March 14, 2012
by Mike Copeland
No general contractor in Waco could build a $250 million football stadium for Baylor University, but local construction companies think whoever erects it will use local subcontractors, officials said Tuesday.
The Baylor University board of regents announced Tuesday the school has received the largest capital gift in the school's history from Elizabeth and Drayton McLane Jr. for a proposed on- campus stadium.
This moves the project a step closer to becoming a reality on the banks of the Brazos River near Interstate 35 and directly across the waterway from the Baylor campus.
Several local construction leaders said they think Baylor will go outside the city to find a contractor for the undertaking, but most felt local subcontractors would get a piece of the action.
"No, a local contractor could not handle this. It would require somebody who specializes in sports facilities, and there are a number of national contractors who fit that description," said K. Paul Holt, executive director of the local office of the Associated General Contractors of America.
But Holt said talk among AGC members indicates sizable out-of-town contractors have visited with local subcontractors about taking part in the project, though he declined to provide names.
"I think the good folks at Baylor do their best to hire as many local people as they can," Holt added. "Any owner can make their preferences known, as long as they don't go beyond what is reasonable."
A name that continues to arise as a possible general contractor for this project is Manhattan Construction -- and Pearson Construction president Scott Pearson mentioned it again Tuesday.
Manhattan Construction, based in Tulsa, Okla., and with offices in Dallas and Houston, built Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, the largest domed stadium in the world, at a cost of about $1.4 billion.
It also built Reliant Stadium in Houston and Texas Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Contacted for comment, an official with Manhattan Construction said he did not want to be identified and even was reluctant to have the company's name mentioned "because this involves a private university."
"I will say this: We have been very successful, and if there is a $250 million job out there, we would love to do it. We'll chase it whenever it comes about," he said. "We know about the project, but to say we know a lot about, not yet. I know the university is trying to get its arms around it and will make more information available."
Mark Mazanec, vice president of Mazanec Construction in Waco, said only by pooling their resources could local contractors tackle a project this size, and he does not see that happening.
He added, "We could manage the project, get the right people in here to do the work. But these guys from out of town would beat us to death on the bottom line and overhead because of their volume."
Waco Mayor Jim Bush said the project is arriving at an ideal time. Bond issues by the Waco Independent School District, McLennan Community College and the city of Waco pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy at a point when local contractors needed work to stave off the effects of recession.
But those projects have drawn to a close, and work crews need another stimulus.
"This will be great for the Waco economy and job prospects," Bush said.
Jim Vaughan, president of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, views the stadium as a "significant anchor" for waterfront development along the Brazos River near downtown and the Baylor campus.
"I get excited just looking at the pictures," said Vaughan of the proposed stadium. "We're committed to waterfront development, and I believe it would have happened regardless, but a new stadium sure helps."
Baylor officials hope to have the stadium ready for play by fall of 2014.
Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said that date depends upon fundraising success.
She added "there are also some essential variables that are out of our control, such as our work with the Texas Department of Transportation. Baylor has a very positive working relationship with TxDOT, and we've been engaged in conversations with them.
"They are well aware of our challenges with the projects, and our conversations with them are ongoing."
Populous, a high-profile architectural firm based in Kansas City, Mo., is designing the new stadium.
Its resume includes work on Yankee Stadium in New York; the Pepsi Center in Denver, home to the Denver Nuggets basketball team; and Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., home to the New England Patriots football team.