Clayco Constructing Chaifetz Arena

Story by Tom Hale | September 28, 2010

There is a buzz of excitement in St. Louis about Chaifetz Arena — Saint Louis University's (SLU) new $80.5-million, multipurpose arena. This state-of-the-art arena is quickly taking shape in the city's Midtown area, near the intersection of Compton Avenue and Interstate 64/Highway 40 on the eastern end of SLU's campus.

Ground was broken for Chaifetz Arena on Aug. 28, 2006, and the new facility is scheduled to open in April 2008. St. Louis-based Clayco is guiding construction of the arena complex, which includes a 10,600-seat arena with 12 private suites, a two-court basketball/volleyball practice facility, and support facilities for the athletic department and all SLU Division 1 sports programs.

Chaifetz Arena is a challenging, fast-paced project that is being built with thousands of cubic yards of concrete and tons of steel (1,500 tons of steel) in just 19 months. "The project is going very well," says Jared Hegeman, senior project manager for Clayco. "We are on schedule and a lot of activity is taking place on-site."

Making An Impact

SLU officials say Chaifetz Arena is sure to be the center of campus life — a true home court for the Billiken men's and women's basketball teams, and a showcase for concerts and other events.

"This facility will have a huge impact on the university," says Jeff Fowler, arena project spokesman for SLU. "Currently our on-campus basketball facilities are old, and this facility will allow SLU to compete with other top programs around the country. It will also mean that our men's team will be able to play their games on-campus instead of at Scottrade Center, which is a hockey facility and does not give SLU a home-court advantage. Our women's team still plays in the Baumann-Eberhardt Center, which was built in the 1920s. This will be a huge boost for them."

He adds, "The arena will allow students to walk to basketball games and other events at the multipurpose facility."

Chaifetz Arena — named for university alumnus Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, who contributed $12 million to the project — will host a myriad of SLU events, such as commencements, cultural events and conferences. And the new facility will provide a mid-sized venue for concerts, family shows, sporting events, trade shows, and other events in the St. Louis metropolitan area. "This will improve campus life dramatically because of the kinds of events we're going to be able to have on-campus," Fowler says.

At 10,600 seats, Chaifetz Arena will have the second-largest capacity in the Atlantic 10 Conference. The university anticipates more than 90 events in the arena in its first year of operation, with roughly half being non-university events.

Arena Amenities

Clayco has worked closely with the university and its architects — architect Mackey Mitchell Associates, St. Louis, and sports architect Sink Combs Dethlefs, Denver — to design and build Chaifetz Arena. The building, featuring a domed roof and predominately masonry exterior, has been designed to complement the campus architecture of Saint Louis University.

"Inside, the arena consists of an event floor level topped by two elevated decks," says Hegeman. The event level will include main functional areas needed to host a wide variety of events in the building. This level includes dressing rooms, a locker room complex, and a large hospitality room that will serve floor level and club seat patrons.

Visitors to Chaifetz Arena will be able to see down into the seating bowl as they walk through one of the two main entrances. The basketball and event floor is situated 25 feet below the main concourse, thereby creating great sightlines. A large club is located on the event level and a meeting area has been planned on the concourse level. According to SLU, the event floor level will be positioned so that the large service and loading area is hidden from spectator view.

The basketball/volleyball practice facility and athletic department offices will be located on the western end of the arena. The practice facility will also have approximately 1,000 retractable seats for use during home volleyball games. Sports medicine and strength and conditioning areas for all SLU athletes will be located within the arena.

Chaifetz Arena will feature state-of-the-art audio/video systems and scoreboards. "It will have four corner video scoreboards, and 360-degree LED ribbon board and LED floor tables," Fowler says.

Under Construction

Approximately 120 construction workers are currently working on Chaifetz Arena, according to Jeff Tubb, assistant superintendent for Clayco. "That total should rise to between 300 and 350 in August," he says.

A variety of operations are proceeding on the job site. "Concrete work is moving forward and it will be completed by the end of June or early July," says Hegeman. "We are also erecting precast risers for the seats."

"The concrete operation has been excellent," adds Clayco Project Manager Tony Mezines. He notes that crews have been averaging two pours per week for the walls and concourse levels.

Construction of Chaifetz Arena's roof will begin later this year. "We will start work on the high roof of the dome in early to mid-August," says Hegeman. "The big trusses are assembled off-site, and they will be trucked in and erected. It will be a huge logistical challenge."

According to Hegeman, keeping pace with the fast-paced schedule remains Clayco's prime challenge. Also, Clayco has had to contend with a tight site — coordinating material deliveries and placement due to limited lay down area.

The project team has encountered few surprises during the project. However, in the early stage of work there was a groundwater issue that had to be addressed. The team successfully solved this issue by performing extensive earthwork and raising the ground level of the arena by 13 feet, says Mezines.

Clayco is joined on the arena project by Stock & Associates, Chesterfield, Mo. — civil engineer; Alper Audi, St. Louis — structural engineer; Corrigan Co., St. Louis — plumbing and HVAC; Sachs Electric, Fenton, Mo. — electrical; Ahern Fire Protection, St. Louis — fire protection; and Eagle Plumbing, St. Louis — plumbing.

Other key project participants include Kuesel Excavating, O'Fallon, Mo. — earthwork; Concrete Strategies, St. Louis — structural concrete; DKW Construction Inc., St. Louis — rebar installation and steel erection; Drilling Service, Bridgeton, Mo. — shoring, piers and piles; Engineered Glass Systems of Missouri, LLC, Maryland Heights, Mo. — glass and glazing; Evans Fall Protection Systems, Jamestown, R.I. — fall protection; Hammert's Iron Works, St. Louis — steel fabricator; John Smith Masonry, St. Louis — unit masonry; Lindberg Waterproofing Inc., St. Louis — waterproofing; ThyssenKrupp Elevator Corp., St. Louis — elevators; and Zumwalt Corp., St. Louis — overhead doors.

SLU Revitalizing Midtown St. Louis

Saint Louis University is a Jesuit, Catholic university ranked among the top research institutions in the nation. The university has 12,040 students on campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Founded in 1818, it is the oldest university west of the Mississippi and the second-oldest Jesuit university in the United States.

For SLU, Chaifetz Arena marks the fruition of plans that date back several years. The original plan for a 13,000-seat arena came forward in 2002. Then, in late 2005, work began on redesigning the arena to include the practice facility and athletic offices. That's when it took its current shape.

Fowler says Chaifetz Arena will enhance the prominence of SLU and bring thousands of people to the Midtown area. "The arena is expected to bring an estimated 400,000 people a year to Midtown for events," he says. "Many of these will be people who might not have otherwise come here. We believe the economic benefit to the area will be dramatic."

Construction of Chaifetz Arena is another example of the university's commitment to the revitalization of Midtown St. Louis. Since 1987, SLU has invested more than $840 million in the area. The arena's benefits to the city will include new investment, jobs and secondary development in Midtown.

In addition to Chaifetz Arena, SLU also teamed with Clayco to build the 10-story Edward A. Doisy Research Center building, which is scheduled for completion this summer. "We have under way now the two largest building projects (together totaling approximately $160 million) in university history," Fowler says.

Inside Clayco

Clayco is one of the nation's largest, privately owned real estate, architecture and engineering, design-build, and construction firms. Headquartered in St. Louis, the company has full-service offices in Chicago and Detroit and provides turnkey services nationwide. Clayco served as project manager and cost and constructability consultant for the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The company also built the St. Louis Rams training facility and headquarters in Earth City, Mo., as well as training facilities for the NFL's Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens.

Overseeing the Chaifetz Arena project for Clayco is Tom Sieckhaus, vice president. Clayco's project team also includes David Molamphy, project manager; John Elizarraras, superintendent; Matt Reiter, project engineer; and Kris Schaefer, construction administrator.

On April 19, Clayco formalized an agreement with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) to promote a higher safety standard during construction of the Chaifetz Arena. The St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council is a supporting partner in the agreement. This private/public partnership between OSHA and Clayco is only the sixth implemented on a project in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Clayco has been involved in three of these agreements, including the Casino Queen in East St. Louis, Ill., and the Edward A. Doisy Research Center at SLU.