By high school standards, the new gymnasium at Rogers High School in Rogers, Arkansas, is big—architecturally and conceptually. The $16.5 million Mountie Arena will accommodate 2,300 in an expansive, arena-like facility with seating on all four sides and the corners of the court.
To achieve the vision of architects Hight Jackson Associates, 185-foot-long, 12-foot-deep double-pitched steel joists were used to support acoustical dovetail roof deck soaring 46 feet off the floor. The project was no slam dunk. It faced three primary demands: match the architectural style of the existing school, create the grand arena atmosphere, and control the noise generated during competition.
Matching the architectural theme: Like a literal square peg in a round hole, Mountie Arena presented a design challenge from the jump.
“There are a lot of curves in the existing building,” Project Manager Jason Adams of Hight Jackson Associates said. “So we knew we couldn’t just take a basketball arena, which is basically a rectangle, and stick it on the end of a circle. It would look completely out of place with no design context.”
To create architectural continuity, Mountie Arena features a sweeping curved wall on one side of the facility. That in turn presented a problem.
“We had the joists intersecting the curve, so that meant only two joists would have been the same length,” Adams said. “Our structural engineer said, ‘You know, it would be more economical to run your joists along the long span instead of the short span. That way they’re all the same length. It will be much more economical to fabricate them even though they will be longer.’”
Because of their length, Gerald Venable, manager of engineering and research at New Millennium Building Systems, said the joists were built in two pieces then joined in the field via a bolted connection.
Creating grand clear spans: To achieve the professional atmosphere, 14 of the 185-foot joists were used. Changing their orientation to run parallel with the length of the court also changed how the joists would be erected.
“It’s typical to build these long-span trusses on the ground and then bring in a large crane to set them in place from the outside of the building,” said Hayden Witcofski, lead project manager and chief operations officer at Wilshar Steel Erectors. The building’s layout and lack of space at the cramped job site eliminated this erection method. Instead, Witcofski decided to erect the joists in two pieces inside the building.
It worked this way:
First, Witcofski’s team erected a row of shoring 34 feet high, positioned to support the middle of each joist. The shoring was engineered to support 20,000 pounds, 10,000 more than required.
Using a crane, half of each 185-foot joist was maneuvered into place and secured to a steel frame.
Days later, the other half of each joist was positioned and bolted to the first half.
Finally, with the joists now one piece, the scaffolding was disassembled and removed.
Venable said New Millennium had an important role to play even before the joists were manufactured.
“We had to do a preliminary design on the gym joists to determine the geometry so that we could give the erector the location of our panel points,” he says. “This enabled them to locate their shoring towers so that when the joists arrived they were ready to erect.”
Mitigating noise: Anyone who’s ever attended a high school basketball game can tell you how loud it can be. “You don’t want it to sound like you have your head up to a tin can,” said Bryan Casillas, the project’s structural engineer at Tatum-Smith-Welcher.
That also concerned Adams and Hight Jackson Associates’ acoustical engineers. They selected acoustical dovetail roof deck to control the ambient noise without using additional sound-mitigating material, which introduced cost savings.
“It has become common knowledge that it’s actually more affordable to use acoustical deck than it is to do dropped ceiling sometimes,” he said. “By spending a little bit more money for the deck, you end up saving a lot more money because now you don’t need as much acoustical material inside the space.”
Explore the steel building systems used in this project at www.newmill.com
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