Big Red Business: $103 million construction contract in play
A handful of powerhouse local, regional and international construction companies are vying for the contract to build Nebraska’s $155 million athletics training complex.
The bidding and vetting process for the lucrative and highly visibility project has just begun, and multiple sources say the athletic department aims to select the construction manager in December.
The general construction portion of the project is valued at $103.78 million, with the remaining costs going toward architectural and consultant fees, engineering and equipment.
Who are the probable bidders interested in stamping their logo on construction site signage that several million people will walk past over the next two years? The 350,000-square-foot complex opens in 2022 for football and all other Nebraska athletes.
The athletic department declined to comment for this story, saying it was premature to discuss the companies that have tossed their hats in the ring or any other aspect of the selection process.
However, at least seven companies appear to have expressed interest in pursuing the contract or would be logical candidates for the business, sources told HuskerOnline. Several of these companies have long histories with Nebraska athletics projects ranging from Memorial Stadium renovations and expansions to the Haymarket baseball stadium, the new gymnastics center, and Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Of those seven potential candidates, two confirmed they’re bidding on the work -- Kansas City-based J.E. Dunn Construction, and Hausmann Construction in Lincoln. A third firm -- The Weitz Co. in Des Moines -- said it has been monitoring the project closely.
The other companies considered likely candidates to pursue the business are Sampson Construction of Lincoln, Kiewit Corp. of Omaha, New York-based Turner Construction, and Mortenson of Minneapolis. The four companies either declined to comment or couldn’t be reached for comment.
It is also possible that other construction management companies will emerge. Moreover, don’t be surprised if several companies pursue a joint venture -- say a national firm with a local Nebraska company -- to win the job. Joint venturing is an option where a larger company has the financial muscle and insurance bonding capacity that a smaller firm may need to get the contract.
Two weeks ago, the athletic department hosted an open house to discuss the scope of the project with construction companies that might be interested in pitching a proposal.
The companies are working on their proposals, and will be notified by around Nov. 26th to set up interviews with the selection committee, sources said.
The selection committee -- thought to be about six people consisting of athletic department and university leaders along with private citizens -- will then come up with a short-list of finalists for the job.
Those interviews are scheduled for around Dec. 13, and sources said, the athletic department wants to make a final decision shortly after those meetings before year-end.
The Board of Regents, which would need to approve the contract, is scheduled to meet Dec. 5, so a final contract agreement might not be signed until the board’s next meeting in February.
What is the committee looking for? Above and beyond a myriad of factors are two considerations: Does the company have a track record of meeting or coming under the construction budget, and does it stay on schedule? With such a visible project the selection committee will be carefully weighing those aspects of the bid, along with expertise in handling sports projects of this scope, insurance bonding capacity, and meeting affirmative action guidelines.
Ground-breaking is scheduled for next June, with an opening date before the 2022 football season.The complex will be built on land that is now the Ed Weir outdoor track and field stadium, which will be relocated to an area near the Devaney Center.
To be sure, there are lots of moving parts to be hammered out, including the hiring of an architectural and design company or team. According to documents filed for the October Board of Regents meeting, the architects are also scheduled to be hired in December.
*If you’re not familiar with J.E. Dunn Construction, think of it as Kansas City’s version of Kiewit.
Dunn is more often than not the builder of many of the Kansas City area’s biggest projects and attractions. It also has a deep history of involvement in the area’s civic and community affairs.
Dunn’s reach extends beyond Missouri and Kansas, especially through its sports division.
For starters, Dunn handled the renovation and expansion of the west side of Memorial Stadium, a project completed in 1999. The five-level addition included an expanded press box, 42 skybox suites, 1,500 premium club seats and food and beverage facilities.
The existing press box was removed to permit construction of the addition.
The company also renovated and built the University of Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium north stands, which included razing and reconstructing the existing seating. That project was completed before the start of the 2019 football season.
Other Dunn projects: Georgia State University’s football stadium in Atlanta, which was completed on schedule despite 52 days of rain in 2017; a new 19,300-seat football stadium for South Dakota State University in 2016; and an east side expansion of Memorial Stadium at the University of Missouri in 2014.
