Kinco was proud to be selected to serve the University of Arkansas Razorback baseball program on the construction of the J.B and Johnelle Family Baseball Development Center. Kinco originally constructed the university’s Baum-Walker (baseball) Stadium in the mid 1990’s and added on to the nationally ranked facility three more times, increasing seating capacity each time and performing numerous additional upgrades. The development facility is attached to the stadium. Thus, our knowledge and pride on this project was significant. The project itself, however, was uniquely special because it was all about the players and coaches and helping to make what is consistently one of the top baseball teams in the nation even better.
The challenges on this project were plentiful, including managing such a high-profile public project with interest from so many. Additionally, the multiple facets of space utilization from locker rooms, hydrotherapy pools, equipment rooms, weight rooms, state of the art technology pitching lab, field maintenance, laundry, coaches’ offices, player meeting rooms, nutritional room, to public spaces like loge boxes, bar, and outdoor balcony made for a complexity of building systems, technology, and finishes. All constructed next to a pond, in a flood zone, and during a two baseball seasons.
Once selected, Kinco team members traveled all over the country with members of the University of Arkansas facilities, athletic department administrators, coaches, and design team members to tour other state of the art athletic training facilities. The team visited the Clemson University football facility, the Texas Christian University baseball facility, the University of Mississippi baseball facility, and numerous others. This effort served the team in helping to define their likes and dislikes and to create the vision for this project.
The preconstruction phase was challenging namely from the sake of trying to balance the goal of constructing the nation’s best baseball training facility within a stipulated budget. This effort took extreme collaboration amongst our preconstruction team, the design team and key subcontractors and suppliers, many of whom are ABC members. Together, the preconstruction team worked to accomplish the vision of the facility, while maintaining the project budget. Items included in our scope of work outside of the traditional trade packages included such items as the technology utilized in the new pitching lab and a tremendous number of graphics.
The existing service are for the grounds crews were located right beyond the right field fence, exactly where the new facility was to go. Thus, new accommodations had to be made for the grounds crew. Additionally, all the surrounding water drainage sloped to this area of campus. The last thing Kinco wanted to do was to cause a flood on the baseball field. Thus, our initial phase included constructing a new storm sewer to help the entire area drain to the nearby detention pond beyond center field. Kinco devised an interesting way of managing our SWPPP by having a weir cut into the wall draining it out. This allowed us to drain it for dirt work, and when there was heavy rains, we could close the gate to whatever height we wanted to make the detention pond and let the silt settle. We would then release the water downstream as it was designed.
Once the water issues where addressed, we tackled building a new field maintenance storage and access area with gates from behind center field. The new facility allowed the grounds crews to maintain the field, which was of high importance to the head baseball coach. We also partitioned off a portion of right field seats from pedestrians during the 2020 season to ensure separation and safety of the public. All of this had to occur in phase I before we could ever start the new facility.
The “tunnel” was another big obstacle to overcome. There was much public debate and intrigue as to whether or not there was going to be a tunnel connecting the first base dugout to the new facility since the team would be moving their dugout to first base. From the beginning, Kinco was budgeting for and planning for the construction of the tunnel. Original conversation was to take the tunnel under the field. Yet, Kinco made the suggestion to take the tunnel under the existing concourse in order to not dig up the field. The biggest of multiple challenges of taking the tunnel under the field was going to be that it had to be done during the off season between 2020 and 2021 seasons. Digging up and reconstructing the playing field in that time frame would have been extremely problematic. Thus, it was decided that the tunnel construction would be done by excavating out the tunnel access under the concourse along the first base side of the field. Kinco suggested constructing new foundations of shoring piers for construction with a cast in place floor and CMU walls with a poured in place concrete lid, then backfilled. Kinco also suggested that the wall shoring system be left in place with a French drain system between the shoring and the CMU. This would allow the design to be CMU versus the originally planned cast in place or large precast which would have been problematic from a constructibility standpoint. With the space limitations we needed to “play small ball” if you will in place, COVID hit in early 2020 and cut the season short. This allowed Kinco the opportunity to start the tunnel earlier than expected. The tunnel was completed during the extended offseason and the concourse was reconstructed and ready for fans by the start of the 2021 season.
Kinco incorporated several tools at our disposal for the coordination and management of the project, especially with the numerous systems we had to coordinate from MEP, and high-tech specialty equipment in the pitching lab both under slab and overhead. We relied heavily on building information modeling (BIM) for the project from day one. BIM played an integral role in coordinating all the MEP and structural trades for the facility. Kinco hosted on-site BIM coordination meetings weekly with key trade subcontractors in order to stay ahead of field coordination challenges.
As mentioned, COVID started while we were under construction of the new facility. As the entire world began to shut down, Kinco team members had to figure out while working with University of Arkansas personnel how this would affect the project. Kinco team members immediately instituted clean hygiene standards by increasing sanitary disposal and hand wash stations, wearing of masks in closed spaces, and physically distancing when possible. Additionally, Kinco team members began ensuring with all subcontractors and suppliers that materials were ordered and ready for shipments when required. The industry wide challenges that came from supply chain problems certainly hit the job; however, through good old fashioned hard work, persistence, and constant communication we were able to overcome them and complete the job on time.
When the 2021 baseball season kicked off the project was still under construction. Kinco team members had to manage the facility during all practices, scrimmages, and of course game days. Certainly, part of this included managing the building for safety and security, but we also had to make sure that the site was extremely clean to properly represent the university, as well as Kinco to visitors and television viewers. However, the bigger challenge of managing construction while the season was ongoing was the loss of workdays. When you consider that for some of the 2020 season before COVID shut it down, and all of the 2021 season, anytime there was a 3-day home series we would have to shut down work at noon on Fridays, and no work on Saturdays. Additionally, if the Razorbacks were hosting a mid-week game, we would typically have to shut down early then too. So, Kinco had to work with our subcontractors on actively scheduling work such that we could maximize productivity and make up for lost work hours and or days. We did this through weekly meetings with all subcontractors and suppliers and short-term interval schedules. These played a critical role in our ability to overcome schedule challenges allowing us to look ahead and maximum productivity during working hours.
While these were just some of the challenges Kinco team members faced we are proud to say that through good management practices, communication, and teamwork Kinco was able to complete this truly state of the art training facility for our favorite baseball team on time and in budget Most importantly, it was also done safely. We are so proud to have been part of building what many consider to be the nation’s best training facility in all of college baseball.