Cincinnati has always been a baseball town. In recent years, the city has focused on redeveloping its riverfront, including the area where the Reds baseball team and the NFL Bengals shared the old Riverfront stadium. In order for the redevelopment to be successful, however, the interstate road network also had to be reconfigured to provide a smooth flow of traffic between the newly revitalized riverfront section of town and the downtown area, which has presented a great many construction challenges.

Hamilton County, in which Cincinnati is located, issued requests for proposal (RFP) early in 2000 to build the new Great American Ballpark to replace Riverfront Stadium. All of the different trades-including electrical, plumbing and mechanical-bid on their own portions of the project directly with the county.

Mayers Electric Co. Inc., which envisioned the project to be both interesting and challenging, elected to submit a bid for the electrical portion.

“It was a high-profile project that was covered extensively in the local news as well as in industry publications,” said Jim Hopper, Mayers Electric's vice president.

Before the company made its formal bid in March 2001, it was approached by Indianapolis-based Hunt Construction Group to assist in preparing a complete budget estimate for the owner, Hamilton County.

“Hunt Construction knew we were going to submit a bid for the electrical work and since we had worked previously with the company on various other projects, they knew we understood their needs,” said Howard Mayers, president and owner. The company worked more than three weeks to help prepare Hunt's budget, which was submitted to the county in the winter of 2000.

Mayers Electric has almost 60 years experience as an electrical construction company in the greater Cincinnati area, but this would be its first undertaking of a project of this type and size.

“The previous largest projects performed by our company were worth around $10 million for such facilities as a drywall plant, a banking data center and a hotel conference center for the University of Cincinnati,” said Hopper. However, the company's decades of experience helped in preparing an acceptable bid. Mayers was awarded the $18.8 million contract to install the power distribution, lighting and fire alarm systems for the new $250 million stadium.

Joining the team on the project was GBBN, Cincinnati, as the resident architect; HOK Architects out of St. Louis as the sports stadium architect; and ME Engineering, a mechanical/electrical consulting engineer based in Denver. Mayers Electric worked on a variety of projects with most of these companies over the past dozen years, including a juvenile justice detention facility, a healthcare research facility and a performing arts center.

Although the Great American Ballpark project was not initially designated as design/build, Mayers Electric provided input to the owner, constructions manager, engineers and architects to solve construction issues as they arose so that the project could move forward with no delay.

Project particulars

Work began on the site in the spring of 2001 and Mayers Electric employed an average of 65, and a peak of 140, electricians until completion of the 42,000-seat stadium in April 2003.

“Also included in the construction was a three-story administrative office building and an 850-car underground parking garage,” Hopper said.

Ballpark power came from two separate 13.2kV utility feeders installed by the local utility. Mayers Electric extended each feeder to a double-ended substation using underground conduits-nearly four miles of cable were installed. Each of the five substations located throughout the ballpark transforms the incoming 13,200 volts into usable 480/277V and 120/208V power. More than 30 electrical closets were then stacked vertically above each substation, bringing power to each stadium level.

“Wires were then run from each closet to power all of the electrical and lighting systems for the 52 concession stands, the press box, the administrative offices and the parking garage,” said Ed Cochran, project manager.

Mayers Electric was also responsible for installing the lighting for the Great American Ballpark.

“One of the ballpark's signature features is its 12 sports lighting poles, or standards, which resemble toothbrushes,” said Dan Ruehl, site superintendent.

Each pole contains 72, 1,500-watt metal halide sports floodlights and six, 400-watt high-pressure sodium floodlights, which provide lighting for the clean-up crews. Each pole required two, 225-amp panels and a 100-amp emergency panel. Ben-Hur Construction, Cincinnati, erected the steel support frames for the sports floodlights on the ground. Then the floodlights, panelboards, raceways and wiring were installed and terminated by Mayers' electricians. Prior to erecting the steel frames, all lights were tested for operation with a temporary 100Kw generator.

Each of the 12 light poles consisted of three individual sections. The last section included the light fixtures and steel support frame, which weighed in excess of 57,000 pounds. A special crane was brought on-site to hoist this final section in place. Once it was situated, Mayers' crews finished routing the power and control conduits on the poles and installed and terminated the individual feeders and lighting control wiring. The final aiming of the lights was performed by personnel from GE Lighting, with assistance from Mayers Electrics' workers and employees of ME Engineering.

“Personnel had to climb 200-foot steel ladders to complete the installation of conduit, pull the wire and finish the final aiming process,” Ruehl said. When the job was finally completed, there were more than 11,000 fixtures installed throughout the ballpark and administrative offices.

Fire alarms too

Mayers was also responsible for installing the fire alarm system for the ballpark and administration building.

“It was decided at the very beginning of the project to dedicate a separate crew to work exclusively on the fire alarm system,” said Cochran.

SimplexGrinnell supplied the devices and worked closely with Mayers' work force, county personnel and local building and fire department officials to ensure all aspects of the system functioned in accordance with the design and local codes. More than 1,800 pull stations, speaker strobes, smoke detectors and monitoring modules were wired into several different panels located throughout the stadium, which were then networked into the main fire alarm panel in the central security office.

“The decision to dedicate a separate crew proved invaluable and allowed us to complete the fire alarm system nearly three months prior to the project's overall completion date,” said Hopper.

Overcoming challenges

According to Ruehl, logistics was the project's major challenge. “Great American Ballpark is situated between two major sports facilities that had to remain in operation throughout construction,” he said.

The site was affectionately known as the “wedge,” as it was jammed between U.S. Bank Arena on the north and Riverfront Stadium on the south.

“Riverfront Stadium had to be partially demolished and reconfigured to make room to construct the new ballpark,” Cochran said.

Because of the cramped conditions, it was nearly impossible to store materials on-site, making coordination and planning with all of the project's suppliers and contractors imperative. Hunt Construction developed a master schedule for construction, which entailed constructing the ballpark in a counter-clockwise direction. “Construction was performed in two phases consisting of concentric circles; one for the outer shell of the ballpark, and the second for the seating areas,” said Ruehl.

Because most team members had worked together on a number of projects before and had forged long-term relationships, any issues that arose during the ballpark's construction were resolved through open and personal communication.

“The atmosphere of camaraderie and trust enabled the team to solve problems immediately and present practical solutions to the owner that were beneficial and cost-effective,” concluded Hopper. EC

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.