As the Tar Heel football team was wrapping up practice on a chilly, gray Tuesday, some 350 construction workers and T.A. Loving officials were lining up for a barbecue and fried chicken lunch to celebrate the "topping out" of the Carolina Student-Athlete Center for Excellent, a.k.a. "The Blue Zone."
The roof is now on the top floor of multi-purpose facility that will house premium seating for home football games but, more importantly, be home to the athletic department's academic support and strength-and-conditioning operations.
Construction began approximately four months ago and is expected to be completed by the beginning of the 2011 football season.
Architect Glenn Corley, whose firm designed and built the Kenan Football Center in the west end zone in 1996-97, said a major construction project like this similar to a football game.
"It's not over until it's over, you can lose it real quick," he says. "You have to keep focused and keep pushing. We're off to a good start, but you can't get complacent. Now we have time to focus on the interior finishes, the things you can touch and feel and see. The concrete has gone real well. It's all happened in about 130 days, that's the fastest I've ever seen it go up. I've never seen this much concrete put down this fast."
Corley noted the size of the east end zone project is about double the square footage size of the west end zone more than a decade ago, but it's having to be built in the same time frame--starting during one football season and having to be finished in about 15 months, by the open of the next season.
The project has been helped by good weather and excellent logistical management from campus officials.
"Now that we've got it closed in, our focus the next couple of months will be conditioning the space," says Bob Ferguson, a vice president and top man on T.A. Loving's on-site team. "Until you get some heat in the building with controlled humidity, you can't start putting in the finishes. Quite honestly, it's gone almost perfectly according to plan. We've been fortunate--the weather has been good to us, the subs have performed well, everybody's worked together well. The environment here is conducive to making a lot of progress in a short period. It's all coming together."