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Pile Driving Finished on $67.5 Million Football Stadium Renovation

By Harry Minium

Something was missing when Old Dominion University faculty, other employees and students returned to campus from the holiday break - that distinctive sound of piles being driven into the ground.

Contractors hired by S.B. Ballard Construction to renovate ODU's football stadium finished driving 670 piles on Dec. 22, a few days after school closed for the fall semester. That was more than a week early, and it kept the school's $67.5 million project slightly ahead of schedule.

Crews now are installing underground utility lines and building forms in which concrete will be poured to create foundation footers on top of the pilings. Some of the footers, which will support the stadium, have already been poured.

From a visual perspective, it's perhaps the most boring stage of construction. There are no cranes crushing brick and mortar, nor four pile drivers huffing and puffing.

Most of what you see on the three stadium video cameras are earth movers, carpenters and concrete trucks at work.

stadium video cams

But in some ways, it's the most critical period of construction. Extended rain or a blizzard could put the project behind schedule.

"We're coming up on the worst part of the winter, late January and early February," said Rusty Waterfield, ODU's associate vice president for university services and chief information officer for information technology services.

"There is always uncertainty in the construction business, whether it's weather, equipment malfunctions or delays in materials being delivered. We have to keep moving forward."

Demo began Nov. 19, and Ballard is scheduled to turn the stadium over to ODU officials at the end of July.

ODU will open the new stadium Aug. 31 against Norfolk State.

Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium had 20,118 seats, but it was cramped and fan amenities were out of date.

The renovated stadium will have about 21,400 seats, nearly all with back support. They will be wider and offer more leg room. There will also be new restrooms and concessions stands on both sides, and a new press box and upscale club level on the west side.

The 5,000 seats in the north stands, many of which are set aside for visiting fans, won't be replaced in this first phase of renovation. They are likely to be replaced in the future. They are not nearly as old, or as cramped, as the sideline seating.

Greg DuBois, ODU's vice president for administration and finance, said the primary purpose of renovating the stadium is to improve the fan experience. The sight lines will be improved, sideline seating will be significantly closer to the field and the end of each sideline will be pointed inward, toward the field.

The seating will all be at least 6 feet above the ground, allowing for unobstructed views of the field.

David Robichaud, ODU's assistant director of design and construction, said if all goes according to plan, the steel that will support the seating will be installed in February.

By late February or early March, as many as 10 cranes will be hoisting steel, aluminum and precast concrete forms into place, said Stephen Ballard, who heads the Virginia Beach construction firm.

S.B. Ballard simulation of stadium construction

Ballard did preliminary work over the summer when he was allowed by ODU to install utility lines and drive test pilings.

The six new stadium light towers were installed in October and were turned on for the first time Nov. 17, during a postgame celebration of the last game played at Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium. The lights are on well into most evenings as construction crews work.

The renovated facility will be known as S.B. Ballard Stadium.

Contractors worked 24 hours a day to tear down the 82-year-old, clam shell-like east and west sides in just two weeks.

Watch Foreman Field come down in less than a minute

"That gave us a great head start," Waterfield said. "We're still slightly ahead of schedule.

"And while that's great news, it doesn't mean we can slow down."

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