Rob Taylor, the principal-in-charge for the joint venture American Builders 2017, and Len Moser, project director, spoke with the MDJ on Wednesday about the challenges and thrills of working on the stadium, which is set to be completed by April 2017.
“As we’ve said from day one, it’s a very achievable date,” Taylor said. “We’ve got to execute, but we’re very confident in this team and the resources we’ve pulled together to be able to respond to that date.”
Taylor — also a regional president with Brasfield & Gorrie, one of the four firms making up American Builders 2017 — said he first came to the metro Atlanta area about 30 years ago when his company opened its office in Kennesaw. He said he lived in Cobb for about 22 years before moving to the Lake Oconee area, so for him, the project hits close to home.
“To get a chance to build something like this at this point in my career is really, really special,” he said.
“I can remember starting and looking at some of the major projects here and going, ‘How the heck will we ever have an opportunity to be a part of something like that?’ And today, to be able to have a part of this is exciting. It’s humbling. It’s a real thrill. Just the interest from your friends, you know, and knowing that you’re getting a chance to build something that they and their families have a chance to really enjoy is pretty neat.”
Moser, who was part of the team that converted Olympic Stadium into Turner Field following the 1996 Olympics, said the project is exciting because it is so unique. All stadiums are essentially prototypes, he said, because owners and financers want them to be on the cutting edge. The materials used are similar, but every owner wants their stadium to have something special, he said.
“That’s the fun part about building stadiums. They’re all unique,” Moser said.
While Taylor was hesitant to reveal any of the new stadium’s details to the MDJ, he said it will be “a spectacular place.”
“Without saying too much, the end product here and the fan experience that the Braves fans are going to have is going to exceed everybody’s expectations dramatically,” he said.
Project has share of challenges, benefits
Taylor told the MDJ the stadium will face one of its biggest challenges at the beginning of the project, which he said he hopes will break ground in September. The site of the new stadium will require a large amount of grading, or making the site level, before construction can begin.
“Elevation changes dramatically on the site, and there is some rock … to deal with. But everything’s falling together.”
Moser said the rock the group will have to move before building a foundation will be crushed on site and used to build paths, among other things.
The other challenge American Builders 2017 faces is a shortage of skilled labor, Taylor said.
“With two major stadiums (being built), along with all the other commercial construction here, there’s tending to be a shortage in skilled labor. It’s not only a problem here in Atlanta; it’s a problem nationwide.”
Taylor said the labor problem has been building for years, with more and more people deciding not to pursue jobs in construction fields. The economic downturn in 2008-09 only exacerbated the problem, he said, as many skilled workers dropped out of the field due to lack of available jobs.
Still, Moser said the project will require hundreds of contracts with vendors, suppliers and subcontractors, such as electricians, masons and welders.
He added American Builders 2017 hopes to hire local companies as much as possible.
“It’s obviously good to put those dollars back into the community locally,” Moser said. “So that’ll definitely be something we’re going to look at during our subcontractor selection.”
Moser said the project’s size and quick turnaround will require a large number of people, more than 1,000 workers on site during its peak, so there will be plenty of work to go around.
“It’s going to take a lot of resources, locally and otherwise. But we certainly, from a local standpoint, see a lot of value in awarding as much as we can to the local community.”
There is information regarding bidding opportunities on the group’s website, and the group is holding a meeting for local vendors and subcontractors interested in applying for contracts at the Riverside EpiCenter in Austell on August 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. Taylor said the group also hopes to help smaller local vendors — that might not be large enough to fulfill some of the contracts — find companies to partner with.
Taylor said the group complies with all federal guidelines regarding undocumented workers.
“We go through the E-Verify processes required from the federal standpoint. We follow it to the T,” Taylor said. “All four companies on their own do federal work as well, and so once you do federal work, you have to comply … with the federal requirements, which are also then passed down to the subcontractors, etc.”
The history of American Builders 2017
American Builders 2017 is a joint venture made up of four distinct firms: Brasfield & Gorrie, based in Birmingham, Ala., with a regional office in Kennesaw; Minneapolis, Minn.-based Mortenson Construction; Southfield, Mich.-based Barton Malow Company and Atlanta-based New South Construction. The quartet came together in January of this year.
Taylor said Brasfield & Gorrie partnered with Mortenson Construction to bid on a contract to build the new Atlanta Falcons stadium last year. Though they did not get the contract, the Braves announced their intention to move a short time later, so the two companies continued their partnership in order to pursue the stadium construction project, he added.
Meanwhile, New South Construction and the Barton Malow Company began similar discussions because they had both worked for the Braves previously.
According to a news release from American Builders, New South worked on many projects at Turner Field over the last 15 years and Barton Malow built the Gwinnett Braves’ Coolray Field.
The news release states New South and Barton Malow then approached Taylor to discuss a potential partnership.
“And so, as we began to talk, it just really seemed to fit that even though it was four companies, the culture, the core business values, the amount of resources, the expertise and just the similarities in general made a great, great team,” Taylor said.
The total experience of the four firms involved in American Builders 2017 is certainly impressive. According to the news release, the group has completed $8.6 billion worth of projects in the metro Atlanta area, including about $724.6 million in Cobb County.
Within the county, Taylor said members of the joint venture have worked on the Weather Channel’s HD studio addition, numerous projects for WellStar Kennestone Hospital and renovations of the Kennesaw State University football stadium, among several other projects.
Members of the group have also worked on more than 335 sports projects around the country, Taylor said, including six Major League ballparks: Turner Field, Target Field in Minneapolis, Coors Field in Denver, Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Minute Maid Park in Houston and PNC Park in Pittsburgh.