Done! Arena is ready for its unveiling
Editor’s note: Last in a series of progress reports on the expansion of GCU Arena.
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
It took nearly 500,000 pounds of steel and more than twice as much concrete, but the Grand Canyon University Arena expansion project comes down to one thing.
And it’s done ahead of schedule.
And it looks great.
OK, that’s three things. But the people involved are so happy with the way the five-month project came together, the superlatives keep growing exponentially.
“I’m in awe of what they were able to do,” GCU President/CEO Brian Mueller said.
The important thing, he added, is that having an Arena with a capacity of more than 7,000 is a big help to the University in its mission to build community, and it was critical to have it ready for the start of the school year.
The early finish makes it possible to hold the Switchfoot alternative rock concert in the Arena on Saturday, Aug. 23, followed by the first Chapel of the new school year on Monday, Aug. 25.
“It’s going to be such a rallying point for the University, the way we’re kicking it off,” Mueller said. “Welcome Week and then ending it with Switchfoot, with students and their parents and staff all there. It’s great.
“And then to have Chapel in there – that sends a real strong message to the community. Chapel is on Monday morning. That’s how we start our week.”
Bob Machen, senior vice president for campus development, said, “It went incredibly well. I don’t think anyone could have imagined it was going to come together this well. There were lots of moving parts. But we’re getting this thing done much earlier than we anticipated.”
Mike Maland, project manager for Tutor Perini Building Corp., said his firm originally proposed a finish date of Oct. 17. Early on in the project, Machen said he was shooting for Aug. 22, but six weeks ago Maland told Machen his workers would be out of the building by Aug. 15. Friday is indeed the day they plan to leave except for some minor cleanup early next week.
This week’s work mainly involved checking items off the “punch list” — touching up some paint, filling in a chip in the concrete or replacing a ceiling tile. Workers also removed bubble wrap from the speakers on the Arena’s ceiling, and the electronic message boards were being ramped up again after going unused for so long.
Also, the sound system was tested Tuesday, and Mueller was thrilled about how the volume reverberated through the building. “It shakes,” he said.
The movable video screen went through its first test last week and chugged along the 57-foot track with no trouble. It will swivel to its angled position in the Arena’s southeast corner for basketball games and other events where the upper deck at the south end will be used, then revert to its old spot in the middle of the south side for concerts and other events where the retractable seats will be moved and the upper deck seats at that end will not be occupied.
The squares for the new basketball floor sit on dollies in the reception area on the north end, ready to be pieced together on Wednesday, Aug. 27. Dino Trejo, the Arena’s operations manager, said part of the reason for assembling the court then is that the manufacturer, Horner Flooring in Dollar Bay, Mich., must be on hand to make sure it goes smoothly. The floor will be on display for the all-employees meeting on Friday, Aug. 29.
The first sports events of the school year will be women’s volleyball matches on Sept. 2-3, which will be played on a sport court in an Arena, not the basketball court. Trejo said it was purchased from Sport Court of Arizona, owned by former Phoenix Suns player Jim Fox.
The final walk-through was done on Tuesday, and Machen, who is retiring at the end of the month, said there were no glitches. Now it’s just a matter of getting the Arena set up for the first events of the school year.
Mueller can’t wait. The Arena has yet to hold its first event, but it already has its first victory.
“It doesn’t look like a retrofit,” he said. “It looks like the building was designed that way. It doesn’t look awkward, and that’s big. The construction group came through. And it was under budget and in advance of what was agreed to.”
OK, that’s three victories. Seems to be a trend.
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.