The madness is not just in March at Purdue University’s Mackey Arena while a renovation and addition are being constructed. “The greatest challenge is just the sequencing to keep the building occupied with our sports teams, maintain our home competitions and get the work done,” concedes Steve Simmerman, associate athletics director – facilities manager. “It’s very difficult.
“One of the reasons we have a three-year project instead of a two-year project quite honestly is because the sequencing is vital to us,” he continues. “Turner Construction has worked very hard to make sure that the teams who are in a competition season don’t have coaches moved from office areas or student athletes shifted out of a locker room in the middle of the season. We may have had them in a temporary locker room for their season, but we didn’t move them once their season started.”
That policy does not stay in effect when a team’s season ends. “Once their season is done, they’re fair game to be moved or bounced around again,” Simmerman explains. “So we’re shutting off and barricading and cordoning off various parts of the arena so we can do construction work there, and then shifting people who were in that area to other rooms. That has been ongoing since the beginning of the project.”
The Mackey Arena – which was built in 1967 to enclose 100,000 square feet, not including the playing floor – is being renovated and a 180,000-square-foot addition being built onto it. Construction started in January 2009 and is scheduled for completion in June 2012 at a cost of $99.5 million. “It’s the largest-single construction project Purdue University – not just athletics, the entire university – has ever undertaken,” Simmerman emphasizes. The arena is named after Guy “Red” Mackey, Purdue’s former long-time athletics director.
The addition will include a new 12,000-square-foot sports medicine facility to replace the 3,500-square-foot one that previously was housed in the original Mackey Arena. A strength and conditioning facility is also part of the expansion, as well as a basketball practice gym, one floor of administration and coaching offices and an area for the athletic department’s development arm, the John Purdue Club. The sports medicine facility will include a new hydrotherapy area with in-ground pools, below-water treadmills and variable height floors in hydrotherapy for various kinds of rehabilitation.
“The original concourse was very narrow, and there were offices all the way around the perimeter of the building,” Simmerman says about the original arena. All those offices and alternate programming areas have been moved to the new facility and the concourse expanded to 2.5 times its original size. The mechanical and electrical in both buildings will be new, with automated lighting that will turn off automatically when not in use and energy-efficient HVAC systems that run on a peak use sensor system to eliminate unnecessary full-capacity usage.
“In terms of competition areas and building use, this is strictly a basketball facility, but the arena has traditionally been our central building within our athletics department that housed locker room facilities for all of our teams,” Simmerman explains. With that in mind, the lower level of the original arena is being gutted to include new locker rooms for men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s track and field, softball and wrestling.
Locker rooms for men’s and women’s staff members and officials, and new video production facilities will also be located on the lower level of the original Mackey Arena. The operations and marshalling area for the building, shipping and receiving and operations staff will be located there, too. “So it’s just really a very thorough, all-encompassing renovation and addition,” Simmerman summarizes.
Purdue University has 18 teams in various sports, many of which have moved out of Mackey Arena to their own facilities over the years. For example, the football team has its own facility, as do the swimming and diving, tennis and golf squads. The baseball and softball teams are having new facilities built, and volleyball is having its area expanded as part of the Mackey project. But all the university’s athletes use the sports medicine and strength and conditioning facilities. Also provided will be athlete lounges, meeting rooms, offices, laundry facilities and equipment storage.
Additionally, a student athlete academic success center will be incorporated into the addition. It is being constructed with a $2 million donation to his alma mater by Drew Brees, the Super-Bowl-winning quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, and his wife, Brittany.
The triangular addition to the Mackey Arena is two stories above ground with a concrete basement and foundation and steel framing with concrete block and a deep red masonry outer skin. “Actually, the addition is pretty seamless,” Simmerman says. “It’s an interesting architectural feature. Our arena is round – always has been – and the addition that was built directly onto the arena is triangular-shaped. It makes it very interesting from an aerial photo. It almost looks like a giant wheel sitting inside of a triangular base.
“It’s a very interesting building architecturally, but the architects – HNTB of Overland Park, Kansas – did a magnificent job of matching masonry colors – even the brick texture – with the original facility,” he maintains. “They did a tremendous job of matching everything, putting architectural lines in the new building that match the original architectural features of the cylindrical building. It’s really well done.”
The addition is constructed on the former site of a large concrete tarmac apron around the arena, a sidewalk area and a parking lot. “We had to move and adjust the location of a lot of incoming underground utilities, but aside from that, it was a pretty straightforward foundation dig,” Simmerman reports. “It’s a very good granular soil with good compaction and drainage.”
To replace the parking lost by the addition, a lot was constructed on an adjacent football practice field. The football team’s indoor practice complex and stadium is across from the arena. So two new 100-yard outdoor practice fields were constructed side-by-side on land adjacent to the indoor facility.
One football field is natural grass and the other artificial turf that will be usable year-round. Buried approximately 4 feet under both practice fields is a filtration bed. Stormwater running off the adjacent asphalt parking lot is collected in drains and guided into those filtration beds under the football field.
“It disappears into the filtration bed right under the footprint of those two football fields and filters back into the ground, as opposed to being carried through campus in the other stormwater collection sewer lines and carried to the river,” Simmerman notes. “We try to point this feature out because unless we tell people about it, they won’t even know it exists.”
During the period the building was being bid, the construction market was undergoing a slump. “We really hit the construction market at a terrific time during this recent economic downturn,” Simmerman notes. “A lot of people were looking for work, and bids on the project were very positive. We were able to get some things in the project that originally we thought we might have to hold off on because of the construction climate at the time. We were fortunate in that respect.”
The athletics department’s own media production center produces video during each game that is transferred to the giant video screens that hang center court in the arena for spectators to watch. It can also record postgame interviews and assemble clips of the game for other use. Docking facilities will be outside the arena so semi-tractor production trucks for the Big Ten Network, ESPN or one of the major networks can pull up and plug in. They will receive video and audio from inside the arena that they can edit and broadcast from the truck.
The plan for an addition was not immediately apparent when the athletics department began considering expansion. “We were looking at it in a different light when we first started talking about it,” Simmerman recalls. “We had an athletic department master plan that literally showed three new buildings that were to be built adjacent to Mackey Arena: one that would house offices and a practice gym, one that would be an academic center and also had some football amenities and a new sports medicine facility in it, and then lastly a brand new arena.”
Athletics department officials began to consider a more compact plan. “We finally decided that we ought to be able to do all those projects in something that was more of a condensed version,” Simmerman remembers. “It would not take up nearly the footprint of two or three individual buildings and really maybe preserve the integrity of our original arena, which people really like in terms of attending and watching competition college basketball. It’s a very intimate environment with seating very close to the playing floor.
“So we contracted with HNTB and asked them what they could do in terms of condensing that overall project,” Simmerman relates. “They came up with the notion of putting a large addition onto the arena that would create the space for the practice gym, the new administrative offices and allow room to expand in an adjacent building to create a student athletic and academic center. With this project, we were able to get all the same results and amenities with those three buildings with just one building addition and do it at about one-third of the cost.”
The construction manager on the project is Turner Construction. “This is our first time working with Turner Construction,” Simmerman says. “They have been wonderful.” He estimates up to 75 subcontractors will perform on the buildings. “They have been a vital part of the overall project,” Simmerman asserts. Those vital companies include DA Dodd Inc.