Faster work on stadium sought Snags hit, overtime planned. February completion still on.

April 25, 1991|By Melody Simmons and Thomas W. Waldron | Melody Simmons and Thomas W. Waldron,Evening Sun Staff

The Maryland Stadium Authority has told some contractors to begin overtime and weekend shifts to ensure the Camden Yards ball park is completed by its target date of February 1992.

The ambitious construction schedule, which called for the stadium to be built in 25 months, has been compressed to compensate for ongoing construction delays.

Bruce H. Hoffman, the authority's executive director, said the problems are normal for a large project, and construction is proceeding smoothly.

Hoffman said he has directed more overtime and weekend shifts for some workers beginning in May to avoid a last-minute crunch that could cramp the Orioles' grand opening, scheduled for April 1992.

"The worst time to accelerate the job is when you are late," Hoffman said. "So we are going to push the job up front. I don't want to have people there painting the night before opening day. Then you will pay too much and get lousy work."

He said it is too early to tell how much the overtime will cost the state. The stadium's current projected cost is $205.1 million, including a contingency fund of about $7 million for construction change orders and other unexpected costs.

While officials say the project is not in trouble, construction has hit several snags -- including a chronic delay in the delivery and painting of the ballpark's steel skeleton, according to stadium authority documents obtained by The Evening Sun under the Maryland freedom of information law.

The steel problems were aggravated in November, when a 250-ton crane lifting a five-ton steel beam for the upper deck tipped and dumped its load onto Russell Street, according to authority documents. No one was injured, but documents show the toppled crane damaged parts of the upper deck's steel frame and caused a three-week delay in upper deck construction.

A May 1990 construction schedule called for the stadium's structural steel skeleton to be completed by Feb. 28. It is still not complete.

Crews erecting the steel skeleton worked some 10-hour days and some Saturday and Sunday shifts last month to make up for the delays, according to construction documents.

The construction steel delay was prompted in part by contractors having to sandblast and paint steel beams at the stadium site, rather than at the factory, Hoffman said.

Tom Germanson, head of quality control for steel manufacturer Trinity Industries Inc., of Birmingham, Ala., would not comment on the delay.

Construction documents show that the steel delay has caused a backup in waterproofing and insulation in some parts of the ballpark.

Project manager Robert Wyatt said there has also been a delay of "several weeks" in the installation of the stadium's pre-cast concrete frame.

The steel problem has also slowed the installation of the sun screen and lighting towers, although Hoffman said neither is critical to the project's on-time completion.

The documents also highlight a lag of up to one month in wiring parts of the stadium and extra labor costs for duct work in the basement service level.

As recently as January, the stadium construction management firm, Barton-Malow/Sverdrup, adjusted various construction schedules to cope with the delays, according to authority documents.

A half-dozen contractors and sub-contractors contacted by The Evening Sun refused to comment for the record on the stadium project, citing a gag order included in their contracts with the state.

However, privately they said they expect the stadium to be substantially completed by its February 1992 deadline because of the threat of fines.

The project's total projected cost of $205.1 million includes $99.7 million to acquire the site, clear the building and relocate businesses, and $105.4 million to build the baseball stadium.

If the city lands a National Football League franchise, a football stadium at the site would cost at least $70 million more.

In 1987, the General Assembly authorized up to $235 million in tax-free revenue bonds to pay for the baseball and football stadiums. In addition, the stadium authority can draw on revenues from special instant lotteries.

Between June 1988 and June 1990 those lottery revenues totaled $61.3 million. Lottery revenues are expected to add another $24 million by June of this year.

Hoffman, a veteran of several large-scale government construction projects in New York, said the stadium project is experiencing delays typical of any big job.

"If we push ourselves by Christmas we'll have this job far enough ahead that there will be no chance that we'll be late," Hoffman said. "I have a career riding on it. Where's my next job coming from it it's not done on time?"

Currently, a fleet of construction equipment is parked across the area that will become the playing field of the new stadium.

On the upper deck, which will soon hold green plastic seats, workers are putting down the steel and concrete that will give the 46,800-seat stadium its shape.

Meanwhile, inside the main concourse, masons point marble and concrete blocks for restrooms and concession stands. Outside, bricklayers have begun covering the concrete shell with intricate brickwork.

Barely started is the mammoth task of excavating the playing field to a depth of 13 feet below street level. The excavation, tTC which involves 55,000 cubic yards of dirt, can not be finished until the main structure is erected and construction equipment is removed from the playing field.

Officials say they hope to finish the playing area by October, when nurserymen Gary and Alan Wilber are scheduled to bring in specially grown turf from Salisbury.

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