Despite rain, stadium on track to open fall 2014

Building of the new stadium still on schedule despite the rain. Robby Hirst | Lariat Photographer

Building of the new stadium still on schedule despite the rain.  Robby Hirst | Lariat Photographer
Building of the new stadium still on schedule despite the rain.
Robby Hirst | Lariat Photographer
By Maleesa Johnson
Staff Writer

The construction of the new Baylor Stadium, projected to be open by the first football game of 2014, is on schedule.

“It’s an aggressive schedule from the very start,” said Jim Heley, the senior project manager for Austin-Flintco. “We knew that going in.”

Heley was referring to the six-day workweeks that construction crews often carry out. Brian Nicholson, associate vice president for facility, planning and construction, said some workdays can range from 18 to 24 hours.

This pace has been kept from the beginning of the project. Nicholson said last week he estimated 470 workers to be on site and anticipates between 600 to 700 workers in the late fall or early spring.

“Our focus here at this point has been getting the structure up,” Nicholson said. “Now we’re going to focus on getting the windows in and the roof on so we can start building out some of the finished spaces here in the club and suites.”

Though the project is currently on schedule, the weather has been an obstacle. Heley said they will probably have to work this Sunday because of weather setbacks that occurred this week. Rain prevents the pouring of concrete and working with cranes becomes dangerous. According to the National Weather Service, Waco has received 3.59 inches of rain in the past week.

“The rain certainly is not helpful at least to the project, but I’m sure the community and the state of Texas appreciates it,” Nicholson said. “If we could find a way for it to rain everywhere but there it would be a benefit. Anytime you get rain, it slows your crew down. There are certain things you can’t do if it’s raining. You can’t set structural steel or be up in there air, so certainly we need some dry conditions a little while longer.”

The structure of the stadium is almost complete. The work on the bridge is also underway. The foundations for the bridge will be complete in the next few weeks. After the foundation is complete, columns will be put in. This will set the stage for the bridge piece projected to be set at the first part of next year.

The stadium is not the only thing undergoing changes. The Waco community is experiencing changes from a business standpoint.

“We’ve seen heightened interest and activity in waterfront development for sure, but that takes a long time,” Waco mayor Malcolm Duncan said. “We’ve been working at riverfront development for almost 30 years, so it’s not going to happen overnight just because a stadium gets built. But there is certainly much more interest from what I’ve heard from investor activity and interest because of the stadium.”

The Brazos Riverfront Project is aimed at bringing business to the Brazos riverfront area as well as bettering the economy of Waco. The project is a public-private partnership between the city of Waco and the Brazos River Partnership. The project’s aim is to create retail, residential, restaurant and public spaces. This is also changing and being impacted by the new stadium. Duncan said when the project is fully developed, the investment will almost rival that of the stadium.

“Everything I have heard has been overwhelmingly positive, even from people that are not huge Baylor supporters,” Duncan said. “People that have been looking at downtown and riverfront development for the last 30 years feel that this is a positive step.”

Elizabeth Taylor, director of Waco Convention Center, also has positive predictions for the stadium’s effect on the community. She said the project raises Waco’s profile and is a sign of the health and openness of the community toward development.

“I’m expecting that we as a whole community will experience a tremendous uplift in the attitude of people and I think that we see more business in the area around where the new stadium is,” Taylor said.