Along Paul “Bear” Bryant Drive, University of Alabama supporters in Tuscaloosa are cheering on construction crews completing a multi-million dollar athletic department renovation and expansion. Approximately nine months ago, University Athletics began upgrading its facilities, which will serve as a model for other universities across the nation.
Various campus-wide renovations and additions include a 20,000 sq. ft. (1,858 sq m) weight room and the largest aqua therapy area in the Southeastern Conference. The project also involves creating locker rooms, a new Astro play field in the indoor practice facility and new administrative offices, said Thad Turnipseed, University of Alabama’s director of Intercollegiate Athletics Capital Projects.
“We’re very excited about all the changes taking place,” said Turnipseed. “There’s definitely a lot going on and plenty to keep up with, but it’s going to be well worth the wait.”
Work on Phase I of the construction began in May and was completed in October, said Hudak & Dawson Construction Company project manager Jim Robinson.
“We’re basically doubling [the athletic facility’s] size because of the need for additional space,” said Robinson, whose Gadsden, AL-based company serves as the general contractor. “Our contract actually called for a January completion date, but the athletic department wanted to have it ready before then because of recruitment. They want to be able to bring players in to show them the new facility. The time frame for this has definitely been the biggest challenge for us.”
Crews also had to deal with rain and traffic delays.
“Saturdays can be rather difficult. On game day, the parking lot adjacent to where we’re building is where the fans park their RVs. The driveway we use is blocked by folks who don’t take the time to think about how we’re supposed to get in and out. And even though we’ve got all the work fenced in, lots of onlookers stop by and want to know what’s going on,” said Robinson. “It can be a little distracting at times, but I understand that it just goes with the territory. I’m a big Alabama fan myself, so I’m actually getting a kick out of being here.”
Although construction has gone smoothly, work hasn’t been without its snags.
“We’ve run into different problems,” noted Robinson. “For example, we had to tear down the existing tennis stadium and courts. There were steam lines, various power lines and fiber optic cables that were not easily located. We had to re-locate them by finding ways that wouldn’t interfere with other buildings on campus or shutdown the existing building,” Robinson noted.
E & H Steel of Midland City, AL, was the primary structural steel and miscellaneous steel supplier for the project.
“Our erector, Garrison Steel, started work on the University of Alabama campus back in August,” said E & H Steel project manager Eric Mele. “Our targeted completion date was ten weeks, but erection was very successful and we completed in only seven weeks.
“Phase two will tentatively begin in January and we will once again provide the structural and miscellaneous steel erection. Fortunately, there were minimal problems affecting the project. We shipped approximately 207 of the 252 tons to the job site for phase one. Our basic equipment included standard welding machines, torches, a stud gun for composite stud installation, as well as a Link-Belt LS 238 crane.
“Once notification was received that the concrete had reached its required 75 percent of designed strength, steel erection could begin with erecting of the columns and beams, the second floor and roof levels,” explained Mele. “Once up, all designated full-penetration connections were welded out completely and tested for accuracy and flaws. Columns were plumbed and bolting and welding was completed.”
Shear studs were shot at the composite second floor level and detail work –– slab closures and roof edge angles –– were installed as all secondary work was completed. Miscellaneous metals such as steel stairs and handrails also were installed at this point.
“The biggest challenge,” noted Mele, “was to coordinate the work, the people and the school, all at one time. Everyone had their preferred schedule. Fortunately we had a good group that worked very well with each other and thus our part finished ahead of schedule.”
Another subcontractor, Columbia Precast LLC, of Columbia, TN, was responsible for furnishing the precast for the addition to the athletic facility.
“We recently completed the first phase as far as the erection and production of pre-cast,” plant manager Joe Taylor said. “Phase one had 105 panels in it and all had to be shipped and erected, except for eight which will probably be placed this month during phase two. They want to be able to put the people in the first addition before they start tearing out for the renovation.”
“The project was fairly routine, although parts of it were more difficult than usual because some of the panels were more challenging to deal with,” he noted. “They had to be shipped by themselves on 45-degree racks, just to get them to the job site. A couple of loads were oversized just because of the makeup of the panels.
“There’s one that’s sort of a ’z’ shape and part of it had to ship over the side of the trailer, basically. Most of the load was shipped conventionally on flatbed trailers in a routine manner. And we were shipping before production was complete because there was an area that the architects had not specified exactly what they wanted even a week before we were scheduled to finish up.”
“The precast [which was custom-ordered] is basic concrete with special rock and sand,” noted Taylor. “The university wanted this particular job to look as much like limestone as possible, so we used a special cement and pigment to attain that feature. It’s a very light sandblast, so it will assume the overall effect of limestone if you’re back from it from any distance. Things went well [with the precast], as did the production of the panels. We used fiberglass molds where the product was poured out. That means pouring one day and demolding the next. Then they are carried out to our yard and turned up so they can be sandblasted. They are cured a minimum of seven to ten days before they are able to be transported, because they have to attain an overall PSI of 5,000, to meet the specifications for this project.”
Columbia Precast crews used two 10-ton (9 t) Demag overhead cranes, a 40-ton (36.3 t) Grove exterior crane and a 75-ton (68 t) Terex crane, all owned by the company.
Work also is under way on new tennis and soccer stadiums. The soccer stadium will seat 1,500 and will house new locker rooms, coaches’ offices, new benches and concession areas. The tennis stadium will accommodate 1,000 individuals and will feature new Deco Turf courts. In addition, Bryant Hall is undergoing a renovation that will make it the largest all-sport academic center in the country. New computer labs and academic support services for collegiate athletics are included in the design.
Beginning in May 2004, Coleman Coliseum will undergo a renovation that will include a new ’club’ level. New arena seats, new systems and a recruiting room will be among the features added, along with concessions and expanded restroom facilities. New offices also will be added for baseball, basketball, softball and gymnastics. In December, crews also will take on the expansion of the north end zone expansion at Bryant-Denny Stadium. This will provide up to 9,000 new seats plus luxury skyboxes.
Other subcontractors working on the project include Double D Electric, Montgomery Woodworks, Lee Company HVAC and Plumbing and All South Roofing. The projects in total are scheduled to be completed by September 2005.
Photo courtesy of the University of Alabama Athletic Department