Brasfield & Gorrie

Thanks to the construction expertise of Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors, the University of Georgia in Athens (UGA) has a premier, state-of-the-art athletic facility that rivals all others in the Southeast, Project Manager Will Gaither says.  “Most of the athletic department coaches and students felt an expansion of this magnitude was long overdue,” he remarks. “It is a top-notch facility. They are breaking it in and getting their money’s worth. I think our work has paid off.”

The $40 million Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall renovation and expansion began in July 2009 and was completed by December 2010. The four-story, 83,000-square-foot building is home to the University of Georgia Bulldogs football team and headquarters of the UGA Athletic Association. It originally opened in 1987 and was named after two of Georgia’s most famous football coaches, Wallace Butts and Henry Mehre. After the 53,000-square-foot expansion and 40,000-square foot renovation was completed, it looks like a completely new building, Gaither says.

Designed by Atlanta architecture firm Menefee + Winer, the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall exterior skin features an open-joint rain screen system consisting of Fiber-C panels, a fiber-reinforced concrete product made in Germany, and a structural glazed curtainwall system with self-supportive laminated glass. “It does not require a frame like a typical curtainwall system,” Gaither notes. “It’s about 35 feet tall and looks very seamless. It makes the indoor practice area appear as infinite space.”

Its features and amenities include:

  • Football team segment and position meeting rooms with state-of-the-art communication technology;
  • An indoor practice field and multipurpose room with synthetic turf for walkthroughs and special event hosting;
  • A 12,000-square-foot strength and conditioning area with brand-new equipment;
  • An 8,500-square-foot athletic training area with four therapy pools, an X-ray area and two examination rooms;
  • New football coaches offices with conference rooms and a video-editing suite; and
  • A 1,900-square-foot student athlete lounge with game stations, televisions and home theater-style chairs.
Obstacle Course

In late September 2009, raging floods throughout the Southeast forced the evacuations of several towns in Georgia and threatened to throw the schedule off course. “That hit us really hard,” Gaither recalls. “We were backfilling the stormwater retention vault when it happened. It set us back several weeks, but we were able to make up the lost time as the structure and schedule progressed.”

Putting in the four hydrotherapy pools – two of which have built-in treadmills – was a challenge. Those had to be installed at the right time, Gaither recalls. “With a 255-day lead time, advanced scheduling was crucial,” he says. “Installation of certain partitions was delayed in order to give access to the delivery and hoisting, and bringing the pools in too late would delay the finishes in that space. There is very little room for error on something like that.”

The project was carefully phased so that the football team could continue to occupy the existing facility.

“We were building an addition to an occupied building, so we worked closely with the football staff and the team’s practice schedule,” Gaither says. “There were a number of scheduling changes that were inherent with this project. We facilitated the relocation of their weight room and training room after the 2009 season; renovated the existing locker room and the main team meeting room during the off season; and are currently installing their new natural turf practice fields to be ready in time for the 2011 football season.”

Brasfield & Gorrie ultimately met success on the expansion and renovation to Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall because it abided by an internal rule that “proper planning prevents poor performance,” Gaither says. “It’s a slogan that someone shared with me and I’ve taken on through this job.

“Even though you think you have the right plan in place, it’s always good to have a plan B, as well, because a job like this changes,” he points out. “That plan you had in place could change every single day or even multiple times throughout the day. Develop a detailed schedule and try to stick to it as much as possible. If you don’t take the time to plan up front, you are setting yourself up for failure in the end.”

He was pleased with the performance of the subcontractors on the job. “Given the challenges that we had, I would say they were outstanding,” Gaither says. “We had a very diverse team. Some were local subcontractors, and for others, this was the beginning of a new relationship. All in all, our team of subcontractors was a very cooperative group and a pleasure to work with.”

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