Cheers and catcalls: The complex histories of Seattle sports stadiums – Crosscut

Cheers and catcalls: The complex histories of Seattle sports stadiums – Crosscut

Engineer Mark Aden of DCI Engineers talked about the expansion of Martin Stadium in Pullman, the high temple of Cougar football at Washington State University. He described how they expanded the stadium by using an existing information technology building to hold up large grandstands. They couldn’t displace the solidly built building housing campus tech nerds, so they built on top of them; the old IT facility was so sturdy that it had extra capacity to support part of the new football stadium. Nerds helping jocks, who knew?

John Magnusson, principal at Magnusson Klemencic Associates, has worked on just about every sports complex in the region. This includes the 1995 renovation of Key Arena, Lumen Field, T-Mobile Park, the expansion of Husky Stadium and the renovation of nearby Hec Edmunson Pavilion, a 1920s structure that still looks the same on the outside but has been brilliantly modernized inside. No more view-blocking columns, for one thing. He also gave a blow-by-blow account of the collapse of a new Husky Stadium grandstand as it was being built in the ’80s. Everyone in Seattle then remembers how its cantilevered roof folded and fell down. No one, fortunately, was killed, and the project was still completed on time.

But the star of the event was a detailed look at what it took, structurally, to adapt Climate Pledge Arena. Steve Hofmeister of Thornton Tomasetti in Kansas City, oversaw the structural work. He has worked on stadiums and arenas all over the country. If anything, the wonky discussion he led confirmed the near insanity of the project.

Hofmeister said one of the huge challenges was building an arena after the roof was on. Most big stadium and arena projects, he reminded us, put their lids on last. That way you can use tall equipment without worrying about hitting a ceiling. When engineers saw the bid paperwork, they realized, Hofmeister said, that “they were going to have to build a ship in a bottle.”

Only the “bottle” was a massive, landmarked roof that weighs 44 million pounds. In addition, the engineers dug deeper to get the arena configuration they wanted, and expanded the space underground out beyond the roof line. That meant digging under massive concrete buttresses that hold the thing up, refastening them to a new, deeper foundation and finally bringing the whole thing up to current seismic code.


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