closer look at Plan B: Stadium building plans on fast
This is the 11th in a series of articles taking a closer look at ''Plan B,'' the financing mechanism proposed by Pittsburgh and Allegheny County officials to pay for new baseball and football stadiums and the expansion of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Today's installment is about probable timetables
for accomplishing an ambitious building plan.
Q: When would the two stadiums and a larger convention center open for business?
A: The goal is to have the football and baseball parks
ready for their respective seasons in 2001. That's
roughly April 1 for the Pirates and Sept. 1 for the
Steelers. The David L. Lawrence Convention Center, which
plays host to groups year-round, has more leeway. The
target is 2001, but there ''is no hard deadline,'' said
the Allegheny Conference on Community Development's
Harold Miller, coordinator of a task force that discussed
the center's size and direction. ''A few months is not
going to make a whole lot of difference.''
A: Stadiums usually take 20 to 28 months to build. New parks for the Baltimore Orioles, the Chicago White Sox, the Cleveland Indians and the Colorado Rockies went from shovel-in-the-dirt to opening day in two years' time. Those with roofs, such as the Toronto Blue Jays' Skydome and the Arizona Diamondbacks' Bank One Ballpark, took longer. Both Toronto and Arizona waited three years.
Neither the Pirates nor the Steelers want a dome. So, 24 months should do the trick -- for the construction, that is.
Most stadiums take two years to build, but another year to plan.
After all, the buildings need to be designed, the budgets needs to be set, the land needs to be acquired and the materials need to be purchased. The Pirates and the Steelers have to be as thorough as possible, detailing their need for toilets, refreshments, office space and the visitors' locker room, among other requirements.
Also, the contracting and design team must settle on the project's guaranteed maximum price. The workers will be held to this number.
The owners and the contractor will also set a finish date, obligating the building team to complete the project by the agreed deadline. If not, some team owners may exercise a so-called ''liquidated damage clause'' in their contract with the stadium builders.
This clause, included with many large construction projects, penalizes tardiness. Every day over the target may cost the contractor $10,000, for example. The costs can be higher, depending on the project. Some contracts at the Pittsburgh International Airport carried damage clauses of $25,000 per day.
No doubt, the schedule will be tight for either stadium. So, ''the earlier you get started, the better off you are,'' said Ray Steeb, general manager of Turner Construction Co., a firm that has built 20 stadiums and arenas for teams around the U.S. ''The determination to go forward needs to happen right now.''
It will take six months to acquire the land. And materials need to be purchased immediately, before they have a chance to fluctuate in price and availability.
Which they will.
A year ago, for example, contractors had to wait 20 weeks for steel. Now, the delay is 14 weeks. Rarer still are bar joists, the beams that support ceilings and floors. They are taking 26 weeks to arrive on the job site. Two years ago, lumber was in short supply. A year from now, it could be cement. Who knows?
That's the point. Materials are the unknown variable here. Stadium officials need to move soon if they want the project to proceed on schedule, since national manufacturers are struggling to keep pace with the demand for new construction. Time and price will fluctuate accordingly.
To purchase the materials, though, contractors need
more design information. Those renderings you've seen?
They're pretty pictures, but not much else. Contractors
need to have in their hands so-called schematic designs,
drawings that detail every joist, every brick.
A: This project should follow the same timetable as the stadiums: two years of construction, one year of planning.
The new one in Philadelphia, called the Pennsylvania Convention Center, took 24 months to build, and the center is 1.2 million square feet, thousands of feet larger than the expansion planned for Pittsburgh.
If Pittsburgh officials start the design this summer, as promised, ''they can get that done in 2001,'' said Ron Young, the Dick Corp. project manager for the Philadelphia center. ''I don't see a problem with that.''
In most cases, convention centers are easier to build
than stadiums. They feature lots of wide-open spaces.
Complicating matters in Pittsburgh is the expansion,
which contractors will have to build while the rest of
the convention center stays in business.
A: Bet on it. ''Would you want to be the contractor responsible for Pirates not opening in April 2001?'' said Dean Mosites, vice president with Mosites Construction Co., another firm interested in the two stadium projects.
The strategy is no different for a large department store or a new headquarters, experts said.
''If everything is planned correctly and materials hit the job site at the right time, the construction will be the easiest part of all this,'' Steeb said.
Think of it this way. The Empire State Building, one of the world's largest skyscrapers, went from dirt to spire in 13 months.
Some expect the ballpark contractor to have 20 months, tops.
''Time is beginning to get short,'' Steeb said.
The firm that gets the job will probably have to abandon the traditional design-bid-build method, which separates the architectural process from the contracting.
Using the traditional method, it takes 15 months to do the design, three months to hire the contractors and buy the materials and then 24 months to build the stadium. That's 3 1/2 years. Too long. The Pirates will be wrapping up their 2001 season by then.
Instead, the builders and the designers will have to work concurrently, using the so-called ''fast-track'' method. That should cut the time to 32 or 36 months.
There are ways to play catch-up, too.
Turner, for example, started work on the new 250,000-square-foot Lazarus department store and underground parking garage at Fifth Avenue and Wood Street six weeks later than it expected.
It built the supporting beams to street level and poured the first-floor concrete, allowing the firm to work up and down at the same time. Also, Turner could have used one crane to build around the site. Instead, it used two cranes, and it plans to have the store done in half the time.
''A lot of pressure comes down on the contractors to
make it work,'' Mosites said.
A: Half a dozen firms are vying for both projects. They include some of the biggest names in stadium construction, from Turner Construction to Southfield, Mich.-based Barton Malow Co. to Huber Hunt & Nichols Inc., the Indianapolis-based general contractor that built Three Rivers Stadium. Also, expect Kansas City-based HOK Sport to compete for the architectural contract on one, if not both, stadiums. The firm was involved with early work on both projects. Several local firms will probably seek participation, too.
The teams will most likely select a construction manager to oversee the project. That manager, working with the architects, will hire prime contractors for various needs of the stadium, from electricity to concrete to plumbing.
Expect the competition to be fierce. One stadium alone
could generate between 1,200 and 1,500 jobs per year of
construction, Steeb said.