Jim McLamb: Pressure Cooker Job Meets Immovable Deadline for $1.4-billion Chase Center Warriors Arena
From foundations in San Francisco Bay mud to 85% nonrepetitive cladding panels to the path of Life Flight helicopters landing on the roof of the hospital next door, the 18,000-seat Chase Center Warriors Arena and development in San Francisco faced hurdles on every side, all with an immoveable deadline. “On a sports project, opening day is opening day,” says Jim McLamb, project director for Mortenson-Clark, the joint venture CM. The concept of missing that date “was never in our vocabulary.”
The joint venture turned over the project on Aug. 1, 2019—the exact day it was planned four years earlier to be completed. “We had three hours to spare,” says McLamb. The first event was a Sept. 6 concert featuring rock legend Metallica playing with the San Francisco Symphony. The opening basketball game for the Golden State Warriors was Oct. 5.
Advanced application of virtual design and construction (VDC), high-performance team training and collaborative problem-solving with structural engineer Magnusson Klemencic Associates and other players were among the keys to on-time delivery.
Intensive 4D construction modeling was part of that effort, used to coordinate 36,700 scheduled tasks and 93,000 scheduled relationships, including the movements of five tower cranes, two crawler cranes and two cranes on adjacent sites. “We had to modify our crane strategy and actual crane equipment to keep below the flight path,” McLamb says.
The team collaborated using a digital visualization of Chase Center’s construction logic. Technical advances included near real-time integration of model and scheduling data—reducing import times, which had grown to more than 20 hours, down to just minutes to provide rapid assessments. Brian Nahas, senior VDC manager for the JV says, “The team in the field adopted the mindset of 4D modeling … to think through the logic of assembly and develop the schedule using the model.”
The $1.4-billion development includes two 11-story office buildings, a broadcast station, retail stores, 3.2 acres of plazas and open space and 900 below-grade parking spots. The job has no claims and, with a “no one gets hurt” mantra, had a recordable incident rate of just 0.53 on 5.3 million hours worked.
That safety record took persistent planning, personal accountability, relentless observation and recognition. Managers invited men and women who “exemplified working safely” to Champions Lunches with players and coaches from the Warriors, McLamb says. “It became a sought-after and motivating event!”
There’s always pressure “on an event-driven project,” says Peter Bryan, vice president of construction and development for the Warriors. “The last three months were a barn burner.” He credits “Jim’s leadership” for pulling them through. Tom Rudfelt, of formwork designer-installer McClone, explains, “Jim brought the ability to not be stressed out—to be positive, calm and coordinate the way to move forward.”