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Major League Work Involved With Braves Triple A Ballpark

Thu January 01, 2009 - Southeast Edition
Kerry Lynn Kirby

Back in June, it was farmland. But on April 17, Triple-A baseball teams the Gwinnett Braves and the Norfolk Tides will face off in the Braves’ new minor league stadium at the transformed 44-acre (17.8 ha) site in suburban Gwinnett County, Ga.

The roughly $59 million construction project — headed by general contractor Barton Malow Company — is on schedule to have the 10,000-plus-seat stadium ready for the game, said Preston Williams, chief executive officer of the Gwinnett Convention & Visitors Bureau, the entity responsible for developing the land and managing the lease on the county-owned stadium.

The Gwinnett Braves, an affiliate of Major League Baseball team the Atlanta Braves, will operate the facility as part of a 30-year lease deal with the Atlanta Braves, which is moving its Triple-A namesake team from Richmond, Va., Williams said.

The new open-air stadium will feature a “warehouse look” exterior inspired by the area’s minor league baseball history, he said.

“It’s sort of a unique design,” Williams said. “It’s got a lot of brick and some glass [on the outside]. Once you get inside, it’s more of a modern look.”

The interior will include a main concourse circling the entire stadium and a little more than 10,000 seating capacity, with 7,506 permanent seats, 2,500 berm grass seating and about 250 club or box seats.

Amenities for fans include a kids zone, 22 suites on the suite level, two party decks, a separate ground-level entrance to the club seats and a tunnel from those seats to a private restaurant. Among niceties for the players will be locker rooms behind the dugout, so they don’t have to walk to an exterior field house.

“It’s going to be a notch above what you would expect in most minor league stadiums, similar to a Major League stadium, just on a smaller scale,” he said.

It actually will be identical to the Atlanta Braves’ Turner Field in an important way.

The stadium was designed with the exact same internal plan dimensions as Turner Field with the thought that the next step for the Triple-A level players is to go up to the Majors and play for the Atlanta Braves in Turner Field.

Well-located on GA 20 in the Interstate 85 corridor northeast of Atlanta, the ballpark will be the centerpiece of a larger mixed-used development including retail, restaurants, lodging and, possibly, townhouses that are being developed by Brand Properties.

The developer has a master plan and would like to start building out as soon as possible.

Southfield, Mich.-based Barton Marlow’s Atlanta office is handling the vertical construction, with AL Grading Contractors in Sugar Hill, Ga., under contract for $10 million in site improvements, according to Josh Tighe, senior project manager for AL Grading.

The site was cleared in two phases, the first covering the main stadium area and the second covering the surrounding retail and parking area.

“The phasing was basically because of permitting issues with part of the project that had to be resolved,” Tighe said. “So in order to make the schedule, we had to clear the ball field and clubhouse area so that the vertical construction could begin on time, and then, once the issues were resolved, we cleared the remaining area.”

AL Grading’s jobs on the project include onsite earth movement, general utility excavation and installation of more than 1.5 mi. (2.4 km) of underground 12-ft. (3.7 m) diameter detention pipe.

Approximately 500,000 cu. yd. (382,277 cu m) of earth have been moved on the site, which was lowered 3 ft. (0.9 m) in elevation from the original design to make the site balance and avoid having to haul approximately 160,000 cu. yd. (122,329 cu m) of earth off site.

“The original plans had the finished elevation at 670. At this elevation, the site had excess dirt … that would have had to be hauled off site,” Tighe said. “Working with the design team, we concluded that if the site was lowered 3 feet, we could keep all the dirt onsite. This was a savings of over $1.5 million to the owner [the Gwinnett Convention & Visitors Bureau].”

Another big job for AL Grading has been constructing an underground detention pond designed to control the flow of water through the site so that it is released at the same rate as if the farmland had been left undeveloped.

The design features an 11-barrel system and a 9-barrel system that work together to counterbalance the effect of paving a site of that size and preserve the ecosystem.

The 12-ft. (3.7 m) diameter detention pipe is being buried about 30 ft. (9.1 m) deep from the final grade, with about a foot of stone placed underneath the pipe and about a foot of stone placed on top before it’s covered with dirt and then topped with parking lot areas.

Tighe’s firm has rented a Pioneer belt-fed stone pump system to backfill around the detention pipe with about 50,000 tons (45,359 t) of No. 57 stone.

