SBJ/June 3-9, 2013/Facilities

Falcons retain mix-and-match option in picking stadium builder

Don Muret
Selecting a general contractor to build a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons carries a new wrinkle compared with past NFL projects, according to industry sources.

Icon Venue Group, the Falcons’ project developer, recently selected five construction firms to receive the proposal for lead contractor after receiving initial qualifications from about a dozen companies.

The five finalists are Clark Construction, Holder Construction, Hunt Construction, Skanska USA Building and Turner Construction.

The winner, or winners, will work on the Falcons’ new stadium, shown in a rendering.
Image by: 360 ARCHITECTURE
As those five firms prepare final bids, they can respond on their own — or they can team with one or more of six firms that did not make the cut for lead contractor but remain qualified after responding to the RFQ, something that is unusual, sources said.

In addition, after receiving proposals, Icon Venue Group and Bill Darden, project executive for the new stadium, reserve the right to ask firms that it considers to be the most qualified to form a joint venture to best fit the project.

Typically, contractors know in advance whom they will be working with on a sports project, whether they pursue it on their own or team up with a competitor. In Atlanta, however, the Falcons left themselves with the flexibility to make adjustments to any proposed combinations.

“Every time you think you’ve seen it all, you peek around the corner, and there’s something you not only have never seen, but something you would never have anticipated,” one construction source said.

The Falcons’ intent is to ensure good chemistry among all members of the construction team and to provide everyone with a clear understanding of what they are trying to do, said Greg Beadles, the team’s executive vice president of administration.

“We have never built a stadium, so this is of extreme importance,” Beadles said. “We are not trying to force a joint venture. If there are folks who feel they work well together, that’s fine. There are questions about who would you not like to be paired with that we asked as part of the RFP.”

The six firms that did not make the cut include Manhattan Construction, builder of Cowboys Stadium, and Mortenson, lead contractor for the Minnesota Vikings’ new facility. The same is true for Barton Malow, builder of the $226 million renovation of Michigan Stadium.

The three remaining firms, all local, are Brasfield & Gorrie, now building the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta; Panattoni Construction; and DPR Hardin, builder of the Arthur M. Blank Family Office Building, which is named for Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

The locals could be part of multiple proposals. Some have worked together with national firms to build non-sports projects in the Southeast, Beadles said. Also, two experienced builders of sports facilities could form a joint venture to compete for the Falcons job, he said.

Proposals are due today and a selection is scheduled to be made Friday, according to the RFP. The winning construction team will work with 360 Architecture, the Kansas City firm designing the $1 billion project.

> THUNDER ROAD: As the Charlotte Bobcats embark on an 18-month journey to rebrand themselves as the Charlotte Hornets, at least they don’t have to worry about tearing up a terrazzo floor.

By comparison, the rebranding of Chesapeake Energy Arena for the Oklahoma City Thunder included embedding the NBA team’s logo in the terrazzo floor of the facility’s southwest lobby, said Gary Desjardins, SMG’s general manager of the venue. The Thunder obviously has no plans to change its name, so that floor is safe.

In Charlotte, considering all the marks that must be changed over at Time Warner Cable Arena, the Bobcats can be thankful their logo was not part of the terrazzo strip inside the main entrance. Most floor surfaces are bare concrete at the team’s arena, built for $200 million in hard construction costs.

At the recent news conference announcing the Hornets’ rebrand, Pete Guelli, the Bobcats’ executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer, said he has not come up with a complete list of inventory affected by the change.

“I think that would be a separate press conference,” Guelli said.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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