A dusty haze of construction noise continues to echo through the Marriott Center, replacing the building’s usual epicenter of action.
The building’s expansion, announced in February, is right on track to be completed before Commencement in August, thanks to some clever problem-solving and a large crew of construction workers.
“It wasn’t just a process of taking out old chairs and putting in new chairs,” said Justin Durfey, director of Special Events at the Marriott Center and LaVell Edwards Stadium. Old concrete had to be jackhammered out and new cement poured, creating a dusty arena.
“If you went out there [during the demolition] you had to have a safety vest, hard hat and a mask because it was so intense,” Durfey said. When the project is completed, the Marriott will “take an army to clean,” he said.
The old yellow chairs that were removed were mostly recycled, but Durfey said some were offered to original donors to the Marriott Center, and a very small number were offered to the general public; none were sold.
Installing the new chairs decreased seating in the Marriott by 1,900. The cushioned seats being installed provide more leg room and more width. “They’re going to be very nice,” Durfey said.
“I think the Marriott Center is one of the best facilities in the country to play in. This renovation is probably going to be way more for the fans,” said BYU men’s basketball coach Dave Rose said. “The experience in the Marriott Center for any fan, I think, is going to be so much more enjoyable.”
The project is on a tight schedule because of BYU’s Aug. 13 Commencement exercises, so crews got the earliest start possible. “The second day of Women’s Conference went until about 5 p.m.,” Durfey said. “At about 5:30 p.m. the demolition started, so everything that’s in here has happened since May 1.”
The north seats of the lower concourse were replaced three years ago in about three months, the same amount of time this project has. Gary Krutsch, project manager for Jacobsen Construction, said it is “more than three times the amount of work,” especially taking the new wheelchair sections and new screen into consideration.
Greg Dalton, superintendent for Jacobsen, said having six months to do this job would have been nice.
Krutsch and Dalton are “the guys that are making it all happen,” Durfey said.
In order to stay within the deadline, Jacobsen had to bring in more workers than usual. In May, with the demolition teams, they averaged 132 construction workers every day. In June, the average went down to approximately 80, Dalton said.
With the north chairs three years ago, the team worked from the bottom of the arena to the top of the concourse. All the cement was poured, and all the bolts were then installed, followed by the chairs. The current project didn’t have that luxury, so instead, Dalton said, they worked in vertical sections, rather than horizontal. Working clockwise in the Marriott Center made it so workers in one section could be pouring cement while the others were installing bolts and handrails.
The scene at the Marriott Center would appear chaotic to the untrained eye. Men poured cement stairs on the west side Wednesday, July 1, while chairs were installed on the east and men hidden in rafters prepared the ceiling for the new screen.
“It’s neat because they look like ants working down there. They all know what they’re doing, and it’s so organized,” said Michelle Barlow, secretary of Special Events.
“The screen will be a very dominant feature when you walk into the building,” Durfey said. A brand-new four-sided 18-by-24-foot LED screen has replaced the old 9-by-12-foot screen. Smaller screens will also be installed underneath the main screen for people below.
The LED screens mean advertisements can be put up for basketball games or ballroom dance competitions and then taken down for devotionals or other church meetings that are frequently held in the Marriott Center. No longer will Les Schwab ads be permanently underneath devotional speakers.
All the new chairs installed are below the concourse. The benches and chairs above the concourse are staying as is. The main change in the upper concourse is more wheelchair seating. Durfey said that while wheelchair access usually isn’t a big deal for basketball games, for things like commencement, it will be a “major improvement.”
With this renovation, the seating capacity in the Marriott Center will now be about 19,000. Durfey said he’s not concerned about ticket sales, but because most of the seats lost are below the concourse, “it is presenting some interesting scenarios,” particularly for season ticket holders.
The ROC student section will be in the same section for now, Durfey said.
The project is set to be completed by Aug. 8, Dalton and Krutsch said, and no major setbacks have occurred. After finishing the Marriott Center, work will begin on the Marriott Center Annex. Rose said the basketball team is “really looking forward to the Annex.”