Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Heavy construction complete at KCAC

by SAM KUSIC skusic@indianagazette.net on January 08, 2011 3:00 AM

Heavy construction on IUP's Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex has concluded, the state Department of General Services said on Friday. All that remains is to tick off the minor items on the punch list and outfit the building with furniture and equipment.

Despite the difficulties in lining up financing for construction, the department reported that construction proceeded exceedingly well, finishing on budget and sixth months ahead of schedule.

"This is the standard by which all other projects will be judged," Department of General Services Acting Secretary Elizabeth O'Reilly said.

The department said construction bills are still being tabulated, but it appears that the Kovalchick Complex will come in around $54 million, right around the contracted amount of $53.49 million. O'Reilly said change orders were kept to a minimum.

She said that when planning projects, the department figures change orders to account for 5 percent of the overall construction cost. But in this case, change orders amounted to about 1.7 percent of the cost, an almost unheard-of amount, she said.

O'Reilly said the project's outcome validates the "best-value" bidding process the state used in selecting the project's four prime contractors.

Generally, contractors on public projects are selected by way of a low-bid method in which the company offering to do a job for the least amount of money wins the work.

The best-value method, on the other hand, takes into account not only the bid price, but a contractor's qualifications, past performance, commitment to using women and minority subcontractors and safety history, among other things.

Under the state's process, a committee evaluates the proposals behind closed doors, scoring each proposal on a certain set of criteria. The proposal with the best score wins.

O'Reilly said credit for the project's success also is due to general contractor Mascaro Construction Co. LP. The company, she said, took a leadership role and persuaded the other contractors to come on board with the construction schedule.

Another factor, according to Dan Weinzierl, the department's construction director, was getting the building under roof before the winter of 2009-10 set in. The winter was exceedingly snowy, and had contractors not had the building enclosed before then, it could have delayed construction.

Michael Mascaro, chief communications officer for Mascaro Construction Co., the project's general contractor, said he didn't want to speculate on what would have happened, had that been the case. But he said quickly getting an under-construction building enclosed and watertight is an important step to a successful conclusion.

The other prime contractors are Farfield Co., of Lititz, which has the mechanical and electrical construction contracts, and S.P. McCarl Inc., of Altoona, which has the plumbing contract.

"With the entire team, from the DGS, to the architect, (L. Robert Kimball & Associates), to Mascaro, Farfield and McClure, and all of the field tradesmen and women on this job, it was destined to be a success," Mascaro said.

He said the chemistry, teamwork and buy-in on the project schedule, allowed the contractors to deliver a successful project safely and to the level of expected quality.

Though heavy construction is over, work continues. Workers continue to pare down the punch list, the list of minor odds and ends that need to be attended to. And the university, meanwhile, will be outfitting the building with the furniture and equipment needed to run the Kovalchick Complex.

The furniture, fixtures and equipment is estimated to cost $6.5 million and is part of the $34 million bond issue the university used to cover a funding gap.

Among the bigger items in that category are the arena's lighting and sound equipment and a large, LED scoreboard.

Behind the scenes, sales and marketing work also is ongoing as third-party arena manager Global Spectrum books conferences and events.

"We are pleased with the overall progress of the project and look forward to a successful and exciting grand opening," said IUP Interim Assistant Vice President for Administration Samuel H. Phillips. "The Global Spectrum team, led by General Manager Jim Grafstrom, is up and running, and actively pursing conference bookings and arena events which will generate consistent activity and traffic for the Kovalchick Complex."  

One of the next big steps will be to obtain an occupancy permit through the state Department of Labor and Industry. The permit essentially certifies that the building is suitable for use.

Once the permit is in hand, the university will be able to begin moving athletic department offices into the building, and Global Spectrum will be able to open its box office.

A grand opening for the Kovalchick Complex is scheduled to open in March.

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