Member Spotlight

Chase Center

High-Performing Team Heading for a Win in Delivery of Warriors New Home

Chase Center Project GlanceLess than a year before the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors hold their first practice in the new Chase Center in San Francisco, another team that knows a thing or two about high performance – contractor Mortenson | Clark, A Joint Venture – is well into the second half of construction on the much-anticipated new sports and entertainment venue.

The 11-acre Chase Center site in the City’s Mission Bay neighborhood is humming with activity, as over 900 craftworkers put in place some $1.8 million of construction each day. The $1.2 billion project will hit peak construction activity in October with an estimated 1,300+ craftworkers. For many of them, it is the project of a lifetime. 

Envisioned as a destination experience for visitors, the 18,000-seat venue anchors a development that includes over 100,000 sq. ft. of restaurant and retail space; 3.2 acres of public space, including large open plaza spaces at each main entrance; and a view deck with newly opened vistas to San Francisco Bay. Two 11-story commercial office buildings totaling over 580,000 sq. ft. of leaseable space and below-grade parking for nearly 1,000 cars round out the site. 

Chase Center will host a variety of events such as concerts and conventions in addition to Warriors basketball. Designed by MANICA Architecture, with Kendall Heaton as architect of record, Gensler as interior architect, and MKA as structural engineer, the project incorporates numerous sustainable features and is targeting LEED Gold certification.

Highly Collaborative Team

Chase Center is the latest U.S. sports and entertainment project to raise the bar on innovation, both through its state-of-the-art features as well as its design and construction approach. From the dedicated virtual design & construction team that is utilizing cutting-edge technology to boost project efficiency and safety, to a highly collaborative project management team that is maintaining the aggressive schedule despite myriad challenges, the project is a showcase of innovation, collaboration, quality and efficiency.

Mortenson | Clark Senior Vice President and Project Director Jim McLamb said the project’s success to date has been driven by a high-performing team including the owner, designers, contractor and field personnel, all pulling in the same direction. 

“We’ve got a great team, a very engaged owner and a dynamite group of subcontractors and suppliers that are true partners,” McLamb said. “There is just a good vibe on the project; you can feel it when you walk out on the jobsite. It is clean. People are conscientious. They enjoy coming to work on this job, and it shows.” Ultimately there will be over 140 subs and suppliers, many of them AGC member firms, with contracts on the job.

Shared Values Bolsters Team

The project is only Mortenson’s and Clark’s second joint venture together. The first was 27 years ago, and McLamb also worked on that project. He said the two companies share similar corporate philosophies on safety, risk management and other core values. 

“You could walk around and never know who is Clark, who is Mortenson,” McLamb said of the 67-person onsite management team that shares open office space adjacent to the jobsite. “There is a lot of collaboration, high energy and good camaraderie. We challenge each other. Before the job started we sat down and discussed what are the best practices of a good joint venture and how do you run it best – lessons learned, great things that have happened, things you never want to do again. We’ve brought all of those experiences to bear on this project and it has greatly benefitted both our team and the project.”

Executing a One-Of-A-Kind Design

The team’s solution-driven approach has helped resolve various challenges that go with a high-profile project of this size and complexity. Mortenson | Clark Senior Superintendent Trevor DeLong said one overarching challenge has been executing a unique design concept that features very little repetition.

“Every time you turn a corner in this space there is something different constructed at a different elevation or a different way per the design,” he noted. “It makes for a very challenging job.” 

While every modern arena and stadium project strives to distinguish itself with at least one signature architectural feature, Chase Center’s design stands out for its many one-of-a-kind elements. “There is a west atrium that hangs off a structure above, a sky bar entrance that cantilevers out over the structure, and then another fin on the west atrium that bears on the structure down below,” DeLong said. “Sprinkle in other logistical challenges throughout the site, and it just amplifies the overall complexity.”

Problem-Solving Other Key Challenges

After a year-and-a-half in preconstruction, Mortenson | Clark officially broke ground on Chase Center on January 17, 2017. In addition to technical construction challenges relating to the design, the project team has overcome a variety of other challenges. Among them:

  • Community Relations. Proactive communication has been critical, and Mortenson | Clark has worked hard to be a good neighbor to UCSF Mission Bay Medical Center campus and others.  “Nobody likes surprises, especially our neighbors, many of whom are PhD students,” McLamb said. At community meetings, the team uses the 4D BIM model to communicate what work is coming down the pike. They adjusted some activities, such as shifting noisy work away from the students’ finals week. The result? “There are seven or eight projects going on a stone’s throw from us, and we’re held up as the model,” McLamb said. 

  • Underground and Foundation Work. Crews excavated a total of 300,000 cubic yards of dirt from the site that was formerly a parking garage and, before that, a dump site from the 1906 earthquake. Existing soil conditions made the deep foundation challenging and required the team to drill 1,500 piles up to 150 feet deep, through bay mud, to anchor the foundation into solid rock. A cutoff wall helped contain the water table and keep the surrounding streets intact.

