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All-star team was fielded for construction
By MARC STILES
So you're building a $517 million Major League Baseball ballpark which would normally take 50 months to complete. But this is Seattle and to save baseball in the Emerald City, the Mariners say you have to finish Safeco Field in just 34 months.
What to do?
For the Hunt-Kiewit Joint Venture, much of the answer was found in two words: tower cranes.
Unlike conventional cranes, tower cranes operate more quickly, efficiently and safely, said J.C. Brummond, stadium project manager. Brummond is with Kiewit; his counterpart from Huber, Hunt & Nichols is Dennis Gilbert, the Safeco Field project director.
There were, of course, other factors besides tower cranes that helped the partnership meet the deadline.
Teamwork was one. "Everybody had to do superhuman stuff," said Brummond, who praised the speed at which the architects at NBBJ labored.
The joint venture W.A. Botting/Poole & Kent, for instance, worked on the plumbing, which was prefabricated off site so crews could just roll systems into place. Brummond said many contractors came up with time-saving ideas.
Experience helped meet the deadline as well. Huber, Hunt & Nichols specializes in stadium and long-span roof design and construction. Huber Hunt and Kiewit have built 22 stadiums, including seven baseball stadiums, two retractable roof stadiums and six domed stadiums.
But the smartest, most experienced team in the world could not meet the deadline without tower cranes.
Unlike conventional or mobile cranes, tower cranes offer several advantages, according to Brummond. Tower cranes have faster swing speed and line speed. Plus the heights of the towers varied so the lines overlapped without colliding. And tower cranes take up less room and don't have to be moved as do conventional cranes, so their use was less disruptive, both on site and just outside the ballpark.
"We covered the entire job site with these four cranes," Brummond said. "Probably the biggest factor is you can build inside and outside at the same time. I was able to build the whole thing all the way to the top" without moving cranes.
The cranes made the work site safer. Conventional crane operators do not have the bird's eye-view that tower cranes do. Tower crane operators can see who and what is around what they're picking up and setting down.
It was not merely the short production budget that necessitated the use of the Liebherr tower cranes. The unstable soils of the construction site nixed driving heavy cranes back and forth across the field.
Traffic on surrounding streets was another issue. The Safeco site, like all construction sites, was constrained by its surroundings. Two sides of the new stadium are bordered by major streets: First Avenue South and South Royal Brougham Way. On the other two sides are railroad tracks and South Atlantic Street, which is less busy than the arterials but nonetheless a link in the busy industrial neighborhood's traffic grid.
"I would have had to close streets to have conventional rigs build the back half of the stadium," Brummond said.
All the advantages of tower cranes naturally cost more money. Brummond wouldn't say how much more.
Tower cranes were not the only mechanical factor at work in the speedy construction of Safeco Field. Crews were able to combine the most efficient construction methods to get the job done on time. In some instances, cast-in-place concrete worked best; in others, pre-cast concrete made the job go faster.
Using structural steel, which goes up quickly, not only helped crews stay on track. The steel also was left exposed to lend an air of old-time ballparks to the project, another key directive from the Mariners.
The true mark of the project construction success was measured by meeting the all-important July 15 deadline. The contractors did that; Safeco Field is set to open on time.
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