Before COVID-19 hit, the University of Iowa — a member of the NCAA Big 10, the oldest Division I conference in the United States — did a massive upgrade to the premium and club seating options in their new state-of-the-art college football stadium. The school demolished the entire seating area on the north end zone to create a new grandstand area for public seating, as well as premium seating and a clubhouse area.
D&S Sheetmetal’s part of this $89 million renovation project took place mainly in the new 17,000 square foot concourse and clubhouse area with concession areas, restrooms and support spaces.
Using approximately 130 sheets of carbon steel, 50 sheets of 3/16” stainless steel and 50 sheets of perforated carbon steel, the D&S Sheetmetal team created more than 550 unique components while providing detailed shop drawings to facilitate installation in the field. They fabricated 3/16” thick polished stainless steel countertops, soffits and end panels in the concession areas, 16 gage carbon steel wall panels in the concourse and clubhouse and restroom areas, 16 gage carbon steel wall panels and trim and accent components in the restrooms, and 16 gage powder-coated carbon steel custom perforated fin tube heater covers.
Additional work included stainless steel and carbon steel wall panels and trim at skywalk entries, 3/16” thick polished stainless steel frames at backlit graphic display panels in the concourse/clubhouse, and 3/16” thick stainless steel base trim in the concourse/clubhouse.
Tom Grommon, estimator and project manager at D&S Sheetmetal, notes that, though, this type of work is familiar to the company, the quantity was unusual for a single project. The architect’s plans used materials in different ways as well, starting with the polished stainless steel countertops in the concession areas.
“Typically you’d see 16 gage stainless used for something of that nature. The effect the designers wanted was a solid bold stainless steel edge, so we fabricated those items out of 3/16 stainless plate. Not only would you have the stainless steel top, but you would see the thickness of the edge of that material as well so that you see a stainless line as you look at it from a distance. The detailing was unique in that regard.”
Another unique element was the use of carbon steel for decorative wall panels. “We had to be very careful about the material that we were receiving, and how we were handling it because carbon steel often shows signs of heat treatment or cutting,” said Grommon. “There were actually several times during the project where we rejected material from an aesthetic standpoint, which, for carbon steel, would be very unusual. With 99% of the carbon steel that most sheet metal shops use, nobody really cares much about the appearance of the material. Because of the nature of this work, it was pretty critical that it was always as uniform as possible.”
Valerie DeRycke, president and co-owner of D&S Sheetmetal, and a former president of the SMACNA Iowa chapter, found it interesting to see how the architect chose materials. “It was so different than anything we’d ever done. It’s not unusual to have polished stainless countertops, but the carbon steel wall panels and the frames that were built for the graphic displays were unique,” said DeRycke.
The schedule was a challenge too, as all of D&S Sheetmetal’s work had to be done during the last four months of the 28-month project schedule, after other work was complete. “Because so much of our work was decorative, we were not able to measure and field verify the work until substrates were in place,” Grommon explained.
The high-tech nature of the project was another challenge. “With the concession stand stainless steel tops, end walls and soffit, all of which were visually bold, we needed to make sure that planes and corners lined up correctly, and things met up and matched up, so that the fit and finish would be correct,” said Grommon. “Sometimes we had to be a little creative. Some people assume when a project has a high-tech look that fit and finish are not important, but it’s actually just the opposite. Because there are no coverings or finishes to hide imperfections and blemishes, you want the project to look clean and appealing when it’s all said and done.”
Hopefully the project will get a lot of use during the upcoming 2021 season, when thousands of Iowans and Hawkeyes fans will be able to enjoy this unique space.
When the project was complete, the D&S Sheetmetal team took a field trip to the stadium. DeRycke says, “We were able to take everyone through the completed project who had worked on it at any given point. It was really nice for our employees to see the finished product. There’s a lot of pride of workmanship that goes along with that.”