When the renovation of Chicago’s Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears football team and a venue for numerous concerts, was announced, Rob Blackadar, who was then a district manager of United Rentals, wanted his company to be the predominant supplier of aerial equipment for the job. The project was a fast track job scheduled to take one and a half years. With all of Chicago watching every move, the $632-million renovation and parking garage addition is the type of high profile project Blackadar believed United Rentals needed in order to build the company’s visibility in Chicago.
Blackadar arranged for United’s Addison, IL, branch to assign Territory Manager Brian Lynch, to the nearly full time task of calling on every potential bidder, including both general contractors and all the subs. Lynch spent nearly a year before work actually started, bird-dogging organizations that were preparing bids and helping to determine the type and quantity of aerial equipment that would be needed. At times, that even involved reviewing the architectural schematics.
Demolition of the interior of the old structure started in January 2002, after the Bears’ last home game, and assembly of the new seating structure started early last spring. The work coincided with the availability of a new line of boom lifts from JLG Industries Inc. and the company’s new productivity packages for aerial work platforms. While Lynch was making his calls, he knew that the new equipment would be available and that United Rentals had the capital to afford the new products in sufficient quantity to supply the entire job. It provided an extra incentive for customers to use United Rentals, Addison for their aerial equipment requirements.
The new productivity packages that JLG announced last spring were under the umbrella name of Workstation in the Sky. The driving principle behind these Workstations is to add value to the aerial work platform by equipping them with integrated tools to increase job site productivity. One requirement was to get power to the platform of boom lifts so tools most often used in construction could be operated from the platform without the need for auxiliary generators. JLG integrated a 7,500-watt generator powered by the boom lift’s engine into the engine compartment, and power lines were routed through the booms to outlets in the platform. The new development eliminates the need for auxiliary ground-based generators and often times-cumbersome leads draped down from a platform to a generator. Worker efficiency also is improved since they do not have to stop and move a generator every time they change positions where they are working.
JLG has used the generator design, called the SkyPower system to introduce a whole series of Workstation in the Sky products. They include the SkySaw system, concrete saws; SkyCleaner system, pressure washers; SkyCutter system; and SkyWelder system, stick and TIG welders, among others.
The SkyWelder system was particularly important to Lynch and United Rentals and has become the most popular productivity-enhancing product at the SoldIer Field job. A significant portion is replacing the old stadium seating with steel framing that holds pre-cast concrete risers. Since boom lifts equipped with the Skywelder feature incorporate a 250-amp Miller CST 250 welder on machines with platform height up to 135 ft. (41 m), the steel erectors were able to use them for almost all of the welding assembly needed on the job.
One of the new boom lifts to play a role in the Soldier Field project was a 86-ft. (26 m) platform height model with an unusual feature that made it just right for the job. Designated model 860SJ, the new machine is built on a fixed frame and designed with a low center of gravity. The boom can be fully deployed without the need for extendable axles. Width is 98 in. (249 cm) versus the 120 in. (305 cm) or more required on most other machines. That is an important feature on a site such as Soldier Field. The job site is crowded, so boom lifts that could be used without deploying outriggers or extendable axles were an added plus.
Armed with the promise of the new JLG aerial equipment and the efficiency advantages it offered contractors, Lynch was able to sign up virtually every contractor and sub-contractor on the entire Soldier Field job. During the summer months when work was at full strength, as many as 200 JLG aerial lifts were on the job.
Throughout the project, have hoped to complete the renovated stadium for the Bears’ next home opener using the efficiencies offered by JLG equipment, and United Rentals’ ability to supply them in the quantities needed.