|Safeco Field took just 27 months to build, a remarkable feat for such a complex
Huber, Hunt & Nichols, Inc. formed a joint venture with Kiewit Construction
Company to build Safeco Field. Together
with architects NBBJ, the team came up creative construction techniques to
complete the project in an amazingly short amount of time, leading the team to
gain recognition in the industry and others to copy their methods.
The site was former tidelands and the soil had the consistency of oatmeal - not
solid enough to support a new sports stadium in an area known for earthquakes. Construction crew drove 1,400 pilings into the
ground an average of 90 feet below the surface until the piles connected to
Meanwhile the system that would move the retractable roof was being put in
place, piece by piece.The roof moves on wheeled, travel truck assemblies
driven by 96, 10-hp motors. The travel trucks were built at the former Ederer Inc.'s crane shop in
Seattle just blocks from the ballpark.
Interfacing the construction of the ballpark with the largest span retractable
roof built to date was a challenge. The 655-foot span of the roof is larger
than many bridges. The roof and bowl were built as two separate, but integrated
Cranes were another crucial construction technique. Rather than taking the
typical approach of using mobile cranes, which must crawl around the site to
wherever they are needed, the ballpark construction managers chose to use tower
cranes that are mounted on high, fixed towers. Those created more flexibility
in building the bowl because they could reach high places even without moving
close to the building unlike the mobile cranes that must get closer to what
they are lifting or they will tip over. Also important was that the tower
cranes didn't need the kind of space to move around like a mobile crane does.
That left the future playing field useable as a staging area for building the
Space was at a premium on the busy urban site. Surrounded by a state highway on
the north, the railroad tracks on the east, and a busy major arterial to the
city's industrial area along its western edge, the ballpark construction site
was hemmed in. Using the playing field for staging and renting the space from
the railroad for staging the roof were integral to completing the ballpark in
the short time frame.
To further compress the schedule, select elements of the structure were erected
on the night shift. This freed the cranes during the day to lift steel and
foundation materials. Activities that required cordoning off areas of the work
site also were done at night to avoid slowing daytime traffic. At its peak, the
labor workforce soared to over 1,000 workers. Project partners co-located, with staff from
Hunt-Kiewit, NBBJ, the Public Facilities District, and the Seattle Mariners all
housed in the same buildings near people working on the same issues.
The ballpark was built, in essence, as seven separate buildings due to seismic
requirements, so that the building could shift against itself without breaking
during an earthquake. The separation of the bowl into several separate pieces
had its advantages: work could be underway at the field level on one section
while upper deck work could be underway at the next section. When one trade had
finished its work, the next stage of work could begin in that section, allowing
mechanical, electrical, and plumbing work to follow quickly after concrete had
been poured. It was another of the innovative, timesaving decisions made by the
design and building team.