Sitework And Softball

By Steve Hudson | September 28, 2010

In Gulf Shores, Ala., Gadcon, Inc. is nearing completion of the Gulf Shores Sportsplex, a major multifield facility for hosting softball games and other sporting events. It's the talk of the Gulf Shores sporting community — but it's just one of the many and varied projects that Gadcon crews have constructed in south Alabama over the years.

Gadcon, Inc. came to Foley, Ala., from Kentucky about four years ago when Tim Gaddis Sr. decided that the Gulf Coast would be a nice home for his family.

"We used to vacation in the Gulf Shores area," says Tim Gaddis Jr., now director of operations and project manager, "and we realized that this would be a great location for our business to expand."

The Gaddis family's involvement in construction traces back to 1909 as an excavation, demolition and trucking business in Owensboro, Ky., known as Charles Gaddis & Sons. Today, five generations later, the family business continues as Gadcon, Inc., which was established in western Kentucky in 1991 by Tim and Barbara Gaddis — and the company still maintains its Kentucky division, which operates under the direction of vice president Cary Gaddis, brother of Tim Sr.

"The company's name has changed through the years," notes Tim Gaddis Sr., president of the company, "but the family running it remains the same."

Al Quesenberry, Gadcon's senior project manager for both of the Gadcon operations, travels between Kentucky and the Gulf Coast as projects require.

Initially, Gadcon focused on the utility construction business, focusing then as now on Mobile and Baldwin Counties. But the company soon grew to include earthwork, storm drainage, concrete, demolition, and related activities — and today, as Tim Gaddis Jr. puts it, "Our mission is to be the total site development contractor." The company handles projects such as large subdivisions, taking them from "clearing to infrastructure," as well as a variety of other site work oriented projects. Gadcon jobs have ranged from total site work on large subdivisions and building developments to municipal projects and even construction of a concrete plant — all the kinds of projects that allow the company to make optimum use of its people and resources, Gaddis says.

Building Better Ball Fields

One Gadcon project is the Sportsplex now under construction in the city of Gulf Shores, Ala. This multifaceted project, which is being built on a 40-acre site in Gulf Shores, incorporates five softball fields along other fields and related amenities to provide a complete sports facility.

"We are handling the entire project ourselves," notes Tim Gaddis Jr., adding that Chris Wilson is serving as senior project engineer for Gadcon on the project. Gadcon even has a building specialist on staff — project manager/estimator Kevin Staton — who will oversee construction of the concession/press box building, a pentagonal two-story masonry structure.

Work on this project began August 10, 2007, with clearing of the wooded portions of the site. Attention then turned to the site work phase of the project, a major undertaking that included not only grading of the site but also preparation of the storm drainage, ball fields, road beds, and the building pad for the concession/press box building. Utility construction, road construction and other project elements are also being handled by Gadcon, and work is expected to wrap up in time for softball to be played there in the spring of 2008.

A Labor Of Love

Gadcon is no stranger to sports field construction, having built close to 15 similar projects over the last few years.

"Our company's owners love the game," notes project manager Quesenberry, adding that Tim Jr. played baseball in high school and college and even thought about going pro.

"But I've retired from baseball," Tim Jr. says. "These days my goals are in construction and expanding the company into one of the top construction firms throughout the United States."

Even though Tim Jr. no longer plays the game, his experiences in the game are part of what gives Gadcon a valuable perspective on what it takes to construct a good sports field.

"We know what works for the teams playing and for the spectators," he says, "and we know what works for the owners and on our end too."

He adds, "For us, a ball field project is not just another job. It's something we love to build."

Major Dirt Work

Dirt work has been the major component of this project. Initially, crews removed and stockpiled topsoil. Attention then turned to ensuring adequate drainage for the fields themselves. The site's topography and water table were such that parts of the site tended to be submerged following any significant rain, becoming classified as unsuitable. Gadcon worked with architecture/engineering firm Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood, Inc., geotechnical consultant Southern Earth Science, and the city of Gulf Shores (owner of the facility) to develop a workable and cost-effective approach to providing adequate drainage. This involved cutting trenches and installing French drains to remove excess water from the area.

As work on the fields moved ahead, Gadcon crews brought in a number of excavators to load material into trucks for transport to various parts of the site. The trucks dumped the fill where needed; fill was then spread by dozers and compacted by rollers.

To achieve the specified grades and handle other earthwork on the project, about 1,000 loads of imported material was required. This material came from a local pit about five miles from the project site. Overall, the project involved about 110,700 cubic yards of dirt work, including imported fill, on-site fill and topsoil.

As site work moved ahead, drainage again moved into the spotlight. Project plans call for placement of a 1-foot layer of sand under each field to serve an underdrain system. The original design had called for use of manufactured material for underdrain construction, but Gadcon worked with the owner to devise a way to utilize local materials instead.

"The local materials are not as expensive as the manufactured materials which the original specifications called for," notes Quesenberry "and because they are local, the transportation costs are much less." The result, he adds, was "substantial savings" for the owner.

Taking On Utility Challenges

Site work represents a major part of Gadcon's work, but it is not unusual to see Gadcon crews handling other types of work on its projects as well.

"Every now and then we find ourselves doing something different," notes Tim Jr.

On one recent condominium site, for example, Gadcon was called on to construct concrete grade beams as well as 16-foot-high concrete cast-in-place walls. That project also involved construction of building pads, interior slabs and what he calls "a bit of complex mechanical work" — not to mention some tricky utility work, he adds.

"Ivan had wiped out the domestic water, sanitary sewer and fire lines on the site, so we were called in to relocate new service lines and perform hot taps into live utility lines," he explains. This was, he says, "a very tricky task," as existing line locations were unknown. Completing this work required hydro-vacuum excavation, among other things — all while working around three existing condo towers, and all while making sure that no customers experienced service interruptions.

Key To Success

What has allowed Gadcon to continue to succeed even in a market that is causing some contractors to struggle?

Tim Jr. notes that one key as been the subcontractors on its project. On the ballfield project, these include Bill Smith Electric Co., which handled all installation of electrical conduit throughout the site, Muscow lighting and light poles, parking and common area lighting systems, and concession/press-box electrical work. Sexton Lawn & Landscape installed all irrigation systems throughout the site (in fields, common areas and the parking area) and also installed three on-site irrigation wells. Masonry of Mobile constructed masonry CMU walls for concession/press box building and installed masonry brick on backstops of all fields, and Hart's All Service installed plumbing for the concession/press-box building.

Overall, Gaddis attributes it to the company's emphasis on customer service. On the Sportsplex project, for example, work was progressing ahead of schedule until extremely wet weather slowed construction for an extended period and put the project behind schedule.

"We worked around the clock for a week and a half to get ahead of the schedule again," Tim Jr. says.

"When we bid jobs," he adds, "our goal is to deliver a 110-percent satisfactory product that owners, residents, and investors alike are completely satisfied with." The company keeps the resources and personnel necessary to finish projects correctly and on time, he continues, adding, "We give our word to our customers that we will do it right, and we live up to our end of the bargain no matter what."