NOMCC Hall A Renovation: Upgrading to Excellence
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The New Orleans Morial Convention Center (NOMCC), named for former mayor Ernest N. Morial, is undergoing renovations to update facilities and improve visitor experience. The massive $60 million expansion offers a fresh look for the space with the addition of a new ballroom, as well as a new entrance and prefunction lobby. Citadel Builders LLC (Citadel), of Metairie, La., is the general contractor on the NOMCC Hall A Renovation.
The center was originally constructed in 1983. The city had been planning the building since 1978, and opened NOMCC just in time for the World’s Fair of 1984. Before the new updates, the center had several smaller entrances, but no main entryway. The new entrance serves as a front door and is connected to two newly renovated ballrooms. The Great Hall offers 60,300 square feet of space for conventions, events and more. The Rivergate Room, considered a junior ballroom, encompasses 4,600 square feet of floor space.
Building a Team
Citadel has worked on several complex projects in the region over the years, specializing in commercial and institutional structures. Tom Reeves, senior project manager for Citadel, is currently overseeing operations at the NOMCC site. Reeves possesses a diverse background in construction; he started out in the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps and joined the Citadel team in 2009.
Reeves continually teams up with Doug Bowen, senior superintendent for Citadel, in order to tackle the company’s most-challenging projects. “We’re a local construction company in the metro New Orleans area,” he explains. “We can bring the best team to the owners to do it right and fast.”
The team has built longstanding relationships with local subcontractors, whom Reeves regards as one of the greatest components of Citadel’s success. “I want the subcontractors to feel that we did for them what they needed us to do,” he elaborates. “We ask them to push us to allow them to excel. We advocate for them with the owner and architect. At the end of day, I want the subcontractors to sing our praises. I want them to say, ‘I want to go work on that project with Citadel.’ Although we’re tough on them, it’s what’s required to move a job forward. Once a subcontractor signs up, we expect them to perform. If one doesn’t, we will drag them across the finish line; it is what we owe to the other subcontractors that are performing.”
Pushing Through the Challenges
The NOMCC project is complex, but Citadel has the capabilities and experience to move beyond any obstacle. “For starters, it’s a tight area,” Reeves reports. “The convention center is staying open. We are downtown on one of the city’s busiest streets, with high voltage lines within 25 feet of the building. We inconvenienced some folks a bit, but the owner has cooperated and helped us succeed.”
The team was also under time constraints that made efficient operations vital to the operation. “Even though the ballroom work was under roof from the start, most of the permanent construction couldn’t start for many months,” Reeves explains. “So much had to happen before we could start framing any walls; we had to capture post tensioned cables, drive segmented piles and build interior foundations before we could stand any steel.
“The most complex portion of the project was jacking the existing roof trusses and increasing the span between columns,” continues Reeves. “This work, with new tower columns and reinforcement on the existing roof trusses, drove the schedule for the ballroom. It wasn’t until the end of May when we had all the steel work done that we could start standing walls. The new $1 million metal pan ceiling in the ballroom required the installation of an overhead joist and tube support system.”
However, Reeves goes on to explain that the ballroom was only half of the project. “Throughout the 13-month construction period, the critical path kept jumping between the ballroom and the new entry, demonstrating the schedule’s tight nature,” he details. “The lobby’s finishes were just as complex, including terrazzo, fabric-wrapped wall panels, metal plate panels, resinous wall cladding, pedestal paver system and curtain wall.
“It’s a very interesting project with many firsts for us,” continues Reeves. “We used expansive grout to demolish the existing pile caps. With 30- and 45-foot ceiling heights in the ballroom, prefunction and lobby, it seems like half of the job is being constructed using aerial lifts.”
Fortunately, the team has the support of its client, and was awarded the contract a month before construction could begin. “That month of administrative time was golden,” notes Reeves. “In that month before the clock started ticking, buyout was complete and the key subcontractors and suppliers were under contract. Shop drawings processes began, and all of the initial administrative requirements, including schedule, submittal logs, schedule of values, etc., were submitted and approved before the notice to proceed was issued. That is a great way to kick off a project. Of course, there’s no reason to hold a contractor back just for the sake of it, but if an owner can award the contract early, a contractor can be much better prepared to hit the ground running.”
The combination of an early contract award, a dedicated construction team and a cooperative owner all contributed to Citadel turning the project over on time. The completion date of Jan. 11, 2013, meant that the owner had full use of the facility to host Superbowl events at leading up to the Feb. 3, 2013, event.
The impressive structure and tricky implementation make the convention center a standout project for Citadel, rivaled only by the team’s recent overhaul of New Orleans’ Superdome. The construction team worked hard and often to deliver a new space that exceeds the client’s expectations. Thanks to the efforts of Citadel Builders LLC, The New Orleans Morial Convention Center will soon open a new ballroom and lobby, welcoming visitors to the Big Easy.
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