  • Sequencing. Sequencing the work has been a challenge. The critical path of the 22,000-item master schedule runs through the roof and then through the lower bowl seating into the event level. “Because it is an event-driven schedule, you have to find ways to overlap activities,” DeLong said. “We are working in all areas at the same time. There is a point in time we had 15-20 cranes, drill rigs and pump trucks on this 11-acre site at the same time. Just orchestrating that, safely, is a big effort.” 

  • Completion Schedule. An immovable completion schedule driven by events long booked for the venue means managing to key milestones and staying on track. “What makes Mortenson | Clark different is how we complete the job,” DeLong said. “It’s not just about getting the 95 percent done; it’s about finishing that last 5 percent and, at the end of the day, walking away with the punchlist done. We build that into our plan and schedule and communicate it to our subcontractors.”

  • Safety: Maintaining the highest degree of safety is an overriding priority on this jobsite. From a detailed safety plan, to custom designed safety apps, to a full-time medic on site, the team has tackled safety on multiple fronts. That has created a safety culture that delivers real results. As of mid-July, nearly 2 million worker hours had been expended on the project with zero lost time incidents and a recordable rate below 1. (Industry average recordables are mid 3’s.) 

Technology Supports High-Performing Team 

While 3D BIM for clash detection is standard procedure on projects of this size and complexity, the Chase Center project team is leveraging technology as a true differentiator. 4D BIM modeling, drones, custom-designed apps and virtual reality mockups and reviews are just some of the tools used to improve productivity, quality, schedule, and safety. 

“We have pushed the envelope as hard as we can on this job,” McLamb noted. “It is VD&C taken to a new level.”

Chase Center’s 4D model is “an enhanced version” DeLong describes as “a 4D model on energy drinks.”  Subcontractors model every stud and every piece of conduit to avoid clashes in the field. The model is also used as a communications tool with the owner and public, and to help manage subcontractors’ workflow. 

The project teamed up with Stanford University on another tech-related initiative, a pilot drone deployment. Twice a month, drones survey and take pictures of the jobsite to record work completed and check quality issues. That information is fed into the model and tied to the schedule of activities. 

Dedicated VD&C Team

Overseeing all of the project’s technology is a dedicated five-person Virtual Design & Construction team, led by Mortenson | Clark VDC Manager Brian Nahas. Along with detailers from their trade partners, the VD&C group numbers between 30-40 people at any given time, Nahas said.

That team has taken a deep dive into virtual reality (VR) usage on this job. Their VR mockups allow individuals in different locations to don VR goggles and meet “in” the model for a virtual walkthrough, as they look for discrepancies with the design and what the owner is expecting. In one case, close review of Club Level finishes revealed differences in the VR model and the design renderings in the millwork, lighting and an entire feature wall. Catching this discrepancy before the work was put in place allowed the team to make adjustments, avoid rework and eliminate unwelcome surprises, Nahas said. “It has increased everyone’s awareness.”

There’s an App for That

The VD&C team has also added value to the project by creating several custom apps that offer ways to “lean up” the onsite workload. 

One app that is also tied in with the BIM model tracks materials from the manufacturing facility to the jobsite. Another safety app, “See It, Text It, Fix It,” allows workers to easily offer input on any jobsite hazard that they spot through a simple text application. It not only helps the team hone in on hazard “trends” on the job, but also “creates a safety culture on the job where all the workers are really looking out for each other,” DeLong said. 

Second Half Push to Completion

Construction of the Chase Center project was approximately 60 percent complete as of this July. If it tracks anything like the Warriors’ third-quarter push in many of their games, the project is clearly headed for a strong finish.

Steady progress is evident in virtually every corner of the project site. A symphony of seven large cranes, including two crawler cranes and five tower cranes, are frequently in motion, overseen by a full time “crane boss” who coordinates their every move.  

A major focus of work this summer was structural steel erection, including installing the long-span roof trusses. The high roof membrane work began in mid-July, and the metal panel and glass curtainwall exterior is soon to be installed. Interior trade work was progressing from floor to floor at a rapid pace.

The entire team is focused on the key project milestone of having the building “dried-in” by November 1, allowing finish work to proceed unabated for the remaining nine months of construction. Final certificate of occupancy is scheduled for August 1, 2019. That is a date that Mortenson | Clark has no intention of missing, say McLamb and DeLong. Both men plan to be on hand when the Warriors play their first game in the new arena next October.

The opportunity to see fans’ reaction is one of the biggest rewards of working on a sports and entertainment project like this, DeLong noted. 

“When you open an office tower or a hospital, the opening event is basically handing over the keys to the owner,” he said. “In the sports world, the opening event is shared with 18,000 people enjoying the fruits of your labor. It is something to be there – a really great feeling. That’s part of the reason why I do what I do.”

Photo credits: Mortenson | Clark, A Joint Venture