Onondaga Lakeview Amphitheater
Syracuse, N.Y.  
Best Project

Owner Onondaga County
Lead Design Firm Westlake Reed Leskosky
General Contractor Gilbane Building Co.
Civil Engineer Savin Engineers
Architect of Record QPK Design

With a date set for its first performance in 2015, the construction of Onondaga Lakeview Amphitheater was bound to a tight schedule. As part of a renewal effort following its designation as a Superfund site, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in September 2014 that enabled building a new performing arts venue on Onondaga Lake to be completed in less than one year.

The amphitheater project was one component of a larger community revitalization initiative for the western shore of Onondaga Lake, the village of Solvay and town of Geddes. The outdoor complex, which features seating capacity for 17,500 people, required design and construction of a pavilion, stage-house and back-of-house facilities, a loading dock, restrooms and a box office.

To meet the budget parameters, the team scaled the initial program to its essentials, assuring stage size, stage access and a sufficient number of dressing rooms while cutting the initial four-story design to two stories. The size reduction brought the project’s cost down to $49.5 million from $80 million.

The aggressive time frame required several crews to be on site daily, increasing the risk for safety incidents. Stringent safety plans were created for the project, which had an average of 230 tradespeople on site each day. Multiple crews were managed through detailed scheduling sessions, weekly planning meetings and daily shift coordination meetings. The tactics were a success, and the amphitheater construction exceeded 200,000 total man-hours without a single recordable or lost-time incident.

To expedite onsite construction, contractor Gilbane Building Co. elected to prefabricate aspects of the project. The site did not allow for transporting the trusses as members, which required the assembly to take place off site. This also ensured a higher level of quality. Each truss arrived in no more than three sections, which were set in movable cradles for final connection before being erected using two cranes.

William Gilbane III, senior vice president and managing director of Gilbane’s New York division, credits Onondaga County for ensuring the project’s success.

In addition to the amphitheater, the finished project features nature and festival areas and recreational trails.

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