Dunn is currently building a stadium that will be home to Wichita’s new Triple-A minor league baseball team. The stadium is scheduled to open in March 2020.
Doug Duren, Dunn’s vice president and client solutions director, explained his firm’s interest in Nebraska’s athletics facility, which will be linked to the north side of Memorial Stadium.
“We are excited to be in pursuit of building” the so-called North Stadium expansion project, Duren said in a statement. “The project would be run out of our Nebraska office, led by multiple University of Nebraska graduates and Husker fans. We love seeing the university move forward with this new facility which will lead the nation and elevate Nebraska athletics to another level.”
While Dunn has a presence in Nebraska, Duren said the company also plans to utilize the experience of its national Sports Building group to bring additional specialized expertise to Lincoln.
*The University does not necessarily have to look far for a talented and capable team. For instance, Lincoln-based Hausmann Construction has confirmed its pursuit of the project and, while it has not offered any further details on its possible involvement, the firm has been involved with many high profile and high-value projects.
Hausmann Construction launched in 2003 by Joey Hausmann, is currently building the Lied Place Residences, a 20-story downtown Lincoln condominium and commercial building that will be the second-tallest in the city after the state capitol, and recently completed the new Omaha Eppley Airfield parking garage and rental car facility.
The firm also has a strong and recent resume of noteworthy University projects that include the new state of the art College of Business, the new College of Nursing, and the first phase of the College of Engineering upgrades as well as several projects involving Husker athletics such as the new gymnastics complex and the Devaney Center upgrades and Hendrix addition that resulted in more comfortable confines for Husker Athletics.
The new training complex project, which consists largely of spaces designed to accommodate operations and enhance the student-athlete experience seems to fit in Hausmann’s wheelhouse and align with their experience.
*The Weitz Co, a Des Moines-based company owned by an Egyptian firm, has some notable sports projects in its portfolio. One of the biggest was the south end zone expansion at Iowa State’s Jack Trice Stadium.
Completed in 2015, the project involved renovating a south end zone club, two levels of premium seating and club space, concessions, a kitchen, two full-service bars, and the net addition of 4,382 permanent seats.
Is Weitz pursuing the Nebraska contract? “We are aware of the project and have expressed our interest with the university,” said Phillip Nicolino, the company’s senior marketing and communications manager. He declined further comment.
In 2011, Weitz built Werner Park in Papillion, the 9,000-seat home of the Omaha Storm Chasers. It also teamed with Turner Construction on the 17,200-seat Iowa Events Center in Des Moines in 2005. Weitz handled pre-construction and construction services.
Other current and past projects include the new terminal at Kansas City International Airport where it is part of a design and build joint venture, student housing at Texas A&M and the University of California-Berkeley, and the Dillon Family Aquatics Center in Fremont. When the aquatics center opened in 2018, it was the largest pool ever built for a YMCA.
The 167-year-old firm, which is owned by Orascom Construction PLC, considers itself the sixth-oldest architecture, engineering and construction company in the United States.
*Allen Fieldhouse, Arrowhead Stadium, and Madison Square Garden. All are projects handled by, Turner Construction, which is the second-largest general contractor in the Kansas City area.
While the company couldn’t be reached for comment, it is another one to watch for the Nebraska contract. Turner completes $12 billion worth of construction on 1,500 projects annually, the company said on its website.
Turner’s portfolio displays a mix of college and professional sports projects. In addition to handling two phases of renovations at the University of Kansas’ historic Allen Fieldhouse, it also built the Booth Family Hall of Athletics adjacent to the fieldhouse and worked on KU’s Anderson Family Football Complex.
In the pro ranks, Turner built Sporting Park, home to Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City, the Kansas City Chiefs’ training and office facility near Arrowhead, and U.S. Soccer’s National Training and Coaching Development Center near Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.
Turner in the 1950s worked on Madison Square Garden in New York City, and more recently, built Ericsson Stadium, home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C. It is building a new soccer stadium for the Columbus Crew in downtown Columbus, Ohio. The 20,000-seat stadium is set to open in July 2021.
Turner was acquired in 1999 by Hochtief, a publicly-traded German contractor, for $370 million. Turner is headquartered in New York.
