Mortenson Construction’s John Wood is a “master of communication,” says Earl Santee. “I rest a little easier when we have John on a project,” adds Rick Martin.

These are the voices of two senior principals with a prominent sports architect: Populous, Kansas City, Mo. Praise for a builder from architects is rare in the high-pressure sports market, in which designers and builders on the same job often act as if they are on rival teams.

The respect for Wood, who led Minneapolis-based Mortenson into sports construction two decades ago, is based on experience. Santee headed up the design team for Minneapolis’s Target Field, a $545-million ballpark for baseball’s Minnesota Twins that opened last April. The job, which was bedeviled by a tight site crisscrossed by active railroads and hemmed in by roads, was substantially complete in late 2009, an astounding three months-plus before the first ball game.

Target Field was bid during a time of constant flux in the market because of the Interstate-35 bridge collapse. “John overcame that hurdle,” says Santee.

Wood says use of virtual design and construction tools aided the job. He also credits his senior superintendent, Dave Mansell, for the team’s achievements.

Martin worked with Wood, a Mortenson senior vice president, on the $250-million Louisville Arena, finished in September. Jim Host, chairman of the Louisville Arena Authority, says “the secret to Mortenson’s success is its extremely disciplined top management, led by Wood.”

“Sports projects are big and tough,” in the public eye and demand top management involvement, says Wood. “We’ve not allowed ourselves to get overextended.”