Situated on the south side of the Las Vegas Strip, Mandalay Bay Resort boasts a variety of facilities and amenities, including a casino, 3,400-room hotel tower, spa, golf course, theater, 12,000-seat arena and an aquarium. It’s a healthy mix of hospitality and gaming all its own. Although a convention center was already on-site, the owners decided to build a larger facility that would include state-of-the-art telephony and data transmission capabilities.

Serving as general contractor, Mandalay Development turned to those it had successfully worked with on previous projects: the electrical contracting firm of Dynalectric Co. of Nevada, JBA Consulting Engineering and Klai Juba Architects. All are Las Vegas-based companies that had performed a number of projects for Mandalay over the course of the last decade. “The team was chosen for their past overall performances, competitive bids and the long-term relationships based on trust and communication that have been developed,” said Lee Monfort, Mandalay Development’s senior project manager.

The plan

Before construction began on the 1.8 million-square-foot, $235 million project in February 2002, the team worked together on the design of the facility. Based on the design-assist nature of the project, Dynalectric provided JBA Consulting with input on the engineering plans to help ensure that the electrical system design would completely fulfill the owner’s needs. “In developing the facility’s plan, we met regularly to discuss budgetary restraints and the number of different ways we could provide the owner with the required end-product,” said Gary Sutton, president of Dynalectric.

The schedule called for construction to be completed by December, only 11 months after it was begun. The traditional electrical installation required feeding underground wires and cables for the 15kV main power distribution system, as well as installing the low-voltage power feeders, and the fire alarm and telecommunication backbone feeders. Dynalectric also provided two 600A, 15kV main distribution boards, 24 12kV step-down transformers and the associated low voltage power distribution system, one 1,500kW emergency generator, 422 in-floor utility service boxes, 236 flush column-mounted 100A boxes, 265 landscape lights, eight roadway pole-mounted lights and 22 parking lot pole-mounted lights, and the entire dimming and lighting control system. “The dimming system required the installation of 13 dimming racks plus 69 relay panels,” explained Stan Pursel, project manager.

Dynalectric was also responsible for the voice/data/video (VDV) installation, including surveillance, the MATV cable television, and the audiovisual system, as well as establishing the wireless antenna and radio repeaters to allow the facility’s operations staff to communicate via radio. The company installed more than 1 million feet of Category 6 wire for the data infrastructure and telephony system, about 7,000 connectivity points, and 60,000 feet of fiber optics for high-speed data transmission.

“The center is a very large cable plant that has to provide conventioneers a variety of telecommunications and data transmission options, whether they are communicating with their own offices or demonstrating to convention attendees with their high-speed capabilities,” observed Dave Callahan, Dynalectric’s low-voltage project manager.

The company also installed the center’s security system, including the cameras, surveillance and recording and the access control system. The fire alarm and audio/visual systems were set up by Dynalectric as well. The fire alarm system consisted of 20 data panels and more than 2,000 fire alarm devices that were connected via underground conduits to the main fire control room, which is located about a half a mile from the center. The audiovisual system installed allows users or exhibitors of the center to configure it in virtually any way.

“Input panels are installed throughout the facility that enable exhibitors to receive or send audio or video signals, including streaming video, from any type of device from any inside or outside source,” said Callahan. The lighting system for the facility was also designed to be configured in just as many ways as the audiovisual system, providing exhibitors with compartmentalized, localized control of the lighting levels for the area they are using.

The majority of the work performed on this project was performed in straight time, with an average of 184 and a peak of 333 electricians working on-site to ensure that the installation would be completed within the fast-track schedule of 11 months. Because of the design-assist nature of the project and the solid relationships that were established, the field staff was able to contact the electrical engineer directly to discuss the optimal electrical installation methods actually work better in practical use, while ensuring that the engineer’s plans could sustain those changes. “The main advantage of that kind of direct communication was that upgrades and improvements to the original design could be made on-site and immediately,” said Sutton.

Challenges

A major obstacle encountered by Dynalectric electricians during the project was the sheer number of 3-square-foot floor boxes to be installed, especially those on the exhibit level of the facility, which had multiple PVC conduits for both electrical power and low-voltage systems. “We had to coordinate the installation of conduit with both the ongoing excavation and the laying of the concrete for the floor,” said Pursel. Cooperation and communication (in the form of regularly scheduled meetings with all the tradesmen on the site) enabled Dynalectric to maintain its schedule. “It was the rapport between us, the owner, the architect, and the electrical engineer that contributed to our ability to communicate our goals to the other trades and ensured the high levels of cooperation we received from them,” added Sutton.

A particular problem in completing the low-voltage communication system became apparent quite early in the testing process of the cable. “Due to the proximity of the property to McCarren Airport and a large AM radio transmission tower, the electronic ambient noise for the site is high,” explained Callahan. The hand-held testers that the Dynalectric electricians used were actually quite sensitive to the ambient electronic noise, creating erratic readings and inaccurate results. In regular meetings with the owner and electrical engineer about the progress of solving the problem, input and ideas were exchanged freely and possible solutions were brainstormed. “We took those ideas to the tester and cable manufacturers and through conducting a vast number of controlled tests, we were able to configure the equipment to ensure that the readings would be accurate,” recalled Callahan.

However, the most challenging aspects of the project were the facility’s sheer size, the massive electrical power and low-voltage requirements and the fast-track schedule. “It was only through teamwork and the solid relationships developed over the years between us, the owner, the architect and the electrical engineer that the project was completed on time and on budget,” said Sutton.

In addition, the plans were not completed when construction actually started, and all the team members worked together to “value engineer” the project. According to John Wald, associate at Klai Juba, involving all of the team members in the design process allowed the work to proceed directly from design to construction.

“As construction progressed, Dynalectric received all of the electrical system and engineering information the company required for work to proceed,” said Monfort. And it was JBA Consulting that met regularly with Dynalectric’s field staff to solve problems as they arose. “It is really atypical for such direct, unimpeded communication to exist on a project, but that is what allowed all of the team members to collectively devise solutions that could be implemented quickly,” added Dwayne Miller, principal electrical engineer for JBA. The architect also drew on input from all of the subcontractors, including Dynalectric, during the design phase of the project. “Working as a team, we were able to quickly adjust the schedule to changing needs of the customer,” concluded Wald.

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 or darbremer@comcast.net.