Hunt Construction Group / Sundt – Arizona State University Stadium

Hunt ConstructionArizona State University Stadium’s renovations are underway with Hunt Construction Group and Sundt at the helm to deliver an upgraded fan experience.

By Stephanie Crets

Since Project Executive Tab Baker’s first sports project on the University of Phoenix Stadium in 2001, building and renovating sports arenas and stadiums have been his primary focus at Hunt Construction Group. He’s completed projects including Sloan Park, in Mesa, Ariz., where the Chicago Cubs have spring training; Southwest University Ballpark in El Paso, Texas; and the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Hunt Construction thrives on difficult projects, and sports venues fit the bill. They tend to be challenging based on logistics and timing. “It’s figuring out how these complex projects go together and having the ability to deliver these to the clients on time,” Baker says. “You don’t get to revisit opening day; they’re set in stone so you can’t change the schedule. No matter what the challenges are of a project, you just have to figure out how to overcome those and deliver the project.”Hunt Construction info box

Baker faces these challenges and more in his latest project of rebuilding and renovating the Arizona State University (ASU) Stadium, a join venture project between Hunt Construction and Sundt. The stadium is more than 50 years old and was in need of a refresh. “ASU started conceptually looking at what kind of funding was available, and the scope they needed to make it work,” Baker says. “They wondered how can they get the biggest bang for their buck and give students, alumni and athletes what they never had before.”

On Schedule

Renovations began in December 2014 with the first phase in the south end zone. Hunt Construction and Sundt out the old metal bleachers and put in new, precast concrete stadium seating, along with new concessions, restrooms and a new concourse level.

The project is now in phase two, which involves a complete reconstruction of the existing west sideline, along with adding a student athletic facility to the north end zone. This facility will house football operations and offices, including weight rooms, locker rooms, training areas and physical therapy. “Phase two is the most complex of the phases with schedule crunch-time and dollar value,” Baker notes. “But this is really going to enhance ASU’s ability to have all the most current technology in terms of training, hydro therapy and other pieces of equipment.”

The final phase will begin at the end of the next football season, November 2016, with construction on the east side of the stadium. “We’ve left some elements of the existing stadium in place and built around the elements and added new structures to them,” Baker says. Sept. 1, 2017, will mark opening day for ASU, and Hunt Construction and Sundt plan to have the entire project completed by that August because, as Baker explains, there are no schedule alterations when it comes to sports schedules.

“What we don’t know is what we encounter when we stick a shovel in the ground,” Baker explains. “We found some things along the way that could incur cost and schedule impacts, but it’s how you recover from those and stay on the tight schedule. It took several months for demolition, which went very well, and we encountered a few surprises. The biggest surprises were soil conditions, debris and differing existing foundation conditions. It’s finding all of those things, getting engineered solutions and figuring out how to move forward with the project.”

Increasing Demand

The biggest reason ASU wanted to renovate and rebuild its stadium was to increase the amenities for fans and students. The first plan was to provide a base of amenities with different price points and levels of seats from regular to premium.

In addition, ASU wanted to upgrade the fan experience for everyone with more concessions and restrooms, bigger video boards around the playing field and wi-fi throughout the stadium. “Any time you put one of these sports venues in, you’re trying to one-up your neighbors,“ Baker explains. “We’re trying to make it a very technologically advanced venue. The amount of technology that’s available in the stadium will be phenomenal.”

The stadium updates and upgrades will help ASU from a recruiting standpoint as well. “They’re trying to bring up all these amenities for what’s expected when you go to a sporting event and increase demand,” Baker notes.

Renovating older stadiums like ASU fills fans, athletes, Hunt Construction and Sundt with anticipation and enthusiasm. When opening day finally rolls around, “everybody’s excited about the game and seeing the fans and athletes come into these newly renovated stadiums is a lot of fun,” Baker says. “It makes all that time and energy spent worthwhile.”

Sports projects are memorable for because most are one-off opportunities that the company pours a lot of time and effort into. “For our company to continue and excel in this market segment for me, personally, has been a great opportunity,” Baker says. “You can say, ‘I was part of this project that will be around for the next 50 years.’ And most of these projects are iconic because it’s something you’ll see on TV.

Sports projects of this type are usually a “one-off” type of construction project, he adds. “Especially with this project, we have a lot to get done between seasons, and it’s our responsibility to make sure we overcome challenges and deliver a project for them on time and on budget. Plus, the athletes are always thrilled to death they’re playing in a new facility. That’s one of the most satisfying things.”

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