Sometimes large construction jobs call for small equipment. A prime example of this is the more than $300-million stadium renovation project taking place on the Oklahoma State University (OSU) campus.
The renovation of OSU's Boone Pickens Stadium, formerly known as Lewis Field, began in 2003 after a resurgence of Cowboy football sparked an ambitious fundraising project, dubbed "The Next Level," for the field's renovation. The field was renamed Boone Pickens Stadium during the 2003 football season to honor OSU alumnus Boone Pickens, a Texas oilman and entrepreneur who founded Mesa Petroleum Co. Pickens kick-started the fundraising project by donating $165 million to the college, in order to create an "athletic village" on the campus.
But before construction could begin on the massive renovation project, a construction firm had to be chosen. Flintco Inc., the largest American Indian-owned construction company in the world with more than 700 employees and offices across the country, was one of almost a dozen contractors to submit bids on the project. In the end, it was chosen to perform the high-profile renovation.
The project encompasses three construction phases. Phase 1 began in January 2003 and involved renovating the south side of the stadium by adding new restrooms, dining facilities, club level amenities, additional seating, skybox suites, and a new press box. For Phase 2, Flintco performed the same renovations it had in Phase 1, only this time to the north side of the stadium. During this portion of the project, the company had to close Hall of Fame Street, which runs immediately north of the stadium. Today, Flintco has begun Phase 3, or renovation of the stadium's west end, which will feature new skybox suites, bowl seats, locker rooms, a weight training area, a 130-person auditorium, and new kitchen and dining facilities for the university's athletic teams. The coaches and administration aren't getting left out of the improvements either. They'll receive brand new offices with balconies overlooking the stadium. At the completion of the renovation, which is expected in fall 2007, the stadium's seating capacity will increase from 44,770 to an estimated 60,000.
Terry Nelson, equipment warehouse manager for Flintco, has been involved in the project from the beginning. As with any major construction, planning the project required a lot of time and consideration, especially since Flintco would be performing the work in and around OSU football seasons. "Each week, we had to shuffle in excess of 40,000 people around and through the job sites, so safety was a very big factor," Nelson says. "We have a very strong safety program. In fact, we have been recognized as having one of the top three safety programs in the nation, so a big emphasis was placed on that."
As Flintco crews worked on the stadium through football seasons, they secured the phases, or areas, under construction. "It was a little tricky getting 40-plus thousand people in and around, and making sure everybody's OK and no one's injured. But we had a good plan that worked well," Nelson says. "Now, we didn't work on game day of course ... but Sunday morning we were off and rocking again."
As many as 500 construction workers can be found at the job site helping to take the OSU stadium to the next level. But if you look more closely, you'll find another team of hard workers vital to the stadium's renovation — a team of compact equipment.
Flintco has enlisted the help of several Bobcat® skid steer loaders, a compact track loader and a compact excavator. Nelson says they like the compact equipment because with it, they're able to access restrictive areas and perform jobs that would have required handwork. "We've used Bobcat compact equipment for so long, it's like another hand," he says. "We use them everywhere. And there are just so many different times, on so many different projects, that without the ability of these machines to get into places and do what we need them to do, you're talking about a lot of additional cost and man-hours possibly spent hand digging."
At the OSU stadium job site, the Bobcat 753, S185 and S150 skid-steer loaders are used for many tasks, including adding more piers and columns to the stadium's foundation. In order to do this, Nelson says the skid-steer loaders must drill and move dirt around the stadium's existing piers, which means they must maneuver within tight quarters. To knock out old foundation, Flintco crews attached a hydraulic breaker to the skid-steer loaders and then used the Bobcat 435 compact excavator to finish digging it out. On a job of this size, Nelson says it's not unusual for all of the equipment to be working at once or in tandem.
The lone compact track loader on the job site tackles grading tasks, especially in forming the stadium's basement walls. Nelson says the rubber-track undercarriage and belly pan on the Bobcat T250 provides exceptional traction, enabling it to climb in and out of muddy holes that have been excavated to form and pour the basement walls. "It did a tremendous job of climbing the banks with loads of dirt and gravel and different tools that we needed," he says.
Not only are the loaders expected to work in extremely tight areas, but so is the Bobcat 435 compact excavator that crews mainly use to dig out the stadium's foundation walls. Like the loaders, the 435 compact excavator must work around obstacles such as existing piers and columns. A major feature that helps with this is the 435's zero house swing (ZHS), which keeps the boom swing casting and both front corners within the excavator's tracks. Because much of the boom and cab always stays within the width of the excavator's tracks, it decreases an operator's chance of accidentally striking a building or other structure. "It's definitely paid off for us because operators know where their backend is at all times," Nelson says. "They know that if they're in an area and they have to swing, then they're going to be secure in their turn."
While a major factor in using compact equipment is its size, Nelson says the loaders' payload and the excavator's bucket breakout force are also big draws. Such power and performance allow Flintco crews to get a lot of work done fast. "We're on a tight schedule; we have from the end of the football season until the start of the next season in order to complete certain items," he says. "The equipment plays a big role in keeping the project on schedule because they do tasks at a quick pace."
Another draw of using compact equipment in renovating OSU's Boone Pickens Stadium is the versatility it provides. By simply switching attachments, a loader can be transformed from a digging machine into a sweeper, concrete pumper, backhoe, concrete breaker, post hole driller, landscape rake, and more than 70 other choices.
In addition to using the hydraulic breaker for demolishing the existing foundation, Flintco crews used auger attachments on the loaders in order to dig holes for light poles around the stadium property. Surprisingly, Nelson says the company began using auger attachments only a decade ago. And now that they're part of the equipment fleet, Nelson says he doesn't know how they operated without them. "Before, we did a lot of hand digging and a lot of the work we subcontracted to pier drillers, which is pretty expensive," he says. "Now, we're able to utilize the auger attachment and we save ourselves and the people we work for a lot of money. We get in, drill the piers, pour them, and it's a done deal. Whereas before, we were waiting on a subcontractor and working around their schedule."
In the past, Flintco crews would also use a bucket to transport vast amounts of concrete into areas to fill piers, walls and footings. But today, they use a Bobcat concrete pump attachment that can pump concrete as far as 250 feet horizontally and up to two stories vertically, depending on hose length and diameter, and conditions such as slump, additives, and aggregate size and type. Nelson says the loaders' powerful auxiliary hydraulics become important to the performance of this attachment. The pump can place concrete up to 18 cubic yards per hour with a standard hydraulic flow Bobcat loader or up to 25 cubic yards per hour with a high-flow loader.
When Flintco crews reach the end of their day, it's time to place another attachment on their skid-steer loaders — the sweeper attachment. Cleaning up the job site is a daily task that doesn't go unchecked by Flintco crews. They use the Bobcat sweeper to clear dirt and debris from streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and other areas around and inside the stadium. "Our company places an emphasis on keeping the job site clean and organized. It's a big part of our safety program," Nelson says. "If you have a cluttered job site, then you've got potential hazards."
From the start of the workday to the end of the workday and from the start of Phase I to the completion of Phase III, compact equipment remains a valuable team player on the more than $300-million OSU stadium renovation project. And don't expect compact equipment to disappear from the OSU campus landscape anytime soon. "There are several other projects coming up that we're working on for Oklahoma State University, and we'll continue to staff those different projects with the Bobcat compact equipment that we own," he says.