Other in-state players
*Is the Nebraska athletics project too small for Kiewit, the Omaha-based Fortune 500 company and one of the ten largest construction firms in the country?
Officials with Kiewit couldn’t be reached for comment, but the company’s website is a highlight reel for both mega projects and many smaller ones as well.
The company reported $9 billion in revenue from construction and engineering work in 2018.
Kiewit built Omaha’s 24,000 seat TD Ameritrade Park, home to the College World Series, and the nearby basketball arena and convention center now called Chi Health Center Omaha. It also built the Creighton University Championship Center, which features two full-size basketball courts, and a 7,000 square foot weight room.
Kiewit’s name is also attached to $30 million project involving electrical work at the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., a $350 million joint venture for SafeCo Field in Seattle, and a $6 million contract for foundation work for the San Francisco Giants’ Pac Bell Park.
*East stadium. West stadium. North stadium. Lincoln-based Sampson Construction has had a hand in all three major renovations and expansions at Memorial Stadium.
Will the new athletics facility be next?
Sampson declined to comment. However, the company has partnered with the university on construction projects since 1965 on academics as well as athletics buildings.
The renovation of the west section of Memorial Stadium was completed in 1999, which involved $36 million in improvements including 42 skyboxes. Dunn also was involved in this work.
The north section of Memorial Stadium was finished in 2006, highlighted by the construction of the Osborne Athletic Complex, the Hawks Championship Center indoor practice facility, and skyboxes.
Perhaps Sampson’s most challenging work came with the east section renovation and expansion. Sampson called the project a “feat of structural genius” on its website.
“The East stadium expansion could not touch the structure built in 1923 due to the inability to handle the structural load,” the company said.
The solution? “Setting back the new structure 15 feet and cantilevering the overhang roof to concrete slabs underground,” the company said. “This allowed the East stadium expansion to be a freestanding structure while also maintaining the integrity of the building.”
Sampson also built Haymarket Park, the $29.5 million home to Nebraska’s baseball and women’s softball teams, the soccer and tennis complex, and the renovation of the University of Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium.
*Thirty years in the sports industry. A top-three sports builder for the past three years. More than 170 projects valued at $11 billion.
Those are M.A. Mortenson Co.’s resume for sports-related construction. Its most significant tie to Nebraska: The $161 million Pinnacle Bank Arena, completed in 2013 and “delivered five weeks early and under budget,” the company said.
Sources said Mortenson wants to be involved in Nebraska’s project, perhaps even partnering with another company to split the job. Mortenson could not be reached for comment.
The company’s portfolio includes projects for the University of Missouri, Kansas State, the University of Arizona, and the universities of Colorado and Minnesota. In the pro ranks, there’s the Chase Center arena that is the new home for the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco, and Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas for the NFL’s Raiders.
Off the field, Mortenson has had to deal with allegations of bidding irregularities over the past year with the expansion project for the Colorado Convention Center.
Denver city officials alleged last December that Mortenson and developer Trammell Crow had tainted the bidding process for the expansion of the convention center, according to the Denver Post. Trammell Crow was managing the $233 million public project, while Mortenson was competing with other construction companies for the contract to build it.
Mortenson challenged the city’s claims of improprieties and said it was unfairly singled out.
The city alleged Mortenson employees received leaked information from Trammell Crow and failed to report it to the city, according to the Post. Mortenson said other companies also received “the allegedly objectionable information” that prompted the city to accuse Mortenson and Trammell Crow of collusion.
Mortenson argued that it was Denver’s lapse in “oversight that created this situation, not any conduct of Mortenson,” the company said.
Earlier this year, Denver launched another round of bidding for the project. The city determined that neither Trammell Crow nor Mortenson was eligible to participate in the convention center project going forward, according to newspaper stories.
Would Mortenson’s problems on the Denver project raise a red flag for Nebraska? No one is commenting, although it is also not unusual for there to be bidding and legal issues involving many companies in the highly competitive construction industry.
Steve Rosen writes about the business of sports for HuskerOnline. Questions, comments, story ideas? Reach Steve at email@example.com.