A community with pride, an architectural firm with vision, a local builder with the necessary expertise and a leader in custom-designed building systems have teamed to bring to this city an affordable sports arena that would be the pride of any city, large or small.
That is the story of the Urban Plains Center and Tournament Facility in Fargo, ND. “Anyone can spend $100 million on a sports arena,” says Fargo-based ICON Architectural Group co-founder and executive director Mike Kuntz, “but trying to do it for $25 million is another story. Most projects of this size can cost between $40 and $80 million … however, the Urban Plains Center only will cost $25 million,” he added. “As the developer for the project as well as the architect and builder, ICON has the final say in materials and design that will keep costs down.”
It takes a lot more than a grass-covered field for hockey. It takes a big-dollar arena. So, Fargo community leaders got together and formed the Metro Sports Foundation. That included representatives from Fargo Youth Icemakers, Fargo Parks, Fargo Public Schools – even the United States Hockey League (USHL).
The Urban Plains Center is a 15-acre, $44 million construction project begun June 2007. The single-rink facility was completed in the fall of 2008 with the four-rink facility planned for 2009. The facility has five arenas with ice sheets; 37 locker rooms; 40 luxury suites; 300 club seats; main arena capacities of 6,000 for basketball/volleyball and 5,000 for hockey; a tournament facility that will seat approximately 2,000 for basketball or volleyball and 1,600 for hockey – with three other tournament facilities that seat approximately 800 each. Permanent tenants of the facility are Fargo Youth Hockey, Fargo Public Schools and Shanley Hockey along with the Fargo Force, a new USHL team which will play a 30-game home season.
The facility is designed for both basketball and hockey site lines. It will host tournaments with those sports as well as volleyball. It also is a natural for figure skating shows and competitions. To complement the center there are major concession areas, restaurants, retail space and a training center. The estimated cost to complete the entire project is $44 million dollars, with roughly $25 million of the cost going towards the just-completed main arena.
This is not the kind of project that just any construction company can tackle, so a bid package was released to pre-qualified contractors in the Fargo area. Fargo contractor Olaf Anderson and Son, a Ceco Building Systems authorized builder, won the bid. Olaf Anderson owner Jeff Furstenau said, “I really don’t think that the other contractors turned in a viable bid, so we were in a position to negotiate many cost-saving changes.”
“We certainly have had our challenges,” Furstenau said. “The height and size of the columns and beams were the most apparent issues. They are huge. Add to that the shortage of manpower and an already busy schedule that made the tight completion schedule even more ominous.
“Oh, the working conditions are really tough. For those who have never experienced a North Dakota winter, there is cold and snow and ice. More than you can even imagine. It is tough working with heavy gloves, and try pouring concrete walls 23 feet high in January,” Furstenau added. “But, we are experienced in building in Fargo winters, we are a strong company with significant in-house capability, and we had experience with the existing Engelstad arena in Thief River Falls. Plus, we had what we needed most from Ceco, which was help with the redesign to get the project within budget.
“We looked to Ceco for fast estimates and patience with all of the changes that would need to be made to make this project viable. And, with the owners’ primary concern the completion date, I had to press Ceco for fast delivery,” Furstenau said. “Lynn Chesnut, Ceco vice president of sales at Mount Pleasant, Iowa, has been both a mover and shaker and a cheerleader since day one. He certainly has been hands-on in this project.”
Chesnut said this was a really fast estimate. “We started pricing at the end of June and had to the third of July to submit our original price and preliminary schedule. We knew if we got the order there would be substantial changes through value designing that would be necessary to generate price savings. We got the price to them July 3, and by July 7 we had outlined the steps to save $370,000 while maintaining the integrity of their concepts.”
The changes recommend by Ceco included:
Changing eave height and clear heights
Modifying design loads
50 psf ground snow with high occupancy versus 40 psf roof snow
Changing deflection criteria
Cost impact to eliminate clerestory on the four-rink building
Using tapered columns instead of straight columns
Using standard “x” bracing where appropriate
Spacing bar joist 7’-0” o.c. with 20-gauge deck, and
Eliminating the ceiling liner
“Olaf Anderson’s people are pros,” Chesnut said. “They are great to work with and really are on top of things. We all worked with Mike Kuntz and the talented team of the ICON Architectural Group, to hold the price while giving them what they needed.”
Ceco’s Midwestern Region plan divided the project into phases, assigning two designing and two drafting teams: one to the main arena and one to the four-rink area.
In plant, there were issues too. The size of the frame members was larger than just about anything the plant had ever handled. “But our production folks stepped up and solved every challenge as it came along,” Ceco Midwestern Region vice president and general manager Kurt Rorick said. “Our entire plant from sales to drafting and designing to manufacturing and delivery wanted a part of the action,” he added.
The first phase, which was completed by the first game October 30, was a 211-foot, single-slope clear-span frame with a maximum eave height of approximately 55 feet – plus a unique “warped” roof. The four skating rink building, schedule to begin in 2010, is 280 feet wide with one interior column.
The project called for web depth of 80 inches with mostly 1½-inch flanges, one of the largest project sizes handled by Ceco’s Midwestern Region. The frame segments maxed out the pull-through welder for weight as well as crane capabilities at 10,000 pounds.
Two-inch thick bolting plates and 150 webs had to be cut outside the plant on steel horses using a rail torch either because of thickness or width. Some webs were 1¼” thick. Frames were so large that only four members maxed out some shipping trailers.
“A project like this is a team effort. It was total collaboration including our team, Ceco’s excellent team and the cooperation of architects ICON Architectural Group and Associates,” said Furstenau.