After nearly five years of starts and stops, construction on the new Arizona Cardinals stadium and multipurpose center is going full bore and taking a different approach. Rather than building the facility in layers from the foundation up, it will be built in sections like a pie. And there is a good reason for this unconventional approach to the football palace's construction: to make construction more economical and efficient.
Cost efficiency is the driving force behind the facility's construction. While the cost of the entire project has ballooned from $331 million two years ago to the current $370.6 million, a great deal of the increase can be traced back to delays in finding a home for the stadium. Also the cost-efficiency factor gives builders more time to finish off the inside before it opens for the 2006 National Football League season.
Another consideration pushing the momentum to keep the project in or under budget is the design-build contract signed last year by the stadium's owner, Arizona Tourism and Sports Authority (TSA), Hunt Construction Group and the Arizona Cardinals football franchise. According to TSA spokesman Brad Parker, if stadium is not finished according to the contract, both Hunt Construction and the Arizona Cardinals will have to bear the cost of any overruns. Parker said there is an incentive for the Arizona Cardinals to finish on time.
"They are penalized if it goes over schedule," he said. "Any cost overruns will be paid for by Hunt Construction and the Arizona Cardinals," The August 2006 scheduled completion date of the facility is in time for the 2007 Fiesta Bowl college football game.
TSA is overseeing design and construction of the new stadium and multipurpose center, and will ultimately own the facility. TSA is also responsible for distributing public funds generated by an increase in sales taxes on hotel beds and rental cars. The increase in taxes was part of Proposition 302, the voter initiative that construction of the facility possible.
In April 1997, the Arizona State Legislature passed a bill authorizing the creation of a multipurpose facility/stadium district. The bill enabled a stadium district comprised of multiple counties to authorize a vote to extend the current 1/4-cent sales tax in their jurisdiction to construct a new multipurpose stadium.
When the stadium is finished it will be one of the state's largest construction projects in recent years. The 63,000-seat facility features a retractable roof and a retractable natural-grass field that can be moved in and out of the stadium. The field sits on a 12-million-pound tray so it can get sun and be used for outdoor activities. Parker said it will be the first in North America to combine a retractable roof with a movable playing field.
Designed by architect Peter Eisenman, the new stadium takes its basic form from a barrel cactus. The skin of the stadium will feature large, reflective bluish-silver insulated metal panels with small gaps in between to allow light to flow in and out of the arena. The facility's roof will consist of Brunel roof trusses and Bird-Air fabric (a translucent fabric best known in Mountain America for its use on the main terminal building of Denver International Airport) leading up to the retractable roof opening.
The giant Brunel trusses (named for the engineer who devised their particular style for an English railroad bridge in the mid-19th century) will bear most of the weight of the stadium's roof. The trusses support retractable panels will slide open atop the trusses. The trusses and panels together will weigh as much as a small ship. Smaller roof support structures will connect to the Brunel trusses.
The roof will have two large retractable panels. This will allow the roof to be closed and the entire facility air conditioned in the hot months, while in the cooler months the roof will remain open to take advantage of the Arizona sunshine. In addition, the operable roof has been designed to provide the right balance of sun on the field and shade in the seats.
A major consideration in planning and construction is accessibility to those with physical handicaps. Recently, the Accessibility Advisory Committee (a panel made up of nine members of community groups and private citizens representing the needs of patrons with disabilities) convened to discuss stadium design concepts, and to deal with issues for those with disabilities. After careful consideration, it was decided that the stadium will be entirely wheelchair accessible with the exception of the maintenance catwalks above the top level. This is well in excess of what is required under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
Accessibility designs include unobstructed sight lines, both of the field level and of the scoreboards; an increase in the number of wheelchair-accessible restroom stalls; an increase in the number of family restrooms, and consideration for families wishing to sit together with a wheelchair-bound person. Also incorporated into the plans, all counters in restrooms and concession areas will be a consistent 34 inches tall to accommodate wheelchairs. In other words, there are no special countertop heights for wheelchairs; all the countertop heights are designed to be accessible for patrons in wheelchairs. And specifications for suites require that wheelchairs be able to maneuver in front of the suite's barstool area. This allows wheelchairs access to the suite seats as opposed to many suites which relegate wheelchairs to spots behind the barstool area. Ten elevators are currently specified to take patrons to all levels of the stadium including special wheelchair areas on the field level. In addition to community groups and individuals, the committee also has representatives from the Tourism and Sports Authority, the Arizona Cardinals, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Hunt Construction, HOK Sport, and the city of Glendale.
