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Contractors on the fast track

Electrical contractors wire Kansas City's NASCAR racetrack facility.Kansas City, Kan. - Clouds of dust swirled around the job site and the temperature soared into the triple digits as electricians wired the Midwest's new NASCAR racetrack facility."It's 110 out there," said Stann Tate, director of public relations for the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. A few minutes later, he pointed to the temperature

Electrical contractors wire Kansas City's NASCAR racetrack facility.

Kansas City, Kan. - Clouds of dust swirled around the job site and the temperature soared into the triple digits as electricians wired the Midwest's new NASCAR racetrack facility.

"It's 110ø out there," said Stann Tate, director of public relations for the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. A few minutes later, he pointed to the temperature gauge inside his white Ford Explorer as he was driving around the site. "Now it's 113ø."

Red trucks with the gold Capital Electric Construction Co. logo were parked near the NASCAR racecar garage. Electrical workers, including Gary McAmis, journeyman wireman, were working in the blistering Kansas heat to pull high-voltage wiring to the transformers. McAmis said he has been on 1,250-acre site for five months, but noticed a lot of changes unfolding at the end of the summer.

"It seems like everything is starting to come together here recently," McAmis said. They're starting to step it up more and move our completion dates up quite a bit." McAmis said he had a special interest in the Kansas Speedway project because he and his brother have raced stock cars.

"I think it's neat," McAmis said. "I'm a big NASCAR fan. As long as I can see the first car go around the track, I'm happy."

Capital Electric electrician Mike Hampton, who had only been out on the project for two weeks, said he was an avid NASCAR fan. General Foreman Vince Dill, however, said he had never seen a racetrack before working on the Kansas Speedway.

"I'm not a NASCAR fan yet, but this site has been very interesting," said Dill, who has worked for Capital Electric for 11 years.

Leavenworth, Kan.-based Capital Electric Construction Co. Inc., Kansas Speedway's prime electrical contractor with a $3.5 million contract, is also leading the electrical construction work at the Sprint World Headquarters in Overland Park, Kan. Dill said he and some other Capital Electric employees on the Kansas Speedway project formerly worked on the Sprint construction site.

"When we first started, we pulled the Sprint crew out here," Dill said. "We jumped back and forth until we were ready to man the job. Capital told me I was doing the job and then less than a week later I was out here."

When Dill first arrived on the site, he said it looked barren because the houses, which used to dot the landscape, were all gone.

"There was nothing here - no buildings," Dill said. "It looked like a big bowl. They started this contract a year before we even showed up."

The International Speedway Corp. selected Kansas City, Kansas, as the site for the new speedway in August 1997. Kansas Speedway's Tate said the construction for the 1.5-mile racetrack kicked off on May 25, 1999.

"We called it the construction celebration as opposed to a groundbreaking," Tate said. "We've moved 11 1/2 million cubic yards of dirt for the project. That's enough to fill Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City's football stadium) five times over completely to the top."

The architects and engineers designed the stadium as a "bowl" so the racetrack would be elevated and the RV parking, a pit area and the four race car-parking garages would be in a lower position in the center of the track. The grandstands are built up on the side of the "bowl," so spectators who have tickets for the top row don't have to wear themselves out walking up to the top.

"You walk in at street level for rows 1 through 30 and then you get to the structure where you have seats 31 to 65, which is an amenity for the fans," Tate said. "In a lot of facilities, you have to walk up 65 rows."

Racing fans can not only watch the races from the grandstands, but they can also reserve one of the 68 suites. The Kansas Speedway started out with 32 suites, but after they quickly sold out, the board of directors added 36 more suites.

"We still have 40 companies on our waiting list," Tate said.

A hospitality village also allows avid fans to watch the games while feasting on everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to steak and lobster. The area, which will be covered with tents, will extend from the grandstands to the blue "Icon Tower," which will showcase a large screen monitor with NASCAR racing highlights.

"It's kind of unique in the sense that in a lot of other facilities when they have hospitality chalets and villages, they are way out in the parking lot and you don't have a good view of anything except cars and the back of the grandstands. Here, you'll be able to look from your hospitality chalet down into the facility."

Because of the "bowl" design of the facility, the electrical contractors encountered unusual challenges, said Capital Electric's Dill.

"We're digging through shale and rock," Dill said. "A lot of times we have to put a breaker on the machine. Digging down the slope in the bowl was tough."

Installing conduit from the top, down the slope and across the track proved to be the most difficult part of the job, Dill said.

"We had to dig down there seven times and it took us a month and a half just to put those seven crossings in," Dill said. "One of the duct banks has 27 6-in. conduits down that slope. We're up here on top and then you go and drop like this at 45 degrees."

Running the conduit down the slope took a lot of equipment, Dill said.

"We had two trackhoes, two backhoes, an earth saw, boom trucks, high-voltage trailers and wire trucks," Dill said. "Everything that Capital has, we've had here."

For two weeks straight in the early part of the project, Dill said he had a piece of equipment out on the job site, unloading conduit.

"We had 100% of our conduit on site before we started," Dill said. "We got it cheaper through bulk buy. That way I didn't have to keep track of materials."

