Pirates' ballpark soon to expand upward
by Larry Ciptak
Front Row News
The future "best ballpark in America" isn't going up, but down.
At least right now. If you're looking for construction progress being made at PNC Park, look to the ground and the thousands of concrete anchor piles being laid into it. About 60 percent of the 2,100 50-foot in-ground piles are finished. The piles will support steel beams that will uphold the remainder of the structure.
Danny Thompson lines up machinery to drive steel columns to form a template.
But come this fall, the new home for the 113-year-old Pirates expands upward. "You'll really be able to see the progress in November and December, when the steel arrives and the skeleton of the stadium is erected," said Chris Cieslak, Morse Diesel Project Manager for PNC Park. Morse Diesel is an international engineering firm, which has a contract to consult the Public Auditorium Authority on construction management.
Steven Greenberg, Pirate's VP of New Ballpark Development/Communications, agrees. "Once you see steel starting to come out of the ground in the late fall, there will be a new sense of excitement."
Everything is "on time and on budget," Greenberg said. "People feel good about this. Every day there are people standing at the fence, looking in and watching what's going on. People are anticipating not just the finale of the project, but also the sequence of it."
Construction deadlines are tight. The Pirates will move into their new home by April 1. 2001. Most major league stadiums take an average of 25 to 27 months, while the schedule for PNC Park and the new Steeler Stadium allows only 24 months.
To best utilize time, once the steel arrives, crews will erect steel by day, and pour concrete onto the steel at night.
"We're as close to 'on schedule' as you can get," said Jim Collwood, Field Supervisor for Dick Corporation, in charge of pouring pile caps. And John Herridge, Project Manager for R & R International, said the pile construction is on time as well.
As part of "Plan B," any construction overruns for PNC Park — as well as ongoing operating and maintenance costs — will be absorbed by the Pirates.
Down along the river, crews are extending the Allegheny River's embank-ment about 25 feet. The new bank will connect with the existing river walkway at Roberto Clemente Park and go clear down to the Sixth Street Bridge.
Steel templates 60-feet long are being driven by a large "vibratory hammer" crane which shakes the vertical beams 35 feet into the river bed. The templates hold interlocking steel sheets that allow a concrete backfilling, said Fred Collier, Nicholson Field Superintendent. While dredging the river to prepare for the templates, crews found car parts, engines, pieces of old bridge piers, shop¬ping carts, and other debris, "all kinds of junk," Collier said.
In addition to meeting construction deadlines, companies are working hard to meeting construction deadlines, companies are working hard to meet their goals of minority (MBE) and women-owned (WBE) business participation. According to the Pirates and the construction consortium of Dick Corporation and Barton Malow, as of August 2 the construction contracts include 22% of minority and 10% woman-owned participation.
"We've worked very hard on the MBE/WBE issue." Greenberg said. "Outreach in the community is critical. We have an office on-site for this purpose so contractors can come down and get the information they need to bid on this project."
The Pirates held an "outreach session" July 13 at the National Association of Minority Contractors in East Liberty. "It was a way to bring prime minority contractors and sub-contractors together to network," Cieslak said. "A lot of good contacts were made." She added that about 50 contractors participated in the session.
"We're always looking for ways to improve [MBE & WBE] participation," Cieslak said. "The Pirates have dedicated a lot of resources toward meeting and exceeding the goals established by the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County."
Once the stadiums are constructed, both sports franchises and the Public Auditorium Authority will continue to strive for MBE and WBE participation in retail and food concessions, said Greenberg.
During a recent home series with the Cleveland Indians, fans were greeted with parking woes. According to news reports, there were more tickets sold than there were parking spaces available on the North Shore, which was attributed to the new construction.
"There's a price you pay for progress." said Greenberg. "They did it when they built 279, and it'll happen in the redevelopment of the North Shore.
"People have to be patient, and better utilize downtown parking when PNC Park is built, and take downtown shuttles over. Or they can park at Station Square and take the boat over. It s a good preliminary step to get used to periphery parking more so than on-site parking," Greenberg said.
"PNC Park will be a destination point," Greenberg added. He said it will bring two-and-a-half to three million people a year to the North Shore, and ancillary development around the park.
"We've received incredible inquiries about development in and around the park," said Greenberg. "People are primed to have the North Shore become a sports and entertainment Mecca."