The $30 million face-lift to Cheney Stadium is on time and on budget, and come Opening Day next year, the city’s newly renovated minor league ballpark will be ready to play ball, project officials told the Tacoma City Council Tuesday.
But to finish construction before the Tacoma Rainiers take the field for the team’s home opener on April 15, the city’s primary contractor for the project, Mortenson Construction, retooled a deal with the city by negotiating for two additional weeks of work time.
In return for the longer construction schedule, contractors agreed to build roughly $1 million more of amenities into the refurbished ballpark – including a canopy over seating on the third base side, a new left field auxiliary entrance and a viewing berm beyond the right field fence from which fans can sit in the grass and watch ballgames.
The reworked deal pushes back what had been a contractually agreed-upon project deadline between the city and Schlegel Sports, the Dallas-based owners of the Triple-A Seattle Mariners’ affiliate, from mid-March to April 1, project officials said.
Still, even with the new completion date, the ballpark will be ready two weeks ahead of game day, they said.
Mike Combs, the city’s public assembly facilities director, told the council he does not believe the city’s new 30-year lease extension with the Rainiers, made contingent on the ballpark renovations, has yet been to be formally updated to reflect the project’s later completion date.
“But we have received permission from the Rainiers to push back (the completion date),” he said.
Such details emerged during the latest progress report issued to city officials Tuesday on the first major renovation for the city-owned minor league ballpark in its 50-year history.
Following the Rainiers’ regular season finale in early September, demolition work began in earnest on the aging ballpark, said Ben Golding, a Mortenson senior project manager.
Among other tasks, that work included removing and storing some 210 seats, demolishing the old precast concrete roof and support structures and removing asbestos and lead from the site.
Excavation work under the stadium is now underway with new foundations being laid and walls being erected for additional restrooms and concession stands, Golding added.
In December, a new steel framework to support the ballpark’s new tiered structure above the seating grandstand is expected to be in place, with the wood-paneled facade to be installed so as to completely enclose the structure by the following month.
“The project is on schedule,” Golding said.
But Councilman Marty Campbell questioned whether it truly is. From checking his own recent observations against preliminary work schedules, he said, contractors should be starting interior work by next week.
“I can’t see how we’re going to be starting on interior work when we haven’t even got the superstructure up,” Campbell said.
Some of the work already underway is considered “interior work,” Golden responded, with more detailed interior work expected within the next few weeks.
Both Campbell and Councilman David Boe also raised concerns about a damages clause included in the new lease with the Rainiers that penalizes the city $100,000 per day, up to a $500,000 maximum, for each day construction is not complete beyond Opening Day.
“We want to make sure the lease is updated” to include the new completion date, Boe said.
The third-base canopy to be added due to the extended work schedule will mirror one already planned for the first base side, providing shade and cover for at least 20 more seats, Combs said.
That canopy and other amenities initially included in proposals for the project later were excluded when bids were scaled back to meet costs constraints.
Mortensen and its partner, ballpark designers Populous, won the project contract from among three design-build bid teams earlier this year with a wood-and-glass design that team and city officials say imparts a “Northwest feel.”
The city issued bonds to pay for the bulk of the $30 million project, with the Cheney Foundation chipping in $5 million in private donations to ensure the ballpark’s traditional name remains.
Fans will cover a large chunk of the project’s debt via increased admissions and concessions taxes and up to a 50-cent facility fee added to each ticket.