While the site featured difficult topography and rock, there was nothing that was not accounted for. The project began in July and is on schedule for completion in time for the first home game.

Approximately 30 workers are on the job six days a week “sun up till sun down,” Tighe said.

Other than slight traffic delays caused by deliveries, the job has not been a problem for the surrounding area.

Because of the fast-track nature of the project due to the drop-dead deadline of the opening home game, the Gwinnett Convention & Visitors Bureau is doing a design-build with a guaranteed maximum price with lead contractor Barton Malow.

“We’re at the table at all of the construction meetings,” Williams said. “[But] we pretty much had to put the controls in their hands to get it done.”

Gwinnett County funded the project — with a total price tag of $64 million including the land purchase — with a combination of a roughly $33 million bond issue and cash from the county’s reserve funds.

The bond issue will be paid off with monies from the county’s new car rental tax dedicated to paying off the bond as well as rent on the facility, a seat tax on tickets sold, some naming rights and sharing in some of the parking rights.

Neither the Braves nor the county had a “build it and they will come” mentality in choosing the site for the stadium complex, Williams said.

The site, located between Buford and Lawrenceville, Ga., about 30 mi. (48 km) from midtown Atlanta, is about a mile off Interstate 85, on 4-lane Highway 20, close to the Mall of Georgia.

“We built it in a highly desirable, developed area,” Williams said.

The county carved out 12 acres (4.9 ha) in the center of a 44-acre (17.8 ha) tract owned by Brand Properties, which will develop a mixed-use complex around it.

“From a use standpoint, it’s really unique,” said Matt Mitchell, a project architect for HKS Inc., which was hired by Barton Malow. “We’re expecting it to be one of the top two or three, or maybe the top minor league ballpark in the country.”

Such a development in a suburban area is very different, said Mitchell, noting his firm has done a lot of work to fit stadiums into urban development.

The stadium design — which worked with natural contours of the hilly site to cut in in certain places and tuck the bowl into the ground — also is noteworthy, he said.

The roughly 198,000-sq.-ft. (18,394.8 sq m) building includes team facilities, like locker rooms, batting cages and team offices; the team store, concessions, the Beers of the World restaurant and restrooms on the second level; and seats and administration on the third level.

AL Grading has used a variety of equipment on the job, including a Caterpillar D-9 dozer, D-6 dozer, 963 loader, 631 motorscraper, 740 articulated dump truck, 815 roller and 825 roller; a John Deere 850 excavator, TC62 loader and 330 excavator; Komatsu excavator models PC200, PC300 and PC78; and a Volvo A40 articulated dump truck.

All of that equipment was purchased by AL Grading. The Caterpillars came from Yancey Brothers, John Deere equipment from Metrac, the Komatsus from Tractor & Equipment and the Volvo from ASC Volvo.

Asked about the service received from these dealers, Tighe responded: “These guys are the best in the business.”

There are numerous subcontractors on the Gwinnett Braves stadium project, including C&H Baseball of Bradenton, Fla.; The Circle Group of Alpharetta, Ga.; Daca Paint of Chamblee, Ga.; Daktronics of Cumming, Ga.; Dynamic Doors of Cumming; Engineering Specialties of Suwannee, Ga.; Inglett & Stubbs of Mableton, Ga.; Irwin Seating of Grand Rapids, Mich.; Ivey Mechanical of Stone Mountain, Ga.; Joe Burton Company of Tucker, Ga.; Martin-Robbins Fence of Snellville, Ga.; Musco Lighting of High Point, N.C.; Metro Waterproofing of Scottdale, Ga.; and Overhead Doors of Atlanta.

Other subcontractors include Precision Concrete of Alpharetta.; ProMats Athletics of Salisbury, N.C.; Precision Turf of Buford, Ga.; Pyramid Masonry of Decatur, Ga.; Russell Landscape of Dacula, Ga.; SteelFab of Norcross, Ga.; Summers Roofing of Alpharetta; ThyssenKrupp of Marietta, Ga.; Trendo-Vick of Atlanta; Tendco-Vick of Atlanta; TSG Industries of Valdosta, Ga.; Windsor Fixtures of Lawrenceville, Ga.; and W.S. Neilsen of Alpharetta.

(This story also can be found on Construction Equipment Guide’s Web site at CEG

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