For many a millennia people have gravitated towards places of power.
In ancient Egypt, it was the great pyramids; in ancient Rome, the Colosseum. Now days the largest types of structures we have are skyscrapers and stadiums.
Much like these old powerful buildings, stadiums bring an astounding number of people to marvel at their sheer size and cheer on the teams that call the place home. In many respects, stadiums are designed to mimic the look and feel of what it is like to stand in the Colosseum. You are to sit in a completely enclosed area where the more circular the structure is, the more equal everyone’s views are to the action. The second reason for this enclosed style is so that when you are inside the stadium nothing outside of what is occurring exists; all your attention is focused on what is happening in the here and now.
It is for these reasons that city of Edinburg, Texas erected The Bert Ogden Arena, a 7,700-fixed seat capacity arena with another 1,300-flexible seats. It will be the home of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, a National Basketball Association G-League team and Houston Rockets affiliate. Emulating certain aspects of the Colosseum, the arena will hold several different types of events, including hosting the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s basketball games, various concerts, family shows, comedy shows, rodeos, and local graduations. Located on the cusp of Texas’ largest border community and with a population of 1.2 million the arena will serve as a hub of all sorts of entertainment that will hopefully unite the city of Edinburg as well as the neighboring cities.
Considering the size of the arena, which spans 306 feet by 386 feet, certain caveats had to be made in order for the design to be functional.
“Form follows function” is a phrase, coined by Louis Sullivan, that is usually reserved for architectual design but in this case holds particular merit. Considering the size of the arena, which spans 306 feet by 386 feet, certain caveats had to be made in order for the design to be functional. The design team studied many options for clearing the space requirements of the arena before developing the final structure that would provide the most efficient form and one that the design team and owner/client agreed upon.
The primary roof structure of this space is composed of a pair of two full-three story deep steel warren trusses with vertical members spanning 306 feet, with steel long span bar joists spanning in between the deep steel truss and exterior walls. Since the span of the truss was long, the truss would exhibit lateral buckling due to the slenderness of the truss. The architectural requirement was to have the minimum amount of exposed bracing to support the lateral buckling of the truss. It was decided to place two trusses approximately eight feet apart and install a horizontal truss in-between at the top and bottom chords. This arrangement eliminated the need of lateral bracing and allowed the 8-ft span to serve as a catwalk for access to equipment, such as lighting and rigging for the entertainment venues.
The exposed W12 truss members make an impressive pattern along the full length of the arena, while the fully-welded connections allow for the cleanest appearance possible. While the main roof structure consists of steel, the structure for the seating consists of precast concrete L-shaped slabs supported by cast-in-place concrete raker beams and columns.
The foundation system consisted of 60-foot deep-drilled cast-in-place concrete piers. To reduce the height of the structure, the court level is 10 feet below the street level. All the methods used to create the stadium came together to provide the grand image where the team and fans can call home.
The design and construction of the opened space posed many challenges, but this created opportunities for the structural design engineer and contractor to collaboratively work together to overcome any such problem that came their way.
The steel fabricator and erector were also retained during the design process and through the utilization of 3D BIM modeling and VR (virtual reality), were able to improve their coordination by quickly and accurately illustrating steel connection detailing. The collaboration of different fields of study helped ensure that construction would go as smoothly as possible. This same BIM modeling process allowed the design team to work together effectively with the construction team to reduce design and fabrication time. During the design phase it was assumed that the deep steel truss was going to be fabricated in sections and transported to the site. But, just before the start of fabrication, it was found that due to the size of the deep steel truss it would be difficult to obtain TxDOT approval for transportation. It was with this hurdle that the design and construction teams came together to develop alternative methods of construction that would maintain the design, intent, and integrity of the deep steel truss. They decided that the deep steel truss would be pre‐constructed in an on‐site location adjacent to its final resting place therefore cutting the need for TxDOT approval as well as a bit of time. The most beneficial alternate solution included modifying some welded connections to bolted connections, which helped on‐site preassembly. The deep steel truss was then pre‐assembled and pre‐painted on-site prior to hoisting.
Techniques like these are not new in the engineering and designing of large projects such as this one. This practice can be seen in the erecting of the Colosseum as well: Stonemasons fabricated parts like stairs to the exact same dimensions off site thereby allowing those at the Colosseum to properly place them. This saved them the effort of taking tools and transporting large pieces of stone.
The owner is also the contractor for the project, so when issues during construction arose, as with the transportation of the large truss, the resolution to the issues was resolved in a very rapid and efficeint time frame. As with any owner, changes during construction occurred, including an addition of 6,000 square feet of mezzanine and an entire new elevation with exposed structural steel. The design and construction team had worked together on other projects for the owner thoughtout the years, and each team member worked well with each other to solve the new challenge so that the project could move forward without major delays.
A project of this magnitude will certainly help bolster the city of Edinburg Texas as well as nieghboring communities. The Bert Ogden Arena will be adjacent to the recently opened HEB Park which houses the new 9,000 seat soccer stadium and the new 2,500 capacity amphitheater. This new entertainment hub will hopefully create a strong knit community that will rally around its team and possibly even give them something to be proud of.
Projects this large will always have hurdles to overcome. Luckily, the Bert Ogden Arena was such a massive endeavor that it meant so many experts of their field were working concurrently, like a well-oiled machine, to ensure that that the project was completed in a quick and effective matter. The arena will hopefully be remembered as a structure that was made with many different parts working in conjunction to create something the community can be happy to call home of their soon-to-be favorite memories.