The stadium site encompasses about 25 acres, with the rest of the site hosting 16,000 parking spaces and several youth sports fields. When the stadium is fully operational the floor can then be used for conventions, concerts and other non-game activities. A berm will raise the entry level at the concourse by about 13 feet above normal grade. The playing field will be 39 feet below the entry level area.
Significant work is now under way above grade at the northern portion of the stadium closest to Maryland Avenue, directly across the street from the Glendale Arena. As of mid-April, 25,523 cubic yards of concrete had been poured. Slabs have been poured for club, suite and upper concourse levels. There has been 8.6 million pounds of steel rebar placed. Construction of underground utilities has started and preliminary discussions have been conducted with the Maricopa County Health Department regarding food service. Also, off-site steel fabrication for the roof is under way at Schuff Steel's 19th Avenue plant in Phoenix. Hunt Construction is working with the Glendale City Fire Department for fire hydrant location and other fire suppression requirements.
Mass excavation of the site was performed by a group of large earthmoving machines: a big Hitachi EX1800 excavator, three Caterpillar 776 off-highway haul trucks, a Caterpillar D9R dozer, two Cat motor graders, and an eight-wheeled water truck. The Hitachi EX1800 excavator handled the heavy digging. Nicknamed "T-Rex," the 200-ton excavator can move up to 21 tons of earth with every scoop.
In close cooperation with the excavator were three Cat 776 haul trucks. The three sequenced their movements by alternating their 120-ton loads of soil, transporting it from the excavator and then dumping the load onto a stockpile.
Hidden from view down in the bowl was the Cat D9R. It broke down huge embankments of earth created by the excavator and pushed the material forward to be gathered in the next scoop.
Working around these earthmovers were two Cat graders and a water truck. The graders maintained the chewed up haul roads, while the water truck continually doused the entire site to control dust.
While the parties involved in construction of the stadium continue to find new ways to finish the facility on time, another looming factor behind the push to get the mammoth 165-acre complex finished on time is major NFL and college bowl game money for the Valley's economy. Previous Fiesta Bowl college football games, played at Arizona State University's stadium in Tempe, had a substantial impact on the local economy. Parker said the TSA looked closely at the economic impact of recent Fiesta Bowl and the Super Bowl games on the host city's coffers. He said the last Fiesta Bowl generated around $150 million for the city of Tempe, while Super Bowl XXXVIII, played in Houston's Reliant Stadium, brought in approximately $300 million.
Real estate development — primarily hotels in the vicinity — is also a huge consideration. Julie Frisoni, spokeswoman for city of Glendale, said that the construction of several hotels in the area is planned. But she wouldn't disclose much information due to the hush-hush nature of negotiations between local developer Steve Ellman and the mega-hoteliers who could be building hotels in the area.
Parker said many of the big names in the hotel business told him they were interested in building near the area. Frisoni said hoteliers are considering at a 600-room hotel, a large hotel with a golf course, a hotel and convention center combination, and hotels with retail space. She said the city of Glendale is anxious to see the hotels in the area.
"The canvas is broad and blank," Frisoni said. "The details are being hammered out."
Parker added having hotels in close proximity to the stadium is good for state tourism, as well. "If we can attract the out-of-state visitors, then they could stay in Arizona for an extended stay. It's good for the state's tourism industry."
The good news surrounding the construction of the Arizona Cardinals football team's new home follows a string of problems that impeded attempts to move ahead with the construction of the publicly funded facility. Among obstacles that had to be overcome: Nearly three years after voters approved the construction funding for a new $355-million stadium and multipurpose center in Tempe, Ariz., the Federal Aviation Administration blocked the construction of the stadium in Tempe because of its proximity to Sky Harbor International Airport. Then, a lawsuit was filed with the state Supreme Court by local real estate developer John Long claiming the whole public funding mechanism was illegal. The court ruled on Long's suit last year, allowing construction to continue.
Following removal of these legal roadblocks to the facility's construction, interest appears to be growing in the Glendale area as a mega sports and entertainment venue. Once the Arizona Cardinals stadium is complete, and open for business, it will complement the new 17,500-seat Phoenix Coyotes NHL hockey arena next door. Also, a preliminary fact-finding mission was recently conducted during the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four tournament. In addition to the revenues generated by the Fiesta Bowl and a Super Bowl, a Men's Final Four tournament would generate about $40 million, a TSA report said.