Saturday, October 06, 2001

Building the new Reds ballpark requires major league precision

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Building Great American Ball Park has been a ballet in steel-toed boots.

        For the past year, construction workers have hoisted steel and poured concrete in precisely choreographed movements around a site barely large enough to hold the 1.2-million-square-foot stadium they're putting together.

        With a river to the south, a highway to the north and arenas to the east and west, erecting the Reds' new $280 million home has required a detailed sequencing plan, exquisite timing and a double dose of ingenuity.

[photo] In the tight space between Firstar Center and Cinergy Field, the skeleton of Great American Ball Park begins to take shape.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        It has all come together, so far, as the construction crews mark one year on the job.

        With the lower concrete seating bowl now clearly visible under the black skeleton of the scoreboard in front of Firstar Center — along with steel risers that will hold the second level of seats taking shape east to west — the ballpark is beginning to look like, well, a ballpark.

        But it hasn't been easy getting here. The site has offered a variety of obstacles and headaches for construction managers and the 500 workers on site.

        No one is more familiar with the challenges than Eric Schreiner, construction manager for the project. Mr. Schreiner's company, Hunt Construction of Indianapolis, has built more than 60 sports facilities across the country.

        None has been more challenging than Great American Ball Park.

        “We've built on other difficult sites, but we have not built one on a site like this,” said Mr. Schreiner, who was responsible for putting together the plan for how to build the stadium.

        “This is a unique situation,” he said. “This job is really made up of a lot of separate projects.”

    Great American Ball Park construction milestones to be reached during the next 15 months:
    Jan. 1, 2002: Steel for the Reds administration building will be in place.
    April 1, 2002: All steel to support seating decks in the stadium will be in place.
    June 15, 2002: Administration building completely enclosed and all “skin” in place on the exterior.
    Aug. 1, 2002: Begin installation of sprinkler system for the playing field.
    Nov. 1, 2002: Administration building complete and ready for move in.
        The first project was clearing enough land to allow crews to build the flood wall around the site of the new ballpark. To accomplish that, they ripped a 14,000-seat chunk from the outfield of Cinergy Field.

        But there have been dozens of far more subtle challenges associated with building on the site, derisively referred to as “The Wedge” by critics who claimed it was too tight for a stadium.

        One of the biggest problems with the close quarters is the inability to place tower cranes outside the site. The crane being used to install most of the structural steel is 220 feet tall and strong enough to lift 192 Volkswagen Beetles.

        Typically, the cranes are positioned on the outside, looking in. They are used to install precast concrete seat decks and the 10,000 tons of steel for the scoreboard, light towers and canopy — enough steel to build the Statue of Liberty 81 times.

        Since placing the cranes outside the stadium is impossible here, crews work around three to four cranes inside the site every day. All the while, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and masonry trade contractors work in proximity.

        “We had to figure out how to get all the steel erected on the field and still have all the other activities going on and not trip over each other,” Mr. Schreiner said.

        Another challenge has been keeping at least one lane of Mehring Way and Ramp LL, off Fort Washington Way, open at all times. The weight of materials during transport has also been a concern.

        “We've had smaller batches of concrete delivered in more trucks to cut down on the weight on the roads,” said Mike Sieving, construction executive for Hamilton County. “And we've had a constant policy of cleaning the streets to keep the dust down.”

        Crews are erecting the steel in a counter-clockwise direction in three defined passes. Once the steel is set, crews work behind the cranes pouring and attaching concrete.

        “The whole sequencing program is like a chess game,” said Project Manager Arnie Rosenberg. “Each piece has to move in a defined sequence, almost immediately behind the preceding movement.”

        There are more practical problems, as well. Like where to put all the materials and equipment needed to build the stadium.

        Scaffolding, pallets of wood and metal piping are piled in the middle of what will eventually be the playing field. Portable restrooms dot the surface, along with backhoes, concrete hoppers and the massive tower cranes.

        Deliveries can only be made off Mehring Way, with an access road ringing the playing field.

        The materials are lined up close to where they are needed: steel and concrete on the northern edge of the ballpark where the steel is being erected; wood for form work in the southwest corner where the horseshoe-shaped concrete deck is begining to stretch along the southern edge of the site.

        Mr. Rosenberg, whose job is to oversee construction, gave the project — and the planning that went into it — a high grade.

        “I'd say we're in the B+ range,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “Could things have been done better? Yes.

        “But our plan was critical because of the site, aggressive schedule and budget. We put a workable plan together and we're moving forward with it. Nothing has happened to make me believe we have to make drastic changes to that plan.”

        The ballpark will open in April 2003. Cinergy Field will then be torn down, and crews will work for another year building the four outside buildings surrounding the ballpark's plaza.


- Building the new Reds ballpark requires major league precision
Guardsmen on duty at airport
New runway's effects listed
City's bill for lawyer over limit
Arson likely in barn fires
City race issues analyzed
Man sentenced to 65 years in killing
Paideia schools rank low
Proof city's settling down: mayor monitors football
Tristate A.M. Report
UC hunts for spots to trim
Web site provides tax levy figures
Workers thought photos OK
SAMPLES: The Point
Antiques show back in old home
School adds adviser for kids
Transcribing fee called 'exorbitant'
Area emergency workers reflect on 9-11
Districts differ over funding
Education theme: 'Go Higher'
Harlan bids farewell to National Guard troops
Kentucky News Briefs
Oil tanks probably polluting
Public's wishes to be in park plans
Rescuers' fate hits hard
State faces possibility of more budget cuts