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Nuts and Bolts

November 20, 2013
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Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

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NUTS AND BOLTS

digging into the construction science and logistical marvel that is the redevelopment of Kyle Field

by Homer Jacobs
12th Man Magazine

It’s the house that Edwin Jackson Kyle built, but the future home for Texas A&M football is all about the Aggie family chipping in—from the financial support of the $450 million redevelopment of Kyle Field to the actual construction of the facility that will change the landscape of the A&M campus forever.

In fact, Greg McClure, the project director for Manhattan-Vaughn Construction, is living out his dream…twice.

McClure was a part of the Manhattan team that helped build Cowboys Stadium (McClure’s favorite NFL team in his hometown), and now he and fellow A&M graduate Bill Vaughn are leading the redevelopment of their beloved Kyle Field.

“Obviously graduating from here and being a lifelong Aggie fan, when this thing came about…just the thought of (working on this project) at the place you’ve spent so much time from growing up to being in college, it’s just unbelievable,” McClure said from his office inside a construction trailer at the south end of the stadium. It means a lot, and it’s fun, especially when you get to build the stadiums for your two favorite football teams—the Cowboys and the Aggies. I never would have thought 25 years ago that I would have gotten to do that.”

Indeed, the redevelopment of Kyle Field will be unbelievable—and monumental.

"…Just the thought of (working on this project) at the place you’ve spent so much time from growing up to being in college, it’s just unbelievable."

- Greg McClure '90, Manhattan-Vaughn Construction project director

There has never been a project of this scope on the collegiate scene, combining the sheer size of the redevelopment with the logistical snarls that revolve around football seasons and a semi-secluded city in Central Texas.

It’s a 27-month endeavor involving thousands of man-hours, countless planning sessions and an aggressive timeline that relies on the whims of Mother Nature and the availability of in-demand construction supplies.

Oh, and the eyes of passionate Aggies and curious colleagues around the nation will be watching.

Said McClure: “The first two meetings (with architecture firm Populous) were, ‘You want to do what?’ But there’s nothing that’s not doable. We can make things happen. We have to have everybody towing in the right direction and everybody in line; it goes from the Texas A&M Systems office, through the architect and then through us…everybody has to be willing to dig in, and that’s what’s happened.”

The construction army for the redevelopment is an impressive one, from the 45 supervisors (40 or so are Aggies) and administrators who will oversee the project to the nearly 1,000 workers and subcontractors who will be on site at any given time. Two 10-hour work shifts will be implemented immediately, as phase one of the construction began in earnest just after A&M’s game with Mississippi State when the actual field at the stadium was ripped up and sold in pieces online.

And the work on the stadium will unfold quickly, as the first deck of the east side will be nearly extracted by Thanksgiving, while concrete piers and columns to support the east-side canopy and south end zone stands will begin rising into the air by January.

Then the contractors will eagerly await the arrival of steel supports and the brick facade, both of which are being prefabricated in plants across the state. In fact, much of the construction for the facility will be done offsite before being hauled to College Station and erected onto the facility in pieces.

The old Kyle Field was a gray, concrete monster, but steel will now support the concrete slabs for the new seating areas. And the brick will be inlayed to an exterior skin at a plant in Corsicana before the panels of brick will be attached to the facades at Kyle Field.

“The reason you (use steel) is that we can fabricate steel offsite and ship in when ready to erect,” said McClure, Class of ’90. “The good thing about steel is we have three plants out in West Texas right now that are fabricating the steel (structures) while we are already putting the foundations in. They’ve been working for three or four months to get the steel here in the offseason.”

The logistics and details that go into a project of this magnitude are daunting, to say the least. Manhattan-Vaughn must relocate much of their staff to College Station, while housing or busing in trade workers from all over the state.

And the dynamic of building a new stadium around parts of an existing one is a difficult piece to the puzzle.

“Tying into two decks that have been there since the 1960s and late 1970s...there’s a whole other world sitting there,” McClure added. “It’s a set of problems we didn’t taste with Cowboys Stadium. But with computer models becoming en vogue the last few years, we are problem-solving and preventing retrofitting.”

The timeline of the project will hit warp speed just after the 2014 football season, as the push to build an entire new west side with high-end finishes to suites and clubs will be intense.

“There will be no open end, of course, with large metal canopies over the top and a few extra Aggies in the stands. I think you can imagine what that will do to the noise level.”

- Greg McClure

Demolition of the first deck of the west side will take place shortly after Thanksgiving, and the controlled collapse of the second and third decks will take place—no doubt as a YouTube sensation—during the Christmas break in 2014.

From there, a three-shift, 24/7 work routine will be in full bore, with the summer of 2015 being the prime time for the finish-out work of the clubs and suites.

Both McClure and Vaughn, the project executive for the redevelopment, say the second phase of the job will be the most taxing.

“We have some very high-end finishes, and those take time,” McClure said. “You really need to get the building down and pushed out of the way and get our foundations and steel going up immediately so that we can get those finish trades enough time to get their materials in and acclimated to the conditions.”

Added Vaughn, Class of ’91: “I would say in the first phase, (the biggest challenge) is materials, and in the second phase it’s weather.”

Despite the enclosing of the stadium, lowering of the field and tightening of the sidelines, the construction team was not concerned with Kyle Field becoming an intolerable hot box during September games.

But the stadium will certainly allow the fans, all 102,500 of them in 2015 and beyond, to bring the heat.

“There will be no open end, of course, with large metal canopies over the top and a few extra Aggies in the stands,” added McClure. “I think you can imagine what that will do to the noise level.”

The planning for the unprecedented redevelopment of Kyle Field has been ongoing for more than a year, and the construction site is officially a hub of machinery and manpower.

Vaughn said he would be overcome with relief once the gates open in 2015, and then after the punch list is pored over he’ll be able to freely enjoy the fruits of his labor in 2016.

McClure knows his dream job is about to consume his life, as A&M’s grand old stadium receives its historic facelift.

“We’re going from the Kyle Field we all know and love to what I think will be a pretty building that will fit this campus,” McClure said. “It looks like it belongs here. I think everyone will be very proud of this building when it’s done.”


REDEVELOPMENT TIMELINE

2013
November: Grass field at Kyle Field removed; first deck on east side and Netum Steed Strength and Conditioning Laboratory demolished; concrete pillars and piers for south end zone addition are poured.
December: Steel support structures erected; columns supporting east-side canopy are being erected. Northeast tower (with escalators and stairs) is being constructed.
2014
January-May: South end zone concrete risers placed on steel support structures. Northeast plaza and re-paving of Houston Street begins.
June: Precast brick facades, glass, exterior skin, three scoreboards placed around stadium walls.
August: First phase of the redevelopment nears completion.
November-December: North-end plaza demolition and controlled collapse of the west side of Kyle Field.
2015
January: Clearing of debris to make room for entire new west side.
February-June: Erection of three new decks of Kyle Field.
June-August: Finish-out of suites and clubs for west side.
September: Opening of the redeveloped Kyle Field.




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