Volume 44, Issue 3 - March 2009

Feature

Home Run
Glass Plays a Key Role in New Baseball Stadiums
by Brigid O'Leary

The vendors at many stadiums across the country are getting ready to roll out the peanuts and Cracker Jack, along with the hotdogs and the beer. Yes folks, baseball season will be starting in a few weeks, with the Phillies looking to retain the World Series title they won in 2008. In New York, players from both teams closed out the last season with respectable records, but couldn’t go all the way. 

The disappointment was especially hard last year for the Mets and Yankees, with both teams facing a big change in the off-season; each team has a new stadium. Many fans—especially those in the building and construction industries—are looking forward to seeing the new digs at work. And there will be plenty to look forward to, especially for those with an eye for glass.

The New Shea’d of Green: Citi Field
In 2004, Atlanta Braves third-baseman Chipper Jones named his newborn son Shea. It has been reported that Jones chose to name his son Shea because he believes he always hit well at Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets. Whether or not the story is true, by the time Shea Jones starts school in the fall of 2009, the stadium bearing the same name will have been replaced by a newer model, Citi Field.

Though sports arenas have a very prescribed purpose, there are a number of ways to work glass into the design. Baseball stadiums, in particular, require glass to do very specific and specialized things—things that may not be required of glass in other sporting venues.

“Baseball impact resistance is the first [thing] that comes to mind,” explains Bruce Marshall, principal with HOK Sports, the design firm behind Citi Field. “We have a lot of glazing that faces the field and we have to make sure it doesn’t break upon baseball impact.” And that, he explains, applies to any and all glass that faces the field, even if the chance of a player hitting it seems impossible.

But what may surprise some is that there is impact-resistant glass on the stadium’s exterior as well. “The bulk of the glass is 1 ¼-inch-thick insulating units, the outboard lite being a 9⁄16-inch laminated make-up. That was chosen to face the exterior for a lot for reasons, [primarily] impact resistance,” says Bruce Hernsdorf, project manager with W&W Glass of Nanuet, N.Y., the glazing contractor hired for the exterior glazing. “Let’s say the Mets lose the World Series in the 15th inning of the seventh game and fans go nuts …” 

Location, Location, Location
Of course, the incorporation of glass in the design of a stadium in some ways is like any other building: its location and use often determine the specific product used. 

Hernsdorf says that most of the glass installed at the Met’s new home is 1 ¼-inch coated, insulating laminated glass. Additionally, 1 ¼-inch thick composite spandrel panels consisting of ¼-inch heat strengthened clear glass with custom color ceramic frit on the number 2 surface, ¾-inch foam core and ¼-inch hardboard faced on the number 4 surface with aluminum skin painted in high performance Kynar® to match the custom color framing systems was provided by Mapes Industries. That was used primarily at external stadium elevations at upper levels in traditional spandrel applications, Hernsdorf says. 

Hernsdorf adds that the many administrative offices located on the Citi Field campus are glazed with 1 ¼-inch coated, insulating laminated glass as well. Impact wasn’t the big concern there—the thick glass helps to reduce the sounds of the surrounding city from impeding the work within. He notes that the sound resistance aspect is especially important, as the stadium is in the flight path of LaGuardia Airport. 

For the architects at HOK Sports, the surroundings shaped the design.

“The architecture is designed according to the context of where it is located,” says Marshall. “With Citi Field, it’s mimicking Ebbets field. We’re trying to stick with colors versus not a lot of color or reflectivity based on the architectural façade. For most of the glazing on the inside we stick with clear glass, rather than colored. It encloses the space, but we want to maintain the very best view.”The stadium’s website bills the new facility as having “unprecedented sightlines”—the first and most frequently mentioned aspect of the new park.

Be Specific
Though the designers at HOK Sports don’t get much say in which contract glazing company—or companies—end up doing the work on their projects, they do try to make sure to get input from the glazing industry throughout the design process.

“In something we haven’t done before, we go to the glazing industry to ask questions about what was possible, how big [it’s available], where we can get it. We often talk to glaziers about the strength of glass, the proportions,” Marshall says. “We look to glaziers to help us with weights. Press boxes are modified, custom, single-hung window and we’re concerned about it working with manufacturer pre-designed window systems. We also ask a lot about color, tint, low-E coatings and those things so we can understand the mechanical issues of glass that is exposed to the sun.” 

Asking the questions upfront and getting the right materials specified is particularly important because once the design stage is complete and building begins, much goes out of the hands of HOK Sports. The buildings are public works, and the construction managers usually choose the contract glaziers, often going with the lowest bidders, Marshall says. 

Though the stadium design was complete before the contracting bids were issued, W&W Glass got involved very early—as early as 2006 on the administrative end of things. In fact, W&W Glass was already working on proposals for the job when Hernsdorf started with the company in early 2007 and, by that summer, the company had employees on the site of the new stadium. The long working relationship allowed W&W Glass to work with the other contractors to ensure that their needs had been met. It’s the kind of teamwork that begets pennant wins and the payoff here was that construction wound up ahead of schedule. 

“There’s immense coordination that goes on with regard with what we’re doing, especially with structural steel that will support us. In fact, we’re usually involved with design and making sure it’s what we need,” Hernsdorf explains.

Because HOK Sports doesn’t always get much say about which contract glazing companies are hired to work on their stadiums, they also don’t have much control over how many glazing companies are hired—a number that can vary depending on the size of the project. “Complicated” was the word Marshall used to describe the contract glazing work on venues the size of sports stadiums. There is so much work to be done that up to four companies can be hired to work on one structure, especially if a project has been put on a fast-track schedule. 

