When Major League Baseball returned to Washington, DC, in 2005 with the relocation of the Montreal Expos, a 34-year hiatus ended. A lot of work had yet to begin. While the new Washington Nationals played its first three seasons in aging Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, a plan was underway to build a state-of-the-art, 41,000-seat ballpark in Southeast Washington, D.C., along the Anacostia River waterfront. To make that $611 million plan a fast-track reality, local firms had to step up to the plate.
The design/build general contractor Clark/Hunt/Smoot—a joint venture between Clark Construction Group LLC, Bethesda, Md.; Hunt Construction Group, Indianapolis; and Sherman R. Smoot Corp., Washington, D.C.—sought experienced design/assist subcontractors that had conquered challenging sports venues in the past. The general contractor examined many factors, the most overarching of which was experience with high-profile sports complexes and adherence to fast-track schedules.
The contract also called for contractors that could deliver the correct amount of qualified labor to finish the job effectively and efficiently while meeting local small business participation requirements. The search ended with several local players.
Experience and familiarity
Reston, Va.-based electrical contractor Truland Systems and its systems partner, Lanham, Md.-based Tech Inc., have impressive credentials related to fast-track sports venue projects. The companies worked seamlessly together on the Verizon Center in D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood and at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. (both opened in 1997).
“For Truland, it’s like carrying on a tradition,” said Joe Roscher, Truland’s project executive for Nationals Park. “We did both the Redskins [stadium] and the Verizon Center. It’s an honor to be part of all three major sports venues in town. We were awarded the job because we were best suited to handle a major stadium project.”
Truland’s and Tech Inc.’s familiarity with each other and with this type of project made them logical choices for Clark/Hunt/Smoot. Familiarity saved time and money, both of which are scarce commodities on fast-track projects. Dale Cloteaux, senior project manager for Truland, said his company shared resources and office space with Tech Inc. That proximity and familiarity enabled the two companies to inform each other of changes that might affect the other trade, Cloteaux said.
Time also was a critical factor on this job. Electrical and systems work began in April 2007 and had to be completed in time for a March 29, 2008, exhibition game against the local interleague rival Baltimore Orioles.
“The biggest challenge was the construction time frame,” Roscher said. “It’s the fastest a baseball stadium has ever been constructed.”
To complete its $35 million electrical package, Truland employed as many as 180 workers on the job, recording upward of 200,000 man-hours. The amount of workers on the job peaked in late January, as the project came close to finished.
This colossal project, Cloteaux said, required 2 million feet of branch rough-in; 230,000 feet of feeder rough-in; about 13,000 light fixtures; three 7.5-MVA substation transformers; a 4,000-amp, 4.16-kV main service; and 13 4.16-kV unit substations. All the power distribution at Nationals Park is underground.
Tech Inc. contributed another 60,000 man-hours with 60 workers on its $12 million-plus voice/data/video (VDV) and audio/video (A/V) package. According to Tech Inc.’s vice president Dominic Miranda—who was the company’s executive on the project—the company installed the security access control system, card readers, door contacts, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, digital video recorders (DVRs), monitors and all associated security equipment and cabling.
In addition to the security installation, Tech Inc. was responsible for the information technology (IT) and telecommunications systems, which included 1,300 voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) jacks and a 10-gigabit VoIP cabling infrastructure system. The network includes both single-mode and multimode fiber backbone closets.
As part of the A/V package, the company installed 40 JBT boxes, which provide connections for cameras to enable the video broadcast of the games played at Nationals Park. The A/V system also included more than 300 bowl speakers in the outdoor sections of the stadium and six independent audio systems for each of the designated areas inside the ballpark—Diamond Club, Founders Club, the restaurant, home locker room, visitor’s locker room and the conference rooms. Those interior systems required nearly 250 speakers, Miranda said.
Tech Inc. installed 585 satellite master antenna (SMA) televisions that will broadcast games inside the stadium. Those SMA TVs connect to a fiber network that connects to satellite dishes.
To complete the low-voltage aspects of the project, Tech Inc. enlisted the help of local partners. President and owner Earl R. Mitchell, Washington, D.C.-based City General Inc., worked with Tech Inc., pulling cable conduit for the telecommunications system. He said he had as many as 30 employees on the job at one time. In addition to working for Tech Inc. on the VDV work, City General contributed to the overhead field lighting, working with Truland.
