BY CAROL CHRISTIAN - Despite cold temperatures, work is steadily progressing on the second re-development and expansion at the MacDonald Island Park in Fort McMurray.
Clark Builders is the construction manager for the $127 million project that broke ground in September 2012.
“We started from the eastern portion of the site and moved west once the major earthworks were completed,” said owner’s representative Clark Riley.
“The focus on completion of the football stadium for the first turnover space is in order to ensure the facility is fully operational for the Northern KickOff.”
That’s when the Edmonton Eskimos will bring its season-opening exhibition to the SMS Equipment Stadium.
The stadium naming represents a $500,000 commitment from SMS Equipment over a five-year term.
An estimated 35 sub-contractor firms are engaged on the expansion and renovation project.
There can be anywhere from 80 workers to the peak of 150 workers on site at any one time.
Though cold snaps have forced the mercury down to around minus 42 Celsius at times, construction still continues as workers in Northern Alberta are used to cold conditions.
That foresight plays a key role in what work gets done when.
“We completed the vast majority of our concrete foundation work during the summer months to avoid the additional costs associated with winter construction,” Riley said.
The outdoor expansion – named Shell Place after a $2.5 million donation –includes an outdoor performance stadium, community pavilion, shared space and conference centre, skywalk to the existing Suncor Community Leisure Centre, interpretive trails, badminton centre, turf field house, restaurant and expansion of the fitness, wellness and golf spaces.
The 2,300-seat baseball/softball tournament centre will have the capacity to hold 5,500 spectators with the accompanying ‘Berm’ and ‘Party Zone’ areas.
Community engagement sessions began in 2011. This is the second expansion for the facility, which first opened in 1977.
The entire project includes about 165,000 square feet of buildings plus about 18 acres of site development.
The buildings have concrete foundations and structural steel, with predominantly metal cladding and curtain wall glazing systems for the envelope.
There is also the possibility that a rowing centre and marina will get added, but those developments are dependent on the re-development of the adjacent waterfront.
How the work was carried out changed when winter started.
“We are working under ’heat and hoard’ conditions,” Riley said.
“We have focused on advancing the installation of a permanent gas service relatively early as heating with natural gas is much more cost effective than propane.”
Project procurement included a Guaranteed Maximum Price contract, which was intended to lock in a price from the contractor for a defined scope of work.
An early challenge was keeping the scope and early price commitments aligned.
The extreme weather in July 2013 caused some delays in foundation work.
“The short summer season is a critical focus to complete the major site works portion of the work in 2014 as we will have no time in 2015 to pick up any incomplete elements of the site development,” he said.
Riley said that he has witnessed about a 30 per cent mark-up and possibly even more,” on overall construction costs in Fort McMurray given its rural northern location. >
While labour is sometimes an issue, it hasn’t been a problem on this project.
Labour supply has been steady as the construction manager and major sub-trades are all experienced with working in the area and they each have relatively large corporate labour resources.
When MacDonald Island Park underwent its first expansion in 2006-2008, workers were housed in trailers on site, which is in town. It proved to be an unpopular choice with local residents.
The re-developed facility was newly named the Suncor Community Leisure Centre.
For the current expansion, the MacDonald Island Park Corporation (now the Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo) contracted a third-party accommodations services arrangement with a local company to provide rooms for site labour.
The strategy has added an additional level of complexity to the project from a management standpoint, but has the possibility of significant savings to the capital costs, said Riley.
The project is scheduled for completion in 2015.