| Santa Ana Star Center
Sports Arena Scores First in Proposed Heart of Rio Rancho
The 500- by 200-ft. Santa Ana Star Center, located in Rio Rancho, N.M. outside of Albuquerque, is bowl-shaped at one end to accommodate a rink built for its chief tenant, the New Mexico Scorpions professional hockey team. It is rectangular at the other end to house equipment, offices and team dressing rooms. The $45 million structure seats 6,500 fans for hockey games and 8,500 for other events such as concerts when six rows of retractable seating will be rolled out.
"The building is an exercise in the control of geometry,"
said architect Don Dethlefs of Denver-based architectural
firm Sink Combs Dethlefs. "You try to symmetrically lay
out the bowl of the performance space."
The striking design is bolstered by some highly technical
The high-grade concrete floor is built to underlay ice without
cracking or spalling as the temperature is lowered below freezing
and then warmed to accommodate rodeos, concerts, trade shows
and other events.
"Many public buildings might freeze 12 months of the
year. They don't freeze and unfreeze," said Cliff Granshaw
of the Canadian-based CIMCO refrigeration installation team.
"But a multipurpose arena like Santa Ana, they'll defrost."
The ffloor is 85 ft. wide and 200 ft. long with no expansion
joints. It is level to 3/16-inch. The floor is cooled by calcium
chloride chilled by ammonia, which runs through 60,000 ft.
"It's a very special piece of concrete," Granshaw
The concrete is chilled slowly the first time, in a process
that can take as long as a week. For warmer events that may
take place during the hockey season, insulating waffle board
can be laid and then a wooden floor, rather than defrosting
Upwards from the rink, rows of cement benches and molded plastic
chairing rise, stepwise backward. Both reach the same sound-absorbing
band of white Tectum that circles the arena.
The white band - the first of two - passes like underlining
directly beneath the row of open-faced suites that line its
A second band, this one of sound-absorbing white gypsum board,
passes above the suites like a headband.
The tougher Tectum - described by its manufacturer, Tectum,
Inc. of Newark, Ohio as "an abuse-resistant acoustical
product" -- is used below because of the possibility
of contact with fans.
There are 24 16-person suites. One high concrete step within
each provides seating for two rows of fans. Water sinks and
other amenities are located towards the rear. There are also
three eight-person suites, and to help sales, two much larger
party suites available for company outings on a per-game basis.
The party suites are located at the end of the arena, with
views not as good as those for the other suites
Still, "there's not a bad seat in the house," said
Dave Watral, project engineer for Albuquerque-based general
contractor Bradbury Stamm Inc.
Views are good because roof-supporting steel girders, which
in older stadiums with heavier roofs needed to be placed throughout
the structure, here are placed behind the seating area. They
rise to support a relatively light membrane-protected metal-deck
The extensive use of unenclosed steel and light roof means
"there's not as much rebar as we'd like," said Paul
Mackey, an estimator for CMC Construction Services, headquartered
in Dallas. The company fabricates rebar, among other products.
He said the building needed only 280-300 tons of rebar. "If
it had been designed differently, it would have used 1,000
Another reason for the low call on rebar is that the amount
of space around the building is large enough for parking,
so there is no need for a multistory parking garage.
A graceful-looking catwalk just beneath the roof circles the
building, providing access to service the scoreboard, clock
Keeping the spidery catwalk visual company are coolant pipes
installed by Albuquerque-based Yearout Mechanical Inc.
Yearout project manager Chuck Donoghue said hanging the ductwork
63 ft. above the rink was the most difficult part of the job.
"It was done with a 200-ton crane," he added. "We
flew it in from the top before the [roof] decking came in
and from the bottom with a 120-ft. man-lift.
"We hung it on the weekend because with backhoes, loaders
and pickups driving around, we didn't want to take a chance
on somebody bumping it."
Cooling and heating will be achieved by four 30,000-lb. McQuay
units on the rooftop.
Five exhaust fans, each pushing 40,000 cfm, are on the roof
to remove smoke from pyrotechnics and other causes.
Concourses for fans are remarkably spacious. "The seats,
steps and risers are coming down over your head, so that's
where we put the restrooms," said architect Dethlefs.
Food and drink courts are also housed under the seating on
the main floor, providing more concourse room for walking
and making the space big enough to house trade shows.
"Usually concourses of this size are for 12,000-person
buildings," Dethlefs added. "Putting the concourse
on the outside, you get high ceilings, it feels wider, people
can see inside through glass and it adds to the excitement
of the urban environment."
Dethlefs said the urban environment will come when other buildings
Other architectural touches include using concrete block for
the first 4 ft. of wall surface. "That gets rid of the
overwhelming majority of drywall abuse," Dethlefs said.
And the block is pretty because the visible 16-in. side is
scored by a vertical joint and colored in earth tones, which
makes it look like 8- by 8-in. tile.
Windows are occasionally partially blocked by diagonal steel
beams. These are braces required for earthquake loads. "We
could have covered them, but then we couldn't have windows,"
Dethlefs added. "And it's a sports building.
We're not trying to make it industrial and we wouldn't do
it in a hotel, but here it fit."
One of the most impressive parts of the job is that the south
side of the building was built into a hillside. To hold back
the sheared earth, an 8-in.-thick, 25-ft.-tall retaining wall
was built. It runs the length of the building.
Two-hundred-thirty soil nails were placed nearly horizontally
into the hillside as it was removed a few vertical feet at
a time and replaced with shotcrete.
The nails were 60, 50 and 45 ft. long.
Owner:City of Rio Rancho
Construction Manager: Intl. Coliseum Company
Architect:Sink Combs Dethlefs
General Contractor:Hunt Construction Group/ Bradbury Stamm
Structural Engineer:Martin & Martin
Steel:Alamo Steel; Bosworth Steel Erectors
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