Samron Midwest overcomes cold, wet conditions to drive new football stadium over the goal line

Cold, wet weather conditions are often the norm for college football teams that play late in the season in the upper Midwest. But they presented special challenges for an Illinois concrete contractor involved in constructing a new football stadium at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale this past winter.

“The weather was a problem last winter, even down here in southern Illinois,” said Jeromy Fricke, general manager of operations for Samron Midwest Contracting, Inc. Samron, based in Murphysboro, Ill., is located about an hour north of the state’s southern tip.

“We’ve had to thaw the ground before every pour,” Fricke said, “Then we used electric concrete blankets powered by a 100-kilowatt generator to cure the concrete. We had to keep it warm for seven days.”

Samron handled all concrete work at the new stadium as well as extensive renovations to the existing SIU Arena just to the west. Work at the stadium included all foundations and footings, structural concrete for the new bleachers and all sidewalks and steps, totaling around 100,000 square feet in all. Total value of the concrete work was about $4.1 million.

Work began on the new 13,900-seat Saluki Stadium in March, 2009. The new stadium will replace McAndrew Stadium, a 17,000-seat facility built in 1938. McAndrew, one of the largest and oldest structures on the Southern Illinois campus, is the second oldest stadium in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The new stadium will be located just south of the old, and McAndrew will continue to be used by the Southern Illinois men’s and women’s outdoor track teams.

“The ground had to be dry 24 inches below the surface before we could pour concrete,” Fricke explained. “We used the electric blankets to accomplish this, and depending on the depth of the frost, we could dry an area within 48 hours.

“The concrete was delivered at a temperature of about 60 degrees. Then we had to keep it warm for a week while it cured. It was a continuous process. Our biggest challenge was staying ahead of the crew installing the bleachers.”

And then there was the mud. Because of the soft ground conditions, Fricke said Samron used concrete pumps to deliver most of the concrete.

“We own one pump truck ourselves and use another one owned by a sub-contractor,” he said.

Mud also presented a problem when excavating for footings and foundations. The solution was a new Bobcat® M-Series E80 excavator paired with two T320 compact track loaders.

“We used to use a backhoe loader to dig all our footings and spacers,” Fricke said. “But with the backhoe, we had to dig with the back bucket and haul the dirt off with the front bucket. We spent half a day hauling off the spoil. Now with the excavator working in tandem with one of our loaders, we can move the dirt as we dig. That’s the most efficient way to do this kind of work.”

Not to mention, Fricke said, that the track machines operate easily in poor surface conditions and don’t tear up the ground. “The tracks keep us from disrupting the sub-grade,” he said. “With tracks we get in, do a cleaner job and don’t have to come back to fix things.”

At the arena, Samron’s crew will add special touches, dyeing and polishing the concrete on the concourse area using a dark blue and charcoal theme. “All of my guys are qualified to do decorative concrete including colored and textured concrete,” Fricke said. “This won’t be a gray concrete job.”

A grand opening ceremony was held at Saluki Stadium on August 24th before a crowd of 2,000 Southern Illinois University fans. The Salukis played their first game in the new facility versus Quincy on September 2nd. Likewise, the refurbished SIU Arena is scheduled to be finished on September 24th.