m), all column free space for unobstructed views of the event floor.

Worker recently set the first roof truss.

“We’ve got four main roof trusses that span over the bowl,” said Thurmond. “Two of them are 351-feet long; two are 308-feet long and we’re setting them half a truss at a time. That’s 180,000 pounds hoisted with two cranes. Each crane is picking up a portion of that half truss load, then setting half on a shore tower. One releases it and the other hangs on until it is stabilized and then they go get the other half. We have on site a 2250 Manitowoc and a 1300 Liebherr crane.”

One crane has a 154-ft. (47 t) boom with a 154-ft. (47 t) Luffer; the other also has a 154-ft. boom and a 76-ft. (23 m) Luffer.

The arena will be enveloped in two skin systems. Work will begin on those as soon as the roof trusses are in place.

“The metal foam panel system is the first skin to keep out the climate,” Thurmond said. An architectural skin will continue through the year. They will overlap. The foam subskin will be completed by October. The architectural skin we will be working on throughout the year.”

At the height of construction, there will be approximately 600 to 700 workers on site and 45 different subcontractors.

Prior to construction of the arena, several two-story office buildings were on the site, which is located between the New York-New York and Monte Carlo casinos. To date, major activities completed include: drilled piers; mass excavation; concrete shear cores; sequence 1-4 structural steel erection; slab on grade and shallow underground quadrant A; slab on metal deck (SOMD) mezzanine level quadrants A&B; SOMD main concourse quadrants A&B; SOMD suite level quadrant A; SOMD upper concourse quadrant A; chilled water and heating hot water tie-ins from Arena to CityCenter central plant.

While arena projects are challenging, this one is even more so, Thurmond said.

“This one has been as normally complicated as all the other arenas we’ve done,” he said. “There are so many moving parts. They operate more like machines than buildings. So many things have to talk to each other. The systems within them are highly complicated. A high level of attention to detail is needed.”

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