Construction Crews "Tackle" Foundation Work
by Larry Ciptak
Front Page News
Construction of the new Steeler Stadium is underway, with earth-moving equipment and construction crews obliterating traces of the Kaufmann's Warehouse and parking lots which once stood to the west of the aging Three Rivers Stadium.
The new 65,000-seat, yet-to-be-named stadium is to be ready for play in August 2001, when the Steelers will host the rival Cleveland Browns. The Steelers will also help inaugurate the Brown's new stadium this fall, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced at the Steeler stadium groundbreaking in June.
Mid-summer also signals the beginning of training camp and the next-to-last Steeler season at Three Rivers Stadium, scheduled for demolition in January 2001.
"Priorities are starting to shift for most of the people on the Steeler staff," said Heidi Edwards, project manager for the Steelers. "The staff is in-tune to what's going on, but we're also getting ready for training camp and the season."
Driving along Stadium Drive, you won't find many visible signs of progress on the new Steeler Stadium. Construction of the foundation involves anchoring 2,500 concrete piles to the bedrock 50 feet below. This laborious process will continue through the remainder of 1999, said Paul King, project manager for Morse Diesel, who is overseeing construction for the Public Auditorium Authority.
During demolition, there were sanitary sewers, storm drains, telephone and electrical lines to contend with. King said. "There is a live 23.000-volt line going right through the site. We've had to relocate a 54-inch sewer line, and that couldn't be done until we were 95 percent done with demolition." he said.
The demolished Kaufmann's building has been pulverized by an aggregate crunching machine and used as structural backfill, said King. The 2.5-acre natural grass playing field will be eight-foot below ground level, which will reduce the cost of construction.
The steel will start being erected in January 2000. but until then crews will work on auger cast piles, underground utilities, elevator pits and foundation concrete. "At this stage we're still coming 'out of the ground' which really doesn't show from the outside," said King. "It's not real thrilling yet. When you see steel going up and it's starting to look like a stadium, people will get a lot more excited. It's the boring part of construction. For the next five months, it's going to look like it does now." King added that Mt. Washington provides the best view of all the projects along the North Shore.
Staying within budget is an "extremely high priority," King said. To further reduce costs, the Steelers have purchased an "Owner Controlled Insurance Program (OCIP)" which will provide blanket insurance to the site for everyone, paid by the team through the project funds, King said.
"The OCIP provides savings for the entire project," according to King. "Instead of every contractor going out and getting their own separate insurance and adding it to the price of the project, the owner is getting blanket insurance that covers everybody."
While construction continues — however monotonous for now — there is plenty of action occurring behind the scenes. The Steelers are working closely with the University of Pittsburgh to develop space for them within the new stadium — such as a locker room and training area — as well as addressing Pitt's ticketing needs, said Edwards. "[Pitt] currently provides day of game sales, while the Steelers don't. So we'll work with them to develop their programming needs for their ticketing office, connecting their system here with that of the main campus, as well as their signage and advertising packages." said Edwards.
The 45.000 Steelers "Stadium Builders Licenses" that have been sold out for months will soon be assigned to zones. Edwards added. "It won't give [purchasers] a specific seat yet, but it will provide a price range and general location within the new stadium."
There may be a few seats still available, according to Edwards, but "we haven't even gone outside our season ticket list yet. There will probably be some contact made with the people on the waiting list sometime in the future."
In addition, the Steelers are working hard to meet the 25% minority and 10% woman-owned business participation. "Recent legislative changes give us greater freedom to achieve and potentially exceed these stated goals," said Edwards. "We are now able to negotiate with the pool of bidders to increase [MBE/WBE] prime contractor and subcontractor participation. We are not forced to go with the low bidder. We can now look at a bidder's ability to meet project goals, and not just price as the only factor."
On top of demolition, construction, meeting the 25/10 participation requirements and the receiving and assignment of bids are the fielding of inquiries from vendors interested in supplying products or services to the new stadium, Edwards said.
But with the football season around the corner and the logistical realities posed by such a large project, naming the new stadium isn't a high priority right now.
There have been preliminary discussions concerning naming rights, but "it's not on the top of our screen right now, given all the other things going on. We'll start addressing it a little more seriously in the near future," said Edwards.
Even with such a full plate, there is a growing air of excitement on the North Shore. "We pass by [construction] every day on the way to Three Rivers," said Edwards. "It's a constant reminder of the wonderful project underway."