The words speak volumes about so many of its activities: It’s the New York Yankees. This team, this organization, is different. It does things differently — for better or worse — and is worshiped or reviled (there seems to be no in-between) for that. Love them or hate them, the New York Yankees Organization is keenly aware of its history, myth and legend. With that in mind, it set about several years ago on the daunting task of replacing what is arguably the most famous and storied sports facility in history: The so-called “House That Ruth Built” — Yankee Stadium.
Equally daunting was the task facing the Canadian-based precaster, Alma, Quebec-based BPDL – Béton Préfabriqué, that is contracted for the new Yankee Stadium.
The new NY Yankee Stadium features an exterior façade of Indiana Limestone, replicating that of the original Yankee Stadium. From the outside the structures looks similar to the original stadium, although the interior of the stadium is a separate structure, rising above the top of the exterior.
Structural precast concrete always poses interesting challenges for the precaster. For this project, BPDL developed the first three-level stadium bleachers, whereas typically, bleachers have been produced in two-level sections, which generated significant savings on transportation and installation costs. “We did that to save money on the budget,” explains Robert Bouchard, Vice President of BPDL, “and to position our company (during the bidding process). When you do triple bleacher sections, you produce fewer pieces, meaning you can use lower staffing levels, you need fewer anchors, and your erection costs are much lower because you are erecting 30 per cent fewer pieces.” A total of 1,960 pieces of precast — each with a median weight of 35,000 pounds — were produced for the bleachers.
While the three-level bleacher is likely to become the new industry standard, it does require the precaster to account for a lower tolerance. “The jointing becomes much more important between triple components,” says Bouchard, “especially on a stadium where you are dealing with a radius — you have to make sure the joints are in proper alignment.”
Of course, the new design required load tests in the precaster plant to ensure it would meet the prescribed standards and technical specifications — including blast design. “The City of New York required that we produce blast load-resistant components,” notes Bouchard, “so we had to design all of these components to those criteria, meaning, for example, that the anchors had to be upgraded significantly to make sure that, if a blast did occur, the components would stay in place for the safety of the public. That required an increase in the reinforcing of the precast concrete members and to the attachment system.”
Architecturally speaking, most of the façade of the building was designed with the Indiana Limestone incorporated into six-inch apparent precast panels — eight inches when covered with granite or limestone. Thinner panels had a medium weight of 13,000 pounds, while the heavier ones weighed in at 31,700. In the end, the total precast façade measures some 210,400 square feet, incorporating 1,450 panels mounted with 474 connections.
Sending the previously cut limestone pieces to the precaster, which then incorporated them into the panels during concreting, was determined to be the best method to assure both quality and efficiency. Gold leaves that embellish the Yankee Stadium letters were also applied in plant.
To note that this production method maximized efficiency is not to suggest that it made things any easier for BPDL. “The challenge was that we had 2,000 truckloads of material, produced roughly 500 miles away from the work site,” explains Bouchard, “and we couldn’t have any downtime to wait for any of the pieces. With precast concrete, it’s like putting together a puzzle; you need piece A, B, C and D, and if you miss ‘C’, you cannot erect ‘D’ and ‘E’. These pieces are all designed one by one and to fit with each other, and being so far from the work site (made the logistics of getting the pieces produced and transported over that vast distance on time and in sequence was definitely a challenge).” Bouchard adds that BPDL also had to co-ordinate — in sequence — picking up two loads of limestone every week, transporting those from the Indiana quarry to Quebec, producing the pieces, and then getting them to the stadium site, creating a daunting logistical test.
BPDL faced another challenge in that a lot of the precast panels were outside and exposed, but could also be viewed from inside — due to the nature of the building as an outdoor stadium — meaning that it had to design and fabricate for two exposed faces. “When you do precast,” explains Bouchard, “the exposed face is on the mould, but because the back of the pieces was also going to be visible, we had to be very careful about creating an attractive finish on the inside as well, and that required us to finish each piece by hand — they had to be finished to perfection — and then we sandblasted them for a uniform, smooth finish.”
At least partially because the stadium is located in the Bronx, the Yankee organization was concerned that people would attempt to tag the stadium with spray painted graffiti, so the installers sprayed anti-graffiti coating on the first 15 feet of the precast facings.
Although BPDL did design and fabricate the triple-level bleachers, design, co-ordinate and produce precast that incorporated real limestone, and precast pieces which had to blend seamlessly with natural material — and all to New York City’s blast-resistance standard — Bouchard points out the project team’s over-riding concern. “The challenge on this job,” he emphasizes, “was simply the fact that it was Yankee Stadium — the most fabled sports facility in the world. For all of the people who were working on the project — architects, engineers and the general contractor — making sure that the work lived up to that standard was a key factor, and the Yankees ended up being very happy with all of it.”
Owner: NY Yankees (MLB)
Architect: HOK Sports Facilities (Populous)
Contractor: Turner Construction Company