Small business involvement
City General enjoyed a windfall from participating in this project.
“To my company and my business,” Mitchell said, “this project provided a huge influx. It was good work for us, and it came at a good time.”
City General was one of the local small disadvantaged business enterprises (LSDBEs) that participated in the Nationals Park construction. The contract signed by Clark/Hunt/Smoot required that at least half of the subcontractor firms on the project be LSDBEs. In addition, half of new hires had to be District residents.
Other LSDBEs, such as Dynamic Concepts Inc. (DCI), contributed to Tech Inc.’s VDV portion of the job. DCI, another Washington, D.C., company, installed the structured cabling infrastructure, satellite mass antennae system, speakers, the sound and broadcast system, and provided A/V equipment and cabling infrastructure procurement.
Truland also turned to Titus LLC to cover part of the electrical package, as it mentored the fledgling D.C.-based company through a learning process.
Titus, also an LSDBE, accounted for roughly 80,000 man-hours at Nationals Park with 35 employees. About 15,000 of those man-hours derived from installing the electrical package on two parking garages adjacent to the stadium. Titus installed duct banks and high-side service to main electrical closets and was responsible for the service and distribution to and around the stadium. At the early stages of the project, Titus also performed estimating and takeoffs and supplied temporary power and lighting.
Before the Nationals Park project, Titus was generating roughly $300,000 in annual revenue. Now, the company projects revenues approaching $3 million. According to Titus’ president and owner Otis L. Miller Jr., the company is experiencing growing pains, “but they are good problems to have.”
This was Titus LLC’s first sports complex project. The biggest challenge, Miller said, was mobilizing workers and shifting positions wherever the manpower was needed. Miller, who acknowledged that Truland has largely contributed to his company’s growth, considers Truland a valued mentor. Titus employees were fortunate to be able “to work side by side with people from a larger contractor like Truland to see how they work efficiently and how they plan.”
Two District of Columbia LSDBEs delivered full wholesale distribution services to the Nationals Park project—Maurice Electrical Supply and Ideal Electrical Supply. Other local partners contributed as well. By all accounts, the new stadium was a team effort with contributions coming from many local firms and local labor.
Truland Systems and Tech Inc. worked closely with not only their electrical, VDV and distribution partners, but also with architects and designers—namely Washington-based Devrouax & Purnell and HOK Sport of Kansas City. Devrouax & Purnell had worked with Truland Systems and Tech Inc. on the Verizon Center project a decade ago and HOK Sport came into this project with vast experience designing sports venues, including nearby Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
For the subcontractors on this job, having worked well with designers and engineers in a design/assist capacity proved critical to stadium completion. One obstacle, said Truland’s Cloteaux, was the compressed schedule and constantly developing design.
“Because of the timing of many design elements, little time was left to assist with improving the design and reduce costs,” Cloteaux said. “However, the process allowed us to make changes to certain design elements to overcome supply limitations.” He said e-mail was crucial to timely communication of changing information.
“The project was a constant struggle to meet the expectations of the general contractor, provide enough qualified manpower, and ensure the correct materials and equipment arrived on time,” Cloteaux said. He added, however, that the keys to success included “expedited problem solving by the project team” and “proper planning and preparation,” for which there is no substitute.
That preparation combined with experience on fast-track sports venues helped Nationals Park become a reality within the budget and on time for opening day.
For those companies who contributed to the creation of this massive ballpark in our nation’s capital, they take great pride in being part of something historic.
“For me, it’s extraordinary because I was involved in the Redskins stadium and the Verizon Center,” said Tech Inc.’s Miranda. “It’s a thrill for me because it gives me a sense of satisfaction. In 20 years, this will still be here.”
Titus LLC’s Miller said he appreciates the historical significance of helping to bring baseball back to Washington, D.C., and being part of the District’s commitment to providing growth opportunities to small businesses.
“It is very rewarding to know that you are part of one of the fastest-built stadiums of that size and to know that your company was a major part of that goal.”
KELLY, a former ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR editor, is a Baltimore-based freelancer. Reach him at email@example.com.