During this off season, the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks nothing like the St. Pete Times Forum you see broadcasted on television. While the 2004 Stanley Cup winners are on vacation, an endless staff of contract workers are preparing for next season. The face lift happening outside and work being done inside the structure is part of a $35 million plus plan carved out by team owners who hope the new changes will increase the appeal of the venue for hockey fans and concert goers. Renovations include new seating to match the Lightning colors, an updated ventilation system, repainted walls and an 11,000 square- foot party deck. This vision is rounded out by the remodeling of Sections 323 and 324, to make room for a pipe organ. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Tesla coils on either side of the scoreboard will shoot lightning 25 feet every time the hockey team scores.
There is no doubt game day isn’t far from the minds of crew members with the small reminders all around. The temperature is still kept low throughout the facility, despite the fact there is no ice on the ground. The 2004 Stanley Cup Championship banner hanging high above their heads are next to the three banners that marked their rise to the top during the 2003-2004 Season: Eastern Conference Champions and Southeast Division Champions. Next to that is the Southeast Division Champions flag from the 2002-2003 season. Not far away are more reminders about the strong ties the team shares with Canada. The U.S. and Canadian flags hang side-by-side. Sitting from the chairs in Section 129 you can see more flags of different teams hanging directly in front of the Tom McEwen Press Box. The light fragrance of beer is still present.
Workers from a long list of subcontractors are working alongside each other under the umbrella of Mortenson Construction in order to complete renovations in time for the start of the 2011-2012 season. According to Engineering News-Record, Mortenson Construction is the second largest sports contractor and is responsible for the building of some of America’s leading sports and entertainment facilities, including Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, FedExForum and the Xcel Energy Center.
This time around, Sims Crane was on site to start a new project for Solar Erectors, a company involved in cement and concrete production and erection. But before any work started, crews working on behalf of Mabey Bridge and Shore, Inc set down 14 x18 foot long Dura-Base mats to protect flooring that’s usually covered with sheets of ice. It wasn’t until Friday before the 175-ton Krupp truck rolled onto the surface in order to help extract a concrete photographer stand and the concrete foundation that fan seats are welded on. The smaller crane was brought in to remove the lighter pieces at the top of the seating section closer to the wall. The jib allows for reach in tighter areas.
CCO Joel Rentas and Oiler Raymond Pierce helped set the 101-foot of main boom and jib, before getting to work. During much of the excavation the jib stood just inches from the rooftop. Piece by piece the concrete slabs came down, with pieces weighing in anywhere from 2,000 to 15,000 lbs. After two days of work, it was time to pass the baton to the folks from the Sims Miami office. CCO Tim Brown and Chris Stephens drove all the way up to Tampa to deliver the 350-ton Grove truck crane.
But it was local Operator Bill Piper and Oiler Charles Franklin who ran the 350-ton Grove truck crane until the project came to an end. By day three, the larger pieces of the section were being removed. 100 tons of counterweights helped balance the larger concrete slabs. A point shift and snatch block were added to the main boom to give the needed headroom to shift the large pieces. It took crews more than an hour to bolt a red spreader bar to a 26,000 lb slab. Then it was time for the lift. Slowly the boom lifted the section, creeping just a few feet at a time. Sims Salesman Mike Gay along with folks from Solar Erectors and Mortenson Construction stand on the ground floor with their heads tilted back watching the massive section of concrete sail through the air. Sometime later, it comes to rest safely on the flatbed of a waiting trailer. It takes another day of similar work before the project wraps up at the St. Pete Times Forum.