The general contractor, Turner Construction, and the Board of Public Utilities hired Capital Electric to install all the underground communications conduit and high-voltage wiring and set all the transformers. The contractor is still installing the high-voltage wiring and gear and putting in the duct banks while other subcontractors are installing the seats and paving the racetrack.

Three other Kansas City-area electric contractors on the project won contracts for the buildings on site. Kansas City, Mo.-based Mark One Electric is completing all the electrical work on the Icon Tower and all the suites in the grandstands, O'Neal Electric, Merriam, Kan., is assigned to the parking garage for the racecars and Shaw Electric, Kansas City, Mo., is wiring the 23 concourse buildings.

Bill Miles, general foreman for Shaw Electric, said he and his team have been on site since March to wire buildings such as the souvenir stand, concession building and ticket booth, which are all located in the concourse area under the grandstands.

"We did it all - the lighting, kitchen equipment, power, underground power and telephone/data requirements," Miles said. "It's been fun, interesting and different type of work."

Along with the concourse, the buildings on site also include an administrative building, a press center and a miniature hospital. The Kansas Speedway partnered with the University of Kansas Medical Center, a local hospital, to staff an onsite emergency medical center.

"The miniature hospital's staff will take care of anyone who is injured," Kansas Speedway's Tate said.

A lighted helicopter pad was constructed next to the hospital in case anyone needs to be transported to a major hospital.

"There's 12-in. holes with in-paved lighting," Dill said. "We're putting 10, 120-ft high mast poles. The bases on those are huge."

With the nature of the sport, the hospital could come in handy, Dill said.

"There's the crash wall," Dill said. "The first race out here, there will be marks all over that wall."

Not only race car drivers, but also electrical contractors have to watch out for their workers' safety, he said. Dill said his team has safety talks every week.

"Knock on wood we haven't had one injury yet," Dill said. "My foreman got a piece of sand in his eye, but there was no lost time. I've only seen an ambulance out here one time when a truck driver fell off the back of his truck."

Along with addressing safety, the contractors were also confronted with a plethora of change orders, including the addition of manholes, changes in wire sizes, transformers, locations of manholes and lighting, road crossings, future roadcrossings and communication pipes.

"We should be out of here by now, but there are a lot of change orders," Dill said. "I think we should be out of here by late-November. We're also trying to pick up three more buildings including the maintenance, administration and the credentials building."

Shaw Electric's Miles said his team could still be on the site in 2001.

"We were going to finish in mid-December, but then they've asked us to do some kitchen equipment, so that could take us into mid-February," Miles said.

The electrical team is working to get everything wrapped up for the racetrack's spring 2001 opening date. The Midwestern heat and dust and piles of change orders have challenged the contractors, but have not proved insurmountable. Dill said he has really enjoyed his past eight months on the site.

"It's been a good job," he said. "I have a good crew and good help. It's been a good job with the coordination and cooperation with all the trades."

Miles said the NASCAR racetrack will be a great addition to Kansas City, Kan.

"I live really close to here and think it's a good thing for this area," Miles said. "It will help them a lot. To me, it's a nice thing to look at when you're driving by. It's pretty impressive."

- As of August 2000, the contractors poured 1,706 1/2 yds of concrete, installed 200,000 ft of pipe and 8,000 ft of duct bank and pulled 9,001 manual ft of high-voltage cable.

- Capital Electric, the prime contractor, has about a $3.5 million electrical contract for the Kansas Speedway project.

- About 2,400 total construction workers have been on site to complete the project.

- The Kansas Speedway is a 1.5-mile tri-oval track with 15-deg turns, 10.4 deg in the front stretch, 5 deg in the back stretch and a track pavement width of 55 ft.

- Anticipated qualifying speed for NASCAR Winston Cup cars: 175-185 mph.

- Anticipated qualifying speed for Indy Racing League cars: 210-215 mph.

- Thirty race cars will be able to park in each of the four garages next to the racetrack.

- The race cars will be transported into the track inside semi-tractor trailers. The Kansas Speedway's vehicular transport tunnel can accommodate three semi-tractor trailers side- by side.

- When completed, the motorsports facility is expected to be the largest tourist attraction in the state.

- Kansas Speedway's completion date is April 2001.

- Phase one of construction will create seating for 75,000 spectators. Upon completion of the final phase of development, the population of the Virgin Islands (150,000) would fit in the grandstands.

- The facility has 65 rows of seating with a ground-level concourse that will allow spectators to walk down 30 rows on grade or up 35 rows on the structure.

- All of the Speedway's 68 suites are already sold out; 40 companies are on the waiting list.

- Spectators will be able to park 65,000 cars on site. Motor homes and RVs will also be able to park on the grounds in the motor home terrace or in the campground facility.

- The roadway infrastructure being constructed to move traffic in, out and around the facility includes over 55-lane miles. Five lanes of traffic will be moving in one direction in order to move 90,000 people in and out of the facility within two-and-a-half-hours.

- The Kansas Speedway is located at I-70 and I-435, which is the largest intersection of freeways in Kansas. The facility has five separate entrances for spectators.

- A high grade of polymer modified asphalt will be used to pave the track.

- To equal the amount of storm sewer pipe used in the project, the Sears Tower in Chicago would have to be laid end-to-end 45 times.

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