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The Camp Randall Student Athlete Performance Center

Project Overview

The Camp Randall Student Athlete Performance Center (SAPC) was a three-phase project for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Department that broke ground in January of 2012 and finished in December of 2013.

The $74 million construction project was executed in three phases. Phases 1 and 2 included a new entrance tunnel from the lower level of the McClain Center to the Camp Randall playing field, field turf replacement, new locker rooms and lounges, a sports medicine center, a weight room and a nutrition area. Phase 3 involved an entirely new build-out on the north end of the stadium: the 30,000 square foot Fetzer Academic Center. The new center contains study rooms, tutoring space and computer labs.

The Challenges

Planning, phasing, and scheduling was the first major challenge. Once the Athletic Department’s needs were determined we had to decide where the puzzle pieces fit. Do we build a new building? If so where does it go? Will demolition or renovation be necessary? How will our plan affect the neighbors?

Throughout, the most significant challenge would be schedule management. Camp Randall was an extremely active construction site, home to over 80,000 football fans on game days. On non-game days activity was nearly constant with the football spring game, Crazylegs Classic, state high school football championships, summer youth football camps, spring Badger Football Camp, summer Badger Football Camp, volleyball, wrestling, daily functions, operations and tours. Every event needed to function without any hindrance from construction.

The 50 Athletic Department staff members working in the Stadium also needed to be accommodated, as did 650 student athletes, for up to eighteen months.

Of course a construction process itself presented more than a few challenges. Because portions of the stadium were nearly 100 years old there was little-to-no reliable information on the original construction. The McClain Center is 25 years old, but was not built as a State Project. Furthermore, the locations of buried utilities were mostly unknown. The new players’ tunnel would require a trench 20 feet below the existing foundations of a 60-year-old part of the stadium.

The Solutions

The Project Team consisted of the State of Wisconsin, UW-Athletics, Campus, the College of Engineering, the Design Team and JP Cullen. We worked collaboratively through ten different options but in the end decided on a combination of renovation and construction that would allow us to stay on the current footprint. The JP Cullen team worked tirelessly to fit the construction phases around both the athletic and academic calendars. Because this part of the project was so important a dedicated Event Coordinator and Owner Liaison position was created. The Events Coordinator was responsible for communicating on behalf of the Athletic Department staff with the construction team. This person was responsible for:

  • Making sure all interruptions of services/utilities were properly scheduled and coordinated.
  • Identifying all the events impacted by the construction and planning around them — and when that wasn’t possible, ensuring that the event would occur safely and without impact.
  • Ensuring that employee and visitor access was maintained safely, providing site maps and identifying and lighting access pathways.
  • Serving as a liaison to emergency services in cases where the normal emergency response access had to be changed.
  • Monitoring and informing Facilities of noticeable changes in construction, noise level, vibration, traffic, etc.
  • Meet with the UW representatives to discuss any changes in construction or modifications to owner’s traffic and pedestrian flow.
  • Monitoring safe access from the Lot 17 Parking ramp to the College of Engineering Buildings.

For the design phase, JP Cullen built a 3D virtual model of the players’ tunnel utilizing laser scan data of the existing building and tunnel. It was the first digital visualization tool the University had employed on a construction project, and it not only helped the Cullen team to verify the feasibility of the plan, and convey design intent to the team and field workers, it helped minimize the excavation footprint so adjacent work could take place. For the excavation, a micropile and bracket system was installed to extend the existing columns down below the bottom of the new tunnel. Soil nailing and shotcrete was then used on the excavation walls. This allowed for a stable excavation while the tunnel was being built, but still allowed the footprint to be kept to a minimum so the majority of the main slab area could be constructed.

The Results

Working closely with the University and all the relevant stakeholders, JP Cullen helped create a master plan that minimized both footprint and broader impact on the University’s facilities. The plan:

  • Called for renovation/remodel versus completely new construction, which fit better with the University’s budget.
  • Avoided creating another separate building that would have to be maintained.
  • Maintained continuity and adjacency for better access and flow of all functions.
  • Kept green space open.
  • Minimized impact on the College of Engineering by leaving an empty lot open and moving Athletics further away from the building.
  • Reclaimed previously undeveloped space.
  • Made the space they already had more functional.

Also, by employing the 3D virtual model, the JP Cullen team was able to clearly visualize the players’ tunnel within the existing building, including head room and excavation layout for forming the new concrete walls. As a result, the final construction site was just 1/3 the original planned size. The reduction of site disturbance took a full two months off the schedule. The two month cushion allowed the project team to solve the last minute issues that all major projects experience, and ensured the phase was completed in time for the first football game. In the end, the University was able to complete the project even as it continued to host crowds of more than 80,000 fans. Events went forward with minimal disruption to daily operations. With JP Cullen on the team, University staff was able to stay focused on their roles without the additional responsibility of managing a facility under construction.

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