Photo credit: Kelly Gavin, Texas Rangers
Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, is a $1.2 billion retractable roof stadium that enables games to be played in any kind of weather. Part of the roof is covered with a partially transparent plastic polymer called ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (EFTE) that allows natural light to flow into the stadium. Other parts of the roof feature steel roof deck painted specifically to provide a contrast to that sunlight and to allow players to better see—and therefore catch—fly balls. Major League Baseball is showing off the stadium during the playoffs, making Globe Life Field the host for the current National League Championship Series and the World Series that starts Oct. 20.
To achieve its game-changing aesthetics, the 268,000-square-foot retractable roof is made up of 680 tons of standard N deck acoustical roof deck. Portions of the roof over the concourse that do not move are made up of 88 tons of standard composite deck. It was one of the largest projects New Millennium has ever been involved in. The massive amount of painted deck introduced several challenges before and during construction of the 24-million-pound roof.
Construction of Globe Life Field stretched over 31 months and involved approximately 2,000 individuals working nearly 6 million man hours. Designing, delivering and erecting the steel roof deck on the 5.5-acre roof faced three main challenges: ideal color, timely delivery and a complex installation.
When the stadium’s roof is closed on particularly hot Texas days, Rangers players looking skyward to catch fly balls are faced with a tapestry of colors and images: natural light streaming through the EFTE, artificial light from a variety of sources, dark metal trusses and catwalks at every conceivable angle and the underside of the exposed roof deck. Rangers ownership wanted a roof deck finish that would not negatively affect game play. Trent Fowler and the New Millennium team was tasked with finding the ideal coating.
“We went through several iterations of the roof color,” says Fowler, specialty deck project manager at New Millennium. “We knew it was going to be some shade of red or brown for the Texas Rangers.”
Fowler says several different deck panels in suggested color choices were sent to fabricator W&W Steel. Then, W&W created a mockup of the color-deck combination on-site for HKS Architects and Rangers ownership to consider.
“Ultimately the owners had the final say in the color choice,” Fowler says.
Inspired by the range of New Millennium custom finishes, the owners decided on a color called Rich Clay, available from PPG Industries. Another sample, this time featuring Rich Clay, was sent and approved.
With the color approved, production could begin. The steel coils used to create the deck were painted before roll forming. Then, the deck was perforated to create the acoustic version. Several gallons of touch-up paint were sent to the site to touch up any scratches inflicted during installation.
Globe Life Field’s official debut was July 24, 2020, when the Rangers played host to the Colorado Rockies to open their pandemic-shortened, 60-game Major League Baseball season. All-Star Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo had already been practicing for several weeks before the home opener and predicted the roof would be a factor during the season. The color contrasts make it easier to see the ball, he says.
“The roof is going to be the toughest part,” Gallo told the Dallas News. “That’s why it was so important training here. I started getting used to, ‘OK, I might lose the ball a little bit in this area of the roof; if it’s hit over here I can see it better.’ ”
Construction of the 1.8-million-square-foot stadium began in September of 2017. New Millennium began shipping the first truckloads of standard composite deck in October 2018. Those shipments were complete in February 2019. In March of 2019, the shipments of painted acoustic roof deck for the retractable roof began; they were complete in November 2019. All told, New Millennium delivered 48 truckloads of roof deck.
Fowler says several precautions were taken to ensure the deck arrived in Texas damage-free.
“We put paper interleafing between every sheet of deck to prevent scratching,” he says. “We used additional dunnage between bundles to create more space between bundles to make it easier to unload.”
W&W Steel was responsible for the deck when it arrived at the job site’s staging area.
“The deck came from New Millennium bundled and blocked up so it was easier to unload and handle,” W&W project manager Brendan Fitzpatrick says.
In addition, the shipments included extra pieces of deck, but they weren’t needed. Fitzpatrick appreciated the touch-up paint, however.
“The deck gets handled so much before it gets to the crane hook that there’s always bound to be a few locations that need to be touched up,” he says.
The acoustic batting used in the roof deck cavities was shipped wrapped in plastic, but that’s not to prevent damage during transport, Fowler says. Because Globe Life Field is air conditioned when the roof is closed, condensation was a concern. The plastic covering blocks moisture from entering and damaging the batting.
Globe Life Field’s retractable roof is a marvel. It is the world’s largest single-panel operable roof, and it sits on the second largest crane rail in the world. The roof’s supporting trusses are 650 feet long and 210 feet off the playing surface at second base. Completely opening or closing the roof takes just 10 to 15 minutes. Those groundbreaking elements ensured installation would be no ordinary feat.
The retractable roof resembles the top half of a trapezoid, with a flat top and each side sloping at different angles. Fowler says that dictated careful detailing of the roof deck’s design. New Millennium detailers in Pittsburgh handled this part of the process.
“I spoke to them to get their input on the layout challenges,” he says. “There were a lot of truss drawings, and the retractable roof had multiple angles that sloped in both directions. We were able to detail the structural supports in CAD and determine the best layout for the deck. The detailers’ careful review of the truss drawings and section drawings made sure we did not miss any details.”
Back in Arlington, Fitzpatrick was focused on coordinating the delivery of 48 truckloads of roof deck to optimize installation. Among his concerns, Fitzpatrick wanted to keep erection of the trusses and installation of the deck moving in tandem. He needed the roof deck available as soon as work crews were ready to place it on the frame.
This required frequent collaboration with Fowler.
“From the start of the job we coordinated with each other and were well-prepared before the first deliveries were even made so there were hardly any issues in the field,” Fitzpatrick says. “The main thing is just coordinating deck deliveries to make sure there’s a good flow of work. We want to be able to erect steel in an area and then shortly after make sure we have the deck ready to be flown into the same area before we pull men and equipment off that location.”
Fowler credited clear and informative communication for the hassle-free deliveries.
“W&W is very, very competent, and they provided exact details about how they wanted this roof deck to be installed,” he says. “They indicated what sequence they wanted the deck to arrive, and we sent them exactly that. It was really, really smooth.”
Photo credit: Kelly Gavin, Texas Rangers
Catching fly balls against an artificial background can be tricky, according to Rangers manager Chris Woodward. He’s comfortable with the efforts team ownership undertook to make sure Globe Life Field’s roof doesn’t negatively affect the game. But he wouldn’t give his opponent any advice about how to deal with it.
“I think it plays perfect, and that’s all I’m going to give you because I don’t want anyone else to hear what it plays like,” Woodward told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We are trying to maintain that advantage.”
Eventually, the new stadium will seat 40,300 when large gatherings indoors are allowed. A limited number of fans are being permitted to watch the ongoing playoff series between the Atlanta Braves and L.A. Dodgers. The stadium also will allow limited attendance during the World Series at Globe Life Field starting Oct. 20.
“Every once in a while, you just have to stop, look around and really appreciate what you’re a part of and know that there is going to be a brighter day,” says Rob Matwick, the team’s executive vice president for business operations. “We will get through this. Hopefully we can get fans and families back to life as we know it.”
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