Construction twisted, turned as it moved on

The construction of the Al McGuire Center was full of complications and surprises, but after nearly two years, it is just about complete.

Ben Clark, who served as field engineer on the project for construction company OPUS North, said that when the construction started in the building in July 2002, the designs for the building were not complete. The designs were started by NBBJ, an architecture company based in Seattle.

OPUS North put the finishing touches on the design as the work of excavating the space for the McGuire Center began. Aleisha Palaniuk, one of the OPUS North project managers for the McGuire Center, said that petroleum tanks, believed to be from a gas station formerly occupying the property, were found in the ground where the McGuire Center was supposed to be built. Palaniuk said the soil around the tanks was contaminated and had to be removed.

After the soil was removed, construction began. A foundation of steel and concrete, known as "footings," and large, thick concrete panels 30 to 50 feet long, known as the "precast," were put in place. According to Palaniuk, the installation of the precast required a brief November 2002 evacuation of Cobeen Hall, which is directly east of the Al. Palaniuk said that if a piece of precast had fallen towards Cobeen, it would have been a very dangerous situation.

With all the precast, except for one section, in place, construction on the interior began over the next several months. After the internal components were brought into the building, the remaining precast was set up, and external construction was completed in October 2003.

Clark said placing the floor 16 feet underground presented many challenges. One on the main challenges came in the pouring of the concrete slab for the floor of the McGuire Center.

"Concrete shrinks, so the ends can pull up and many cracks can develop," Clark said. "If this happened after we laid down the wooden floor, we'd have a problem."

Avoiding underground water sources was also a challenge, Clark said. Special ramps had to be constructed to bring in materials, such as the components for three hydrotherapy pools. Marquette also had to buy a lift for maintenance in the McGuire Center, Palaniuk said.

Although the McGuire Center was turned over to Marquette in October 2003, some work still continues on the building. Clark said that he had been at the McGuire Center, working on it, "almost every day" over the last few weeks. The company, he said, was finishing a patio for coach Tom Crean outside his office and bringing in landscaping for around the building.

Tom Ganey, an assistant director of Facilities Services, was unavailable for comment.