Work Charges Ahead on $23M Rochester Rhinos’ Stadium

Tue April 05, 2005 - Northeast Edition
Mary Reed

After four years of planning, groundbreaking for a $23-million soccer stadium took place Jan. 15, 2004, in Rochester, NY, despite frigid temperatures and below zero wind chills.

Approximately 50 people attended the event, during which dirt that had been moved earlier by a backhoe was shoveled back to represent the start of the much-anticipated project.

Among those in attendance was Jon R. Barrett, senior project manager of Rochester-based prime contractor LeChase Construction Services LLC.

“No one could have predicted, a year ago, that some early mild temperatures this winter would have helped our construction schedule,” Barrett said. “We did get some harsh temperatures later in the winter but we still expect to stay on schedule. And, once it’s finished, PaeTec Park will be another jewel for local sports and for downtown Rochester.”

PaeTec Park, named for PaeTec Communications Inc., a national telecommunications company headquartered in Rochester, is being built on a 15-acre (6.1 ha) site. It will house the Raging Rhinos, an A-League team that is playing approximately a half-mile away at Frontier Field, which it shares with the Red Wings, the city’s Triple-A baseball team.

The Rhinos have had their eye on their own stadium since 1998, only two years after they were founded, and are hoping its construction will aid their move up into major league soccer; they hold the highest attendance record (more than 11,000 fans a match since the team was founded) of any A-League team.

The Rhinos will share their new stadium with the Rattlers, Rochester’s major league lacrosse team. The new facility also will provide a venue for high school and collegiate soccer, football, lacrosse and field hockey matches as well as non-sporting events such as concerts, shows, community events, and drum and bugle competitions.

The team expects to play approximately 42 games a year at its new stadium, which it will own although the site will be leased from the city for a rental fee of $1 annually for the next 45 years. It is anticipated that the stadium will open in August 2005.

The Rhinos are not the first soccer team that has called Rochester home. Between 1970 and 1980 the city hosted the Rochester Lancers, one-time winner of the North American Soccer League championship. The Lancers originally played in a stadium belonging to the Aquinas Institute of Rochester. The Aquinas Stadium was sold to the city in 1973 and renamed Holleder Memorial Stadium the same year in honor of 1952 Aquinas graduate Donald Holleder, a West Point All-American and infantry major who was killed in Vietnam in 1967 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Holleder Memorial Stadium was demolished in 1985 and the Holleder Technology Park now occupies its site.

Construction So Far

The project got under way in September 2004 and, by Thanksgiving, utility installation had been completed, earthwork had begun, and the foundation of the stadium was under construction.

DiFiore Construction Inc., headquartered in Rochester, NY, is carrying out earth and utility work as well as pile and pile cap construction for approximately $2 million.

“We were able to avoid severe landfill disposal costs by recycling on-site shot-rock to replace unsuitable soil and relocating the unsuitable soil to the area where the shot-rock was excavated on-site,” Stephen Hughes, president of DiFiore Construction, said. “This also provided for a solid base for the turf field so construction could progress through the winter months.

“The project has been smooth-running in large part due to the construction managers, LeChase Construction, and in particular project manager Dan Gasbarre and Site Superintendent Ed Dooley,” he added.

Herbert F. Darling Inc., based in Buffalo, NY, is handling pile driving for the stadium, which involves approximately 1,000 piles driven to rock. The company is using a 45-ton (40.8 t) American 4260 and 80-ton (72.6 t) Link-Belt LS138 H-II crawler cranes, plus a 22-ton (19.9 t) Grove RT-522 rough-terrain crane for the job, as well as ICE 422 diesel and Vulcan 506 air pile hammers.

In addition, an 8,000-lb. telescoping forklift, an 1,400 cfm Ingersoll-Rand compressor, and 250 amp Lincoln welders are on site.

Dant Clayton Corporation, of Louisville, KY, fabricated approximately 80 percent of the stadium and will supply not only structural steel, but also aluminum decking and plastic seating. Design and fabrication for the job started in October 2004 and is on schedule, with an estimated completion date of summer 2005.

“The project is going along as planned and we are looking forward to working on site. The company is currently getting ready to start erection of the stadium,” said Roger Ray, project manager. “We’ll be using up to about 20 employees for the job and expect to utilize 8000 Lull fork lifts, Boom type aerial lifts, and one or two cranes in the 40- to 60-ton range,” he added.

Start of Construction Delayed

Originally conceived in the late l990s, groundbreaking was expected to take place in August 2003. However, the start of construction was delayed by questions raised by the Greater Rochester Sports Authority (GRSA).

Established to oversee constructions and sell bonds for the project, GRSA raised questions about the proposed location of the stadium and also expressed reservations on whether or not the original plan for the facility was economically viable.

The Rhinos had initially proposed a 20,000-seat stadium that would have cost $50 million, with the team largely footing the bill. The project is partly funded by a $15-million grant obtained in 2000 from the NY Public Authority Control Board, which will pay most of the cost of construction.

The City of Rochester is contributing approximately $3 million, and the balance will be footed by the team. The original financial arrangements included a proposed increase in Monroe County hotel and motel taxes as well as the sale of Rhino bonds. However, GRSA did not approve the sale of bonds because it believed the team’s finances would not be enough to pay them when due.

The Rhinos also will renovate a building abutting the site to provide offices, a team store, and locker rooms for a cost of $2 million, rather than constructing a new building for twice that amount as originally planned.

The day before the groundbreaking, the city mayor and county executive said local and state funds would pay for moving Empire Precision Plastics Inc., which occupied the building, to a new location in Rochester.

Most of the $800,000 needed for the move was provided though a lease agreement with the building owner as well as grants and loans, with the Rhinos chipping in approximately $100,000.

In addition, as is fairly common for large building jobs and because the stadium will be constructed in an Empire Zone, which makes it eligible for financial incentives intended to encourage building in economically depressed areas of the state, on March 16, 2004, the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency approved a waiver of $300,000 for the team, representing county sales taxes on purchases made in connection with construction plus other tax abatements. The sales tax in Monroe County is 8.25 cents on each dollar, with the county taking 4 cents and the state the rest.

Archaeological Inspection Required

Further delay occurred in October 2003 when the Rochester Museum and Science Center conducted an archaeological dig. The Center had located the remains of building foundations bordering a stretch of the Erie Canal touching part of the site, and the investigation was required by the state’s Historic Preservation Office before construction could begin.

In June 2004 it became necessary to carry out a geological survey when questions were raised about soil stability and the height of the water table in connection with how deep the stadium could be built. It is to be built on a former industrial site where PCBs were found in the soil approximately 14 years ago. Now cleaned up, their presence was traced to a junkyard located there when the area housed an industrial park.

In August 2004, the team submitted new designs to the city for approval, after it was established that these two problems meant their initial plans to construct a bowl-shaped stadium up to 18 ft. (5.5 m) underground were no longer feasible.

The new plan called for a more traditional horseshoe-shaped stadium approximately 40 ft. (12.2 m) high. It will have 12,500 permanent and 4,500 temporary bleacher seats, with the capacity to be enlarged to 20,000 permanent seats plus 20 luxury boxes. The open end of the horseshoe will be grassed over for temporary bleachers.

Construction to Be in Three Phases

Initially granted naming rights for 20 years, PaeTec and the team renegotiated in their agreement in December 2003 and the company will now pay $2.1 million over seven years for the right to name the stadium PaeTec Park. Their contract also buys them right to host a company party once a year at the stadium.

PaeTec Park will be built in three phases.

• During the $19-million Phase I, 9,000 permanent lower-level armchair-style seats, 4,000 permanent bleacher seats and 4,500 temporary bleacher seats on the upper level will be constructed. This initial part of the job will include a video scoreboard, TV monitors scattered around the facility, rest rooms, a food court, and a club lounge. Twenty temporary suites also will be built.

• Phase II, costing approximately $3 million, will include rehabilitation work and construction of a press box plus expansion of the stadium’s catering and food concession facilities.

• Phase III ($3 to 4 million) will add 10 luxury suites (up to 20 may eventually be built) and possibly expand permanent seating to 20,000.

Part of the cost of Phases I and II is to be covered by the sale of bricks for sums ranging up to $125, which will form a commemorative wall and walkway at the stadium. The team is considering using artificial turf instead of grassing its field and plans to provide 400 parking spaces.

In Spring 2005, work will include laying the field surface, constructing the parking lot and concessions stands, installing the scoreboard, and renovating the building to be used for locker rooms.

According to Frank DuRoss, the Rhinos’ majority owner, the stadium is expected to provide 48 permanent jobs. In addition, its operation is expected to generate $600,000 annually in city, county, and sales taxes.

About the Companies

• LeChase Construction Services LLC, is a full-service construction management and general construction firm with extensive experience in many sectors of the industry.

Headquartered in Rochester, NY, with offices in Albany and Corning, NY, and Charlotte, NC, LeChase has constructed hundreds of buildings for clients throughout New York State, the eastern United States, Canada and as far away as the United Kingdom and Brazil.

The 60-year-old firm is widely recognized as one of the nation’s top contractors. LeChase completed more than $250 million in building construction last year.

• DiFiore Construction Inc., is a fourth generation family-owned business with deep roots in the Rochester, NY, area. Previous generations helped construct the original Rochester War Memorial and the company has recently been involved in work at the site of the Rochester Fast Ferry, The Greater Rochester International Airport, and numerous municipal highway and school projects.

Area projects carried out by DiFiore include athletic fields at East Rochester Central School District, Webster CSD, Honeoye Falls-Lima CSD, Livonia CSD, and Greece CSD, and the company is currently constructing a synthetic turf field at Waterloo CSD.

• Dant Clayton Corporation has been in the stadium business for more than 25 years.

The company offers expertise in all aspects of stadium projects from design through installation, with the capability of handling jobs ranging from fabricating small aluminum bleacher seats for little league parks to multi-million dollar stadiums.

Working nationally, its recent projects include the Milwaukee Mile race track and Ohio State football stadium end zone work, as well as football stadiums for the universities of Kentucky and Louisville. CEG