Center of Attention. State and university claim Petersen roof was improperly built. (Photo by William Boyd /

They’ve been playing basketball at the Petersen Events Center on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh for more than a year. Although many have called the new arena delightful, the school and the state’s Dept. of General Services have chosen to focus on cost overruns and a leaky roof. Their game plan now includes lawsuits against the designers and contractors.

Filed just before New Year’s Day in county court in Pittsburgh, one lawsuit accuses architects Apostolou Associates, Pittsburgh, and Rosser International, Atlanta, of negligence related to numerous delays and extra costs that the suit claims were caused by deficient design. Rather than monitoring and expediting changes and construction, the architects actually delayed and interfered with the contractors, the suit alleges.

Although the architects say they have filed a response to the lawsuit, it could not be obtained by press time and Apostolou and Rosseer declined comment.

A separate lawsuit was filed against G&W Roofing and Construction Inc., Eighty Four, Pa., the main roof contractor, and Morin Corp., Bristol, Conn., which supplied the aluminum panels for the domed roof. Havens Steel, Kansas City, installed the arena’s steel roof trusses but is not a defendant.

According to the complaint, the arena roof has more than 200 holes near the brace and edge trusses of the roof framing. Because the roof trusses were not installed at the proper elevations, stresses were introduced that prevent the roof from functioning properly, the lawsuit claims. In addition, G&W allegedly failed to install enough roof anchor clips or properly space clips that were installed. The clips were inadequately shimmed, "abrading the aluminum roof panels [and] reaming out the rigid insulation and waterproofing membrane, creating a direct path for moisture" into the arena, the suit says.

Few in Pittsburgh are surprised at this latest turn of events for a building whose final scope and cost have grown considerably. Conceived years ago as a $35-million project, the arena later grew to a 440,000-sq-ft building costing about $119 million as university officials after a long period of inactivity got the project going and opted to change the site and expand the scope to incorporate a large student recreation center.

"Both the passage of time and degree of overlap" with three other local arenas and stadiums "had an impact on cost," said Robert Hill, a university vice chancellor, in a letter to a local newspaper.

According to local reports, the project was fast-tracked and construction began before design documents were completed. School and state officials decline comment.

Any project of this size and complexity, Hill added philosophically, "brings construction-related claims."