Case Studies

The Indianapolis Convention Center – Shiel Sexton Company Inc.

Doubling Indiana's Convention Capacity

When the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority (ISCBA) moved to double the Indiana Convention Center, it was clear the authority would need to call in an expert. Ultimately Shiel Sexton Company Inc. (Shiel Sexton) was tapped to provide its services as the project’s construction management agent. Shiel Sexton has a longstanding history of delivering projects mired in complex logistics and rigid scheduling limitations. The company has had a particularly notable effect on the landscape of Indianapolis, its hometown, where it helped build the State Fairgrounds, the Indianapolis Zoo and the Birch Bay Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, among many others.

The Shiel Sexton philosophy stressed the importance of quality control at all times, balanced by a healthy corporate safety culture and clear, direct communication. The company specializes in construction management, general contracting and design-build services. With a team of more than 400 professionals from diverse professional and personal background, Shiel Sexton also sets a high bar for the competition by providing ancillary services like cost consultations, real estate development, facility maintenance and interior construction.

A Major Undertaking

Shiel Sexton joined the Indianapolis Convention Center project with the help of joint venture partner Powers & Sons in 2006. The ISCBA selected RATIO Architecture to provide the design, adding 700,000 square feet to bump the stadium to No. 16 amongst the country’s largest convention centers. The center is nestled in the heart of downtown Indianapolis with direct, enclosed connections to over 4,700 hotel rooms. Even prior to the expansion the convention center would draw as many as 50,000 attendees for just one event, as it did in the case of hosting the National Future Farmers of America convention in 2005.

“We added roughly 250,000 square feet of exhibition hall space alone, along with 31 meeting rooms totaling 65,000 square feet and 100,000 square feet of prefunction space,” adds Rob Butcher, senior project manager at Shiel Sexton. The size of the addition was just one part of the equation, though, as the project also required the demolition of RCA Dome stadium, home to the National Football League’s Indianapolis Colts for 24 seasons. The Lucas Oil Stadium, which connects to the convention center via a 500-foot, climate controlled and underground pedestrian walkway, then replaced the RCA Dome.

“To build that connection we actually had to reroute some very high-traffic railways, which took an extensive amount of careful sequencing and coordination,” adds Butcher. This was no small feat, considering the project involved 40 total contracts by Butcher’s estimates.

Further challenges arose in the form of complex mechanical and electrical tie-in rerouting, as well as the transfer of the remaining L-shaped facility’s structural load to the addition. This was accomplished in part through the construction of a 1,200-lineal foot retaining wall, which then allowed the team to remove many of the columns in the existing exhibition space. This provided an expansive and uninterrupted exhibition space throughout old and new structures.

Only the Best

Even so, Shiel Sexton leveraged the team’s extensive expertise to ensure communication lines were open at all times, especially because the convention center and Lucas Oil Stadium remained in full operation throughout the expansion. From the very beginning stages, Shiel Sexton was made aware of the need to keep the center’s kitchens in full working order. The problem was that the commercial kitchen was in the way of the Lucas Oil Stadium connection.

Nevertheless, Shiel Sexton scheduled construction activities to build the underground connection to ensure the new 40,000-square foot banquet kitchen would be up and running when the time came to build the connecting bridge. “I’m not sure that a larger commercial kitchen exists within the state, but we had the new one in operation roughly halfway through the project,” beams Butcher.

Shiel Sexton regularly maintains a minority- and women-owned business participation rate of 10 percent down to the purchasing on every project. For the $275 million convention center Shiel Sexton pulled out all the stops and brought minority business participation to a whopping 30 percent. Together, the project’s team managed to log just two recordable incidents over the course of construction, which was facilitated by working directly with Indiana OSHA.

“It went really well,” reflects Butcher. “We wound up with a really great group of contractors who delivered a high-quality project ahead of schedule, under budget, with a great safety record and it’s a great looking building.”

The project also helped Shiel Sexton nab the annual A Monumental Affair Award from the Keep Indianapolis Beautiful not-for-profit organization. As Colts’ fans and exhibition attendees file in through the addition’s new glass cube entrance, Shiel Sexton and the Indiana Stadium and Building Convention Authority will take pride in the Indianapolis Convention Center. The renovations will cement Indianapolis’ reputation as a destination city for the country’s largest events, thanks to Shiel Sexton Company Inc.

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