Through our blog, the construction lawyers of the Cobb Law Group try to provide industry professionals with the latest information, case law, trends and interests. Although there are some very sizeable construction projects going on throughout Georgia including the work for Plant Vogtle and work for the Georgia Port Authority, there may not be any more “interesting” project than the new stadium for the Atlanta Braves which, as announced earlier today, will be known as SunTrust Park.
Although there has been some preliminary site work, construction of the new Atlanta Braves stadium complex in Cobb County officially began with the September 16th ceremonial groundbreaking. The general contractor, joint venture American Builders 2017, is on schedule to complete the project for Opening Day 2017. The county is funding $300 million of the $672 million project. “This new ballpark will be a world-class venue that will give Braves Country the ultimate fan experience, both inside the park and out,” said Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk.
The designs call for 41,500 seats distributed over three cantilevered decks designed to bring each fan closer to the action, a canopy three-times larger than average, wide concourses with field-views, and indoor viewing areas. Fans will have fourteen access points to enter the park and parking will be evenly distributed around the complex.
But this 74-acre mixed-use project is for more than just baseball fans. According to the September 2nd press release, the “project will be the first of its kind – a lifestyle destination that will seamlessly integrate a state-of-the-art baseball stadium with an engaging multi-use community.” Shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues on the property will be open year-round, even on baseball-free days.
In April of this year, the Braves and Cobb County detailed the construction schedule. This initial schedule calls for clearing to be completed in October, grading to be completed in December, and stadium structure construction to begin in early 2015. The selection committee considered proposals from interested general contractors who had built at least three major sport facilities – including a new Major League Baseball stadium – in the past decade. American Builders 2017, a joint venture between Brasfield & Gorrie, Mortenson Construction, Barton Malow Company and New South Construction Company, won the bid for general contractor. Fuqua Development LLC will serve as the retail development partner; Pope & Land Enterprises, the office development partner; and Pollack Shores Real Estate Group, residential development partner. JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle) has been named the project manager and The Jerde Partnership will serve as the master land planner on the development.
Although American Builders anticipates completing the stadium by April 2017, there are construction concerns. They expect to encounter a shortage of skilled labor, due in part to the construction of the Falcons’ downtown Atlanta stadium. Project director Len Moser expects peak construction to require over 1,000 workers on site. In addition, American Builders noted the new Braves’ site is rocky and will need extensive grading given the dramatic elevation changes.
One of the first construction tasks will be to relocate three natural gas lines that run under site of the planned stadium project. The lines run about 8 feet underground for one-third of a mile on the site. Stretching from New England to Louisiana, these pipes run under I-285. However, structures cannot be built above them for maintenance access purposes. Relocating the lines will cost Colonial Pipeline Company and Atlanta Gas Light Company, who own the lines, approximately $14 million, but they will be reimbursed from the project’s funding. The work will be contracted out and requires three phases. Plateau Excavation, Inc. has been hired to complete the initial clearing and grading work, which started in May. The second phase involves digging trenches to place the pipes; the third, removing the current pipes. Relocation is expected to be completed in November.
Although the move of the team from Atlanta to the metropolitan suburbs of Marietta, the team has defended its decision. The Braves have no ownership or management rights in their current facility, Turner Field, which they lease from the city. Turner Field was built for the 1996 Olympics and has hosted the Braves since 1997. Although the team has invested nearly $125 million for maintenance and improvements, Turner Field still requires approximately $150 million in infrastructure work and another $50 million on fan experience improvements. Additionally, the stadium is poorly situated for modern transit and logistical concerns such as insufficient parking and highway access. When the lease expires in 2016, the city and the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority will decide the fate of Turner Field.
We wish all the participants in this exciting project all the best, that construction delays will be minimal, that payments will be timely, that there are no performance issues, no materialmen’s liens filed or payment (or performance) bond claims needed; we hope the weather will cooperate and that the scheduling will be met. Good luck! And, good luck to the Braves this and every season!