By Jordan Corona
The blustery winds Thursday forced a temporary change of plans for construction at the McLane Stadium building site. The last steel truss was scheduled for installation Thursday with a “topping out ceremony” complete with catered lunch, a raffle, a few words from Director of Athletics Ian McCaw and a tree. President Ken Starr and Brian Nicholson, who is the Associate Vice President for Facility, Planning and Construction, were among university administrators in attendance.
Workers took a break from their hammering, and gathered in an enclosure from stacks of sheet rock and lengths of copper pipe for a barbecue lunch that afternoon. Someone won the raffle, but weather conditions made it unsafe to hoist the structure.
The topping out ceremony is a tradition in construction, commemorating the moment in a project where the highest structural beam is hoisted to position with an evergreen tree placed atop.
“I guess it’s been said, ‘man should never build anything greater than what God created,’” said Jim Heley, Austin Commercial senior project manager. “That’s why you put a tree up there. It’s to show humility.”
There is dispute about where the tradition comes from, but Heley said he heard it was from the Netherlands.
Thursday marked a special point in the progress of the new football stadium. In his remarks to the tradesmen, McCaw said construction had just surpassed 60 percent of completion.
McCaw addressed construction workers and guests. With the help of a Spanish translator, he thanked the Austin-Flintco partnership, and thanked workers for their hard work and for making the new structure a reality.
At least 600 laborers work on the site every day.
“We’re really excited about the progress being made at the stadium,” McCaw said. “We are now just about 220 days from the opening game.”
Jeff Horn, Austin Commercial senior supervisor, said weather claimed an estimated 21 days of work. He said the weather contributed to concern about the construction deadline.
“Weather effects us whether we loose a whole day, or a partial day,” Heley said. “Over all we’ve been able to make up that time.”
Time constraints on the construction are important to the projects managers. Horn and Heley said workers on essential crews like steel setting, are now being scheduled to work seven days a week, even nights.
“This schedule is nothing new to us,” Heley said. “It’s been aggressive from the start. It was six days a week from the very beginning and we’re no strangers to night work either.”