Case Studies

North Campus Athletic and Recreation Complex at Northern Arizona University

Serving students and professional athletes with high-altitude training

Covering some 120,000 square feet, the North Campus Athletic and Recreation Complex at Northern Arizona University (NAU) will dwarf the school’s former Wall Aquatic Center, an aging 50,000-square-foot facility on the Flagstaff campus.

The new North Campus Athletic and Recreation Complex (NCARC) features 90,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor tennis courts, an Olympic-size swimming pool with a separate diving platform, crowd seating and an outdoor recreation field. Work on the NCARC began April 2014 and is scheduled for completion by August 2016.

While the NCARC will double the university’s tennis capacity, it’s not only NAU students who will benefit from the forthcoming project. Located near the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau and 10 miles south of the state’s highest peak, the NAU campus is more than 7,000 feet above sea level making the new NCARC the perfect training facility for Olympic athletes looking to train at high altitudes.

The existing aquatic facility on the NAU campus currently caters to three distinct groups: student athletes, local parks and recreation groups and top athletes from around the world who come to Flagstaff to train at the high-altitude complex. The original facility was built in 1981 and was in significant need of repair before the start of the project.

When NAU decided to build a new recreation center across the street from the existing aquatic facility, the school lost all its existing tennis courts. The school selected a qualified general contractor under a construction manager at-risk contract to demolish the old recreation center and construct a new multiuse sports complex. But soon after project award, NAU extended the scope of the project to almost double the original size. Project cost expanded from $25 million to $40 million and the undertaking grew from an aquatics and recreation field into an aquatics and tennis facility with additional outdoor tennis courts.

Planning ahead and going green

Contractors broke ground on the NCARC in April 2014 and will put the final touches on the new complex in late winter 2016. From there, the team will begin the demolition process on the old aquatic complex and then begin construction on the new outdoor tennis courts and multiuse field. The carefully planned timeline ensures that NAU students will never be without an athletic and recreation facility during the length building process, but it was not without its difficulties.

NAU required the contractor to eliminate downtime between the closing of the aging facility and the opening of the new center. Contractors have been working on a busy campus, coordinating to ensure as few inconveniences possible to students, faculty and staff.

To ensure safety while minimizing disruption to student life and academics, the general contractor constructed new concrete walkways and temporary ingress and egress points to divert all pedestrian traffic. One challenge unique to the NCARC project was the construction of a 66-foot-tall masonry structure at the core of the building, an aspect that required work through the cold winter.

The contractor also had to truck in 130-foot-long trusses to support the structure of the new NCARC, requiring the construction firms to run two cranes simultaneously while working to ensure the highest possible standard of safety.

With a number of green building practices integrated into the design and construction of the new NCARC, project management is confident that the project will achieve the LEED Gold status it is seeking. The building will use reclaimed water for all toilets and urinals and three-story windows will allow significant natural daylighting.

Partnering for success

The general contractor self-performed a portion of the work on the project through the use of its own in-house building and landscaping divisions, with the former self-performed managerial and general labor tasks and the later taking on the landscaping package. All additional work, including concrete and pool work, was subcontracted out to a trusted network of industry partners. Finding a qualified pool contractor to complete the competition-level aquatic feature was a particular challenge.

When it comes online in summer of 2016, the North Campus Athletic and Recreation Complex at Northern Arizona University will give NAU students the chance to stay active and healthy in both body and mind while providing local sports enthusiasts and athletes from around the world with a cutting-edge, high-altitude training facility.

Published on: August 19, 2016

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