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Renovating an athletic facility is a major capital improvement project. One that can prove critical to refreshing the game day experience, ensuring competitive advantage within the conference, and supporting recruiting efforts. However, the long journey through renovations can pose challenges to maintaining the athlete and fan experience during construction, yet is paramount to the success of the project.
A university and its facilities department can do a lot for students, staff, and faculty during a campus construction project. An experienced construction manager can even eliminate some typical operational disruptions to campus life through thoughtful planning, flexibility, and communication. A sports builder will be able to come up with creative solutions to maintain the game day experience, ensure critical revenue opportunities aren’t impacted, and ensure the security and safety of the students and fans is never compromised.
What’s at Risk if Game Day Goes Wrong
Daily athletic operations, training schedules, and game days are at risk of disruptions during active construction. This can affect more than just convenience; it can impact the safety of fans and athletes that aren’t used to the construction, turn away future recruits, create a negative fan experience, reduce potential donor and game day revenue, and create game day broadcast mishaps.
As part of the overall disruption avoidance strategy, a solid game day plan can maintain fan experience standards.
Keys for a Better Game Day During Construction
Secured & Organized Project Site
After a stakeholder planning workshop, the construction schedule will be reconciled against the operations of the surrounding facilities to identify potential conflicts. Activities that pose the greatest safety risk like demolition, steel erection, or precast concrete installation can be planned and executed during the off-season.
Using the 5S program on a jobsite will help create a clean, safe, organized jobsite. Built upon Lean principles, 5S drives efficiency with improved workflows creating a head start for game day preparations. These can be further streamlined by reducing Friday construction activity to help accommodate pre-game setup needs.
Temporary construction accommodations and opportunities to alter the construction site for a better game day experience include:
- Opening walkways and tunnels for event traffic
- Removing materials from parking lots for fan parking and tailgating
- Ensuring sightlines for media and live footage are not affected by things like temporary shoring
- Covering up visually unappealing areas with high fencing or drapes
- Securing safe pathways with fencing and barricades
- Using clear detour signs and wayfinding to guide pedestrian paths and using QR codes to show seating maps
Pre-Game Planning and Communication
As with any coordinated effort, the pre-game plan should be established and communicated early with key audiences and stakeholders. Visual plans with 3D models and diagrams help make it easier to understand what fans can expect. A 4D model (combines a 3D schedule with a timeline of construction activities) can show months or years in advance which scopes will be finished, where cranes will be located, or what temporary shoring might interrupt normal egress.
Ryan McCrary, project manager for Mortenson's sports group, has worked directly with the athletics department at The Pennsylvania State University since 2017. With his experience on seven different Penn State athletics projects, Ryan explains, “The big thing is communication. We understand sports, and we work to understand your operations. We go out of our way to plan the work and keep your day as efficient as possible, all while getting your facility done.”
Pre-game day walks conducted with facilities, athletics, and game day staff can provide an idea of game day visuals and help spot potential issues or fan concerns. This walk needs to include the fire marshal and representatives that are responsible for the health and safety of the student athletes and the fans in the crowd and is also recommended to adjust emergency egress plans.
Mortenson Superintendent Bradley Halbleib has spent most of his career in active sports facilities. “We know what to expect. These walks are very critical from an emergency and safety standpoint. We know what a game day experience should look like and can offer you the opportunity to make it perfect, so your fans don’t notice a difference.”
Game Day Services
Having project management staff onsite and available for game day needs is a great way to head off issues as they arise. A chain of communication established for construction activity emergencies should be continually updated so construction staff can be alerted to issues immediately.
At Kansas State University, Mortenson completed three renovations at the Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Each phase was on accelerated fast-paced schedules with ongoing operations in the stadium. This required Mortenson to partner with the most skilled local, regional, and national sports-specific trades, and each party needed to efficiently execute from day one for the project to be a success.
To prepare for fast-tracked construction during a full seven-game season on the West Side Stadium, Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology helped the team provide virtual mock-ups and game day egress plans. Reimagining the game day experience for a facility under construction helped K-State minimize the disruption to fan experience and create a safe environment for everyone to enjoy the game. K-State sold out all games during construction.
Bonus Benefit: Generate Engagement and Revenue
Projects involving multiple phases can utilize the initial phases to build fan excitement and promote fundraising, helping to springboard the subsequent phases. Fans can engage with the project in many ways:
- Construction updates
- Fan engagement tours
- Tailored recruit tours to follow the most presentable path
- Virtual Reality booths to visually represent the new facility
- Project videos to inform progress and hype completion
- Live construction camera to watch progress
- Project updates via social media
Mortenson has a dedicated and experienced team of traveling sports builders who know first-hand campus and game day operations. We understand the impacts a campus can feel from the loss of a critical facility and are skilled in keeping the surrounding facilities fully operational during the renovation process. Our team will work closely with you to tailor your project schedule and game day disruption avoidance plan to maintain—or even enhance—your student, athlete, staff, and fan experience. Learn more about disruption avoidance planning here.
Your trusted partner in sports facility construction
Mortenson has specialized in Sports Design and Construction for over 30 years. We view each project as a partnership presenting the opportunity to raise the bar and build something unique and impactful to the community.