Arena project required speed, flexibility and brilliance
In the end, it was a “big, tough, hairy project” that was executed brilliantly.
The CFG Bank Arena project team was tasked with completing a gut renovation in just 11.5 months and with zero flexibility on the completion date.
“People had their doubts about the schedule, but we made it clear from day one that this project was going to finish on time,” said Justin Maher, Construction Executive with Clark Construction. “We always stayed positive. Don’t ever get down on a job because it spreads like a virus.”
Project leaders conducted extensive and ongoing communications with everyone from company executives to foremen and craftspeople to ensure everyone remained committed to the schedule and stayed on top of an exhaustive list of micro goals.
The team also put contracts, purchases and work in motion far earlier than usual.
“When we started the job, we had about 60 percent design documents which made it very challenging for our team and our trade partners to get coordination going and get all the materials released,” Maher said. “We did early procurement GMP [guaranteed maximum price] for the mechanical and electrical equipment. That was done almost in conjunction with the notice to proceed and before boots were on the ground.”
The accelerated schedule meant that Clark Construction had to successfully procure subcontracting services when some documents were just 30 percent complete and continue onboarding new subcontractors well into the project, said Theo Tan, Project Executive at Clark. “We didn’t get fully done with the process until maybe two-thirds of the way through our contract schedule.”
But the subcontractors and craftspeople brought onto the CFG Bank Arena project worked wonders. In total, they earned four, individual Craftsmanship Awards.
Craftsmen from JCM Associates, Inc. executed a massive upgrade of the arena’s mechanical systems. That included installing custom, modular and roof-mounted air handling units, and upgrading the heating and chilled water plant with new supply pumps, expansion tanks, air separators, steam stations, and piping. As part of the sweeping renovation of plumbing systems for the arena’s restrooms, kitchens, bars and concessions, they added a three-pump booster package to ensure the plumbing could withstand a maximum capacity event and verified that capability through a “super flush procedure.”
The most challenging aspect of the mechanical package was the installation of two modular, double-stacked, 23-foot-high, air handling units inside arena. Using a crane that was set inside the arena bowl, the crew sequentially lifted hundreds of pieces and several tons of hardware up to the fifth floor and assembled the massive system.
Craftspeople from Freestate Electric Baltimore overhauled the building’s power generation, distribution and switch gear, as well as its fire safety systems and installed a massive array of specialty lighting fixtures and controls. To complete the work on schedule, Freestate had as many as 235 people working onsite daily, spread across all floors and electrical closets.
While completing the framing, drywall and acoustic panels package, the Commercial Interiors crew delivered an extraordinarily complex and prominent drywall feature in the arena. The project design called for a Tectum-lined partition – roughly 86 feet long and 100 feet tall – that would flank the sides of the stage and cover those 23-foot high, air handling units. Working off boom lifts and scaffolding, the crew erected the partition up to the roof then made meticulous cuts to create a tight seal around complex, geometric shapes.
The need for dramatic structural improvements required Berlin Steel’s craftspeople to complete slab infills, a terrace extension, stadia openings and the installation of a new platform-end truss system.
“Essentially what they did was stick build a new truss up in the ceiling joist system which was a phenomenal task,” Maher said. “They hoisted up one piece of truss at a time and these were ginormous truss sections. They rigged every piece of steel member up there, piece by piece, bolt by bolt, and fabricated it in place. Then they had to do a load transfer from an old ceiling truss to the new one. It was done brilliantly.”
In addition to the known challenges of the arena project, team members had to rapidly adapt too and correct a string of unhappy surprises. While working on the 90-foot-high ceiling above the arena bowl, crews discovered asbestos in the old acoustical cloud system. The project team erected a 40,000-square-foot dance floor to complete the remediation and kept the project on schedule.
Towards the end of the project, elevators, which workers had relied on to move material, broke down “so we lost our means of vertical transportation during a hectic portion of the fitout,” Maher said. “We were maxing out at almost $1 million of work per day in that space which meant moving a lot of equipment and hauling a lot of trash. We had to pivot pretty quickly to keep progress high in the building.”
The team rapidly found a very large forklift, a MagniLift, that they could place in the arena bowl and reach floors two to five.
“That lift was a microcosm of the job,” Tan said. “We had surprise after surprise in a very short period and the ability to think on your feet and be flexible was needed every moment of that project.”
The team’s approach to the arena project, however, fostered an extraordinary level of commitment among team members.
“We had a lot of young team members who had reasons to not want to stick it out all the way to the end on a big, tough, hairy project like this,” Tan said. “But they did. Every single team member stuck it out all the way to the end, filled with belief the entire way and just gutted it out. There is not a single person who was on that project who didn’t come out on the other end a better leader, a better builder, a better engineer.”