Here’s something cool: Cameras are recording the renovation of Ballard Stadium

An architectural rendering of the recommended Phase I of the Foreman Field rebuild. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of ODU)
An architectural rendering of the recommended Phase I of the Foreman Field rebuild. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of ODU)

NORFOLK — Dozens of people gathered outside Foreman Field, especially around lunch hour, as the 82-year-old stadium succumbed to various concrete-and brick-crunching machines the last two weeks of November.

Some hung around hoping construction workers would hand over a brick or two. And they handed out hundreds.

Others just watched the old stadium that held so many memories turn into rubble.

But now that demolition of the east and west sides is done, there’s still a way to keep up with construction without trekking to the stadium.

S.B. Ballard Construction installed three cameras that are recording every step of construction, from the demolition that began Nov. 19 right down to the last step – finishing off the press box – over the next eight months.

And they are available to watch online.

Link to stadium cams

These cameras don’t produce video. They take a photo every 10 minutes, and admittedly, there won’t be much to watch the next few months.

For most of December, 670 piles will be driven into the ground by four pile drivers. In January, concrete trucks will pour the footers and other portions of the stadium foundation.

“February, March and April is when you’ll see the most action,” Stephen Ballard, head of S.B. Ballard Construction, told ODU athletic officials during a recent presentation.

That’s when stadium will seem to rise out of the earth, as simulated by a video Ballard put together.

Video of stadium reconstruction

Cranes will begin hoisting the steel structure that will support the stadium, the precast concrete that will form the concourses and press box, and the aluminum which will hold seats.

“In six weeks, there will be six cranes out here,” Ballard said. “In eight weeks, we’ll have 10 cranes. Every day, we’ll be bringing in 15, 20 or 25 loads of steel, precast and aluminum.”

S.B. Ballard Stadium, as the new stadium will be known, is undergoing a $67.5 million makeover that includes two decks of new seating on the east and west sides.

Before work on electricity, plumbing and other infrastructure can start, including the installation of seats, the stadium shell must be complete. This is the second-most-critical portion of construction.

Ballard said the demolition phase was the most critical, and it was completed almost two weeks early.

“The reason that’s good is because from now on, it’s going to be difficult to make up time,” he said. “All we can really do is lose time.”

Rain and snow could affect the schedule in January, when concrete is being poured. But from then on, wind could be the most troublesome issue. You can’t hoist pieces of steel or precast concrete when the wind is whipping.

“The sun can be shining, but if the winds are over 35 knots, we’re shut down,” Ballard said.

The Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young concert at Foreman Field in 1974. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of ODU News)
The Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young concert at Foreman Field in 1974. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of ODU News)

Ballard is scheduled to hand over the stadium to ODU on July 30, 2019, and the Monarchs will open it against Norfolk State on Aug. 31.

Ballard said the University spent millions of dollars to get the project done on time and reduce effects to the nearby Larchmont neighborhood.

The University authorized Ballard to replace water and sewer lines and install new stadium lights before demolition began. That will reduce the need for night work, he said.

During demolition, crumbling concrete sent up clouds of dust. “But ODU spent big money by running foggers the entire time,” Ballard said of giant fans that sprayed thousands of droplets of water into the air.

“We knocked down about 80 percent of the dust. The University didn’t have to do that, but it’s all a part of being good neighbors.”

The University also paid extra to bring in pile drivers that are among the quietest in the industry. Piles are lowered into holes drilled into the ground, then driven the rest of the way down.

If you’ve been by Foreman Field to witness pile driving lately, the drivers are indeed much quicker, and quieter, than those used on previous projects at ODU.

A Norfolk native who was raised in Colonial Place, Ballard has experience doing projects for ODU. He did a makeover of Foreman Field in 2009 that included construction of a parking garage and the Atlantic Bay Gameday Building. He’s also built other parking decks and ODU’s Education Building.

“On every project we’ve done, the neighborhoods have been important to us,” he said. “And they are important to the University.”

Ballard said ODU shelled out more money so that pilings would be would divided in two before being transported to the stadium. Transporting piles that are 85 feet would be less expensive, but dividing them in two is safer and causes less traffic problems around the stadium, Ballard said.

The piles are then spliced together on site and driven into the ground.

“The University spent a lot of money to bring them in two pieces, frankly, to help lessen the impact on the neighborhood,” he said.

“It’s difficult to explain just how much time and energy has been spent to minimize the impact on the neighborhood.

“We know the people in Larchmont, and everyone who came by the construction site was great. They understand what we’re doing. Most of them just wanted bricks, and we gave bricks