Project Profile: Breaking Ground at Rogers Centre

Sept. 8, 2016

Few people know concrete as well as Vito Nardi. As director of Verdi Restoration Ltd.—a division of Verdi Alliance, specializing in concrete restoration work—Nardi and his team have overseen some of the largest, most high-profile concrete construction projects in and around Toronto. Fromheavy civil, to foundations and sealing—if concrete is involved, they pursue and complete the job with a level of precision few others can achieve.

“We specialize in bridge and structural restoration, as well as large-scale concrete forming projects for high-rise buildings, which is how I’ve spent the bulk of my career,” says Nardi. “There’s no room for error when you’re working on the types of jobs we do.”

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That level of precision is one of the reasons why the maintenance staff at Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays, has made Nardi their professional of choice for many of the stadium’s concrete projects over the years.

Rogers Centre covers nearly 13 acres of ground, and can seat 50,000 fans under the feature for which the complex is most known—the world’s first fully retractable roof.

The construction of the dome was an architectural feat, and marked the beginning of Nardi’s relationship with the Rogers Centre team. “I started working with [Rogers Centre] in 2007, when we bid on and won a job to waterproof the concrete rails around the roof of the retractable dome. We were able to come in under bid. Ever since, we’ve been growing our relationship with them. In our line of business, that kind of partnership means everything.”

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Today, the maintenance staff at Rogers Centre trusts Nardi and Verdi Restoration with the majority of their concrete forming and sealing projects. When the time came for another big job, they once again called Nardi to put in a bid.

Up until the 2016 season, the Blue Jays had been the only team in the league to play on an infield with artificial turf. In December 2015, the team announced they would be joining the rest of the league by converting to an all-dirt infield. The work necessary to complete the job would entail excavation of the cement floor between the bases and throughout the infield, including a total area of approximately 1,115 square meters (12,000 square feet).

When solicited to put together a bid, Nardi didn’t assume the task would be cut and dry. “On paper, this just sounds like a simple excavation job—break up the concrete and haul it out,” says Nardi. “But I’ve worked long enough to know that every job has its challenges and surprises, no matter howstraightforward it may seem. You want to come prepared with the right machine for the job at a cost that is predictable.”

Nardi didn’t assume he was a shoe-in for the job simply based on history, either. So, he moved forward as he would with any job—putting together a thoughtful, competitive bid, along with a precise plan of attack.

Twenty Tons of Precision
Part of outlining that plan included matching the right machines to the job. For that, Nardi turned to a long-time, trusted colleague—Spiro Marinos, partner at Rapid Equipment Rentals.

“I’ve known Spiro for a long time, and I trust that his recommendation on a machine will put me in the best position to not only win the bid, but to get the job done on time and budget,” says Nardi.

“After meeting and talking through project details, we decided he’d need a machine in the 20-ton class, powerful enough to work with a 3,000-foot-pound Atlas Copco hydraulic breaker and get the job done on time,” says Marinos. “I steered him toward a Volvo EC220E, because it was the best fit for the job, in my opinion.”

This is not an uncommon recommen­dation from Marinos. After 30 years’ experience in the rental business, he knows what works and what doesn’t. “I’ve experienced every brand of machine, and every problem an excavator can have. I didn’t make the recommendation for the Volvo lightly—I madeit because over the years our Volvo dealer, Strongco, has given us the support we need so that I can do the same for my customers. That, partnered with the excavator’s capabilities, made it an easy recommendation.”

Ultimately, Marinos’ recommendation proved to be a good one. Nardi and his crew received the good news that they had been awarded the bid. But the real challenge still lay ahead: completing the job on an aggressive three-week timeline.

The Breakup
Before the excavation began, Nardi and his team used a total station theodolite monitor (TST) to measure the angles of the infield and assess the area. TST technology uses optical electronic readings to read slope distances from the survey point, allowing for especially precise angles and distance measurements.

“TST technology gives us a thorough reading of the underground structure, including the pipes and utilities below the foundation,” says Nardi. “Taking this approach has the dual benefit of saving us time and improving accuracy.”

After measuring the perimeter of the infield, Nardi’s crew got to work breaking the concrete, which is where that past experience about expecting the unexpected became reality. As his crew got to the third base pad, they unearthed a real surprise.

Dietrich Meitsch, the excavator operator, says his eyebrows certainly went up in that moment. “We kept digging and got through to a meter-and-a-half [5 feet] of concrete. Up until that point, we were only dealing with about a 30-centimeter [12-inch] depth of concrete throughout, at the very most.”

The crew later discovered that the surprisingly deep concrete under third base was originally put in place as a landing pad to support the weight of a crane during construction of the dome.

These types of surprises can easily throw off a project schedule—especially if the crew isn’t equipped with the right machine to get the job done. To Meitsch’s surprise, it turned out to be nearly a nonissue.

“The whole process of breaking and removing that extra concrete took less than an hour with the EC220E. We kept right on schedule,” he says.

Along with the Volvo EC220E, Nardi’s team used two skid steer loaders to haul concrete to the trucks. “It was a challenge getting the trucks to the location, dealing with the heavy traffic and the continual snow,” says Meitsch. “Overall, we hauled away 50 bins of concrete, and we did it within the aggressive three-week timeline. The EC220E was a huge contributor to our productivity. It also shocked me—that thing accomplished the job on less than one tank of fuel. We were using it for eight-hour stretches at a time, almost continuously, but never had to refuel the 320-liter [85-gallon] tank on the machine.”

It’s these sound decisions that kept the Verdi crew on time and under budget, and ultimately, the Blue Jays’ new infield on track for opening day.

After Verdi Restoration completed the concrete removal work, a layer of pea-gravel base and a layer of sand were laid down. On top of that, a clay-silt sand mix was added to help retain moisture after pregame watering. The increased depth and extra sand mix should help make for a more comfortable experience for the athletes, who were accustomed to an artificial turf on a bed of concrete.