Turner Construction Company
When the one of the country’s busiest multipurpose venues needed renovations and modernization, the city that owns and runs it went in search of a partner.
In early 2015, San Antonio selected Turner Construction Company and its design partners, Marmon Mok and Populous, to revamp its iconic Alamodome. Turner is one of the largest international construction service companies in the U.S., and it would be renovating the Alamodome to host national sporting and exhibition events. The first post renovation event will be the 2018 Men’s Final Four Basketball Championship.
To accommodate the Final Four, the Alamodome needs a field-level media center built for post-game interviews, locker room renovations to ensure that each is identical (so that no one team could claim an advantage) and improved energy efficient lighting so the indoor football stadium stands up as a college championship basketball court shown on national television.
These improvements are just the beginning of the design-build renovation, says Katherine Fontenot, Turner’s project manager for the Alamodome transformation.
The remaining changes are focused on improving the fan experience with two high-definition corner video boards, 360-degree LED ribbon board and a new HD control room to support the new technology. The construction company is also expanding the plaza level, or ground floor, which is the main circulation point for guests to access the seating area, concession stands and restrooms.
The renovations will be completed in fall 2017, and although the schedule was dictated by San Antonio’s desire to host the Final Four, “all events at the Alamodome are going to be able to take advantage of these improvements,” says Fontenot.
The importance of ‘yes’
As a sports arena and convention center, the 65,000-seat Alamodome hosts the Valero Alamo Bowl and UTSA Football, basketball and baseball games, as well as sold-out concerts, monster truck rallies and many other entertainment events, all of which can’t stop just because of construction.
“It’s why Turner is so good at these sports renovation projects—we understand that these event spaces are revenue driven and if [the Alamodome] says no to an event they may never get the opportunity again to say yes,” says Project Manager Katherine Fontenot.
“It’s why Turner is so good at these sports renovation projects—we understand that these event spaces are revenue driven and if [the Alamodome] says no to an event they may never get the opportunity again to say yes,” Fontenot says.
During construction, Turner continues to modify its schedule to accommodate events at the busy venue because “that is the whole point behind our partnership with the city of San Antonio. They present the event details and requirements, we study our schedule, converse with our subcontractors, and look for ways to deliver what they need.”
Turner has used this method to renovate Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York; Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California; Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and many others.
Lean, mean constructing machine
To accommodate a continually changing schedule, Fontenot says Turner uses lean construction methodology for all of its processes.
Derived from the Toyota Manufacturing Company, it’s founded on principals of identifying and eliminating inefficiency through production schedules and other methods that encourage collaboration and communication. Lean methodology also involves the use of “pull planning,” which means planning a schedule backwards from specific milestones throughout the project.
Willingness to change is a hallmark of lean construction, and for a project like the Alamodome, which has many subcontractors and moving parts, Fontenot says surprises are bound to happen.
One such example occurred in spring 2016. Turner was preparing to move two 24-inch chilled water lines serving the HVAC system that obstructed the new media center. At the same time, the Alamodome was preparing to host an ice skating event.
For the event, the venue had to make ice, and Fontenot and her team carefully coordinated with the owners and event planners so that Turner would cut and move the chilled water line in the week prior to event so that the pre-event activities would not be disturbed.
Turner later learned it hadn’t included the Alamodome’s maintenance team in its planning, and that additional time was needed to chill the interior venue to prepare to make ice. If Turner had cut the chilled water line, the maintenance team wouldn’t be able to chill the venue properly, and there would have been no ice for the event.
Fontenot says Turner is always ready with a backup plan because repositioning one activity has a ripple effect on the rest of the schedule, and her team has to absorb the changes.
To develop this flexibility, Fontenot says the company depends on the constant and candid input of its subcontractors.
“We want them to bring ideas to the table of how we can make something better, because we know, just because we say it’s the best way to do something doesn’t mean it is,” she says.
Fontenot’s team and their subcontractors even take a few minutes at the end of every meeting to do a Plus/Delta evaluation, in which they discuss everything that was productive about the meeting. The positives are written in the plus column, and everything that could still be improved is written under the delta column. This open discussion allows the construction team to evaluate its processes and continuously improve.
“This collaboration with all of our subs gets everyone on board to meet our completion dates and really solidifies this concept of teamwork that is so all-important in this business. Hopefully, we can take what we’ve learned to the next project so we can continually improve our industry,” Fontenot says.
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