“Sometimes it’s a bonding issue, too, just because the job is so huge—some contractors just can’t get bonded for the whole project. To keep it fair, the [general contractors] will break it out into multiple scope packages. It’s a big project and there’s so much different stuff going into it. Every type of framing you can think of; there’s a structural glazed system in the restaurant that overlooks the playing field. It ranges from very straightforward to very custom pieces,” he says. Custom pieces such as the proprietary Pilkington structural glazed system in the stadium restaurant, installed by W&W Glass. 

“It’s exciting. It’s a landmark building,” Hernsdorf says, describing what it’s like to be part of the project to replace Shea Stadium. “There’s no doubt it’s exciting to be part of the creation of a landmark.”

The new Yankee Stadium will open on April 16, 2009, and likely draw the same number of loyal Yankee fans to root for their favorite team. What many of those same fans might not notice is the interior glazing of the stadium. Much of the interior glazing—except that on the bullpens—is the work of Champion Metal and Glass Inc., headquartered in Deer Park, N.Y.

The company is a heavy-hitter when it comes to high-profile projects such as this one. And yet, getting the contract to work on Yankee Stadium has been the company’s own little home run.

“This project is unique. Not too many buildings have the history and image that Yankee Stadium has,” says Ali Ghahremani, owner and president. “That by itself is a great honor to be part of.”

Triple Play
However, in other ways, the job isn’t greatly different than other projects. “It’s more than typical in material that we use on almost every project,” Ghahremani says, but he quickly adds, “there’s no difference in working with other trades on this as other jobs, just coordination and scheduling.” 

Working with field-facing glass, the company faced the same safety concerns that Marshall faced when designing the stadium for the other New York team. To keep visitors as safe as possible, most of the glass Champion Metal and Glass installed is tempered/laminated glass—9⁄16-inch—but that’s hardly the last of it.

“We have a custom fabricated insulating unit, 1 5⁄8-inch overall thickness, at the 100-level Legends Lounge, behind home plate, butt-jointed without any vertical mullion to give you a clear view looking to the field,” says chief operating officer Linda Oristano. “At the various levels at 125, 150, 200 and 300 we have the lounges and restaurant storefront framing and glass.  One of the main specialty items are the ticket windows, which are 1 ½-inch laminated bullet-resistant glass with standard framing furnished by C.R. Laurence. We have all of the entrances to the 200 level suites, party suites and miscellaneous doorways.”

Kawneer supplied Champion with the 2-inch thick, heavy wall construction medium- and wide-stile doors and frames, fabricated with required hardware. 

“Trifab® VG 451T front set and center set systems were used throughout all concourse levels of the stadium, which include restaurants, retail and offices,” explains Joclyn Fagan, public relations representative for Kawneer. “350 Heavy Wall™ with 3 1⁄2-inch wide vertical stiles were selected for the stadium’s luxury suites and are single-swing doors into the units. 500 Heavy Wall™ with 5-inch wide vertical stiles are featured on all concourse levels, main entrances and gate entryways throughout the facility. Engineered to withstand heavy traffic, Heavy Wall™ entrances provide quality and durability that lasts.” 

Fagan adds, “Though the exterior of the stadium is designed to resemble the pre-renovation exterior of the original Yankee Stadium, the interior will have a modern look and feel.”

Champion fabricated the sidelite frames and storefront frames as required in the various levels while Oldcastle was “fabricating the glass … for the various glass types at the exterior side of the stadium and interior side facing the field,” Oristano says. For its part, Oldcastle provided interior glazing for the stadium, and originally quoted 13 different types of glass, according to Steve Acker, sales manager for Oldcastle in New York.

“We had meetings with the general contractors for Yankee Stadium; they came out to our facility early on … They wanted confidence in that we could produce on time with their tight schedule,” Acker says.

And produce they did, providing clear insulating units with PPG Solarban 60 low-E glass, Solarban 60 on bronze substrate, laminated glass with Arctic Snow interlayers from Solutia and 9⁄16-clear tempered laminated glass for the stadium.

As it turns out, suppliers aren’t immune from the Mets-Yankee rivalry, especially those with a local office—and more so if they’re supplying product for both, as Oldcastle did.

“Being in the New York market, employees of the company were torn between Yankees and Mets as to which project went through first,” says Acker.

The Full Cycle
Overall, Champion’s work on the stadium will have lasted nearly a full year.

“We have been on the project as early as February of 2008 installing mock-ups for the 200 level door entrances … and [continued] through January of 2009,” Oristano says.

And, much like the contract glaziers working on the HOK Sport designs, Champion Metal and Glazing didn’t get much say in what they were asked to do or with what materials they were to do it.

“All materials were in the specification manuals,” Oristano says. While the specs are already written by the time they get to the contract glaziers, there was plenty of responsibility for the glaziers to shoulder. 

“We had to coordinate the correct function of the specified hardware on the doorways due to the complexity and number of security entrances and requirements of the stadium.  Some of the storefront openings needed to be engineered due to the exposure of the exterior elements and anchoring to the adjacent materials,” Oristano explains.

And while there are always challenges on a job the size of Yankee Stadium, the same business practices that have made Champion Metal and Glass successful helped the crew field whatever came their way as easily as Yankee fans hope Bobby Abreu can.

Brigid O’Leary is a contributing writer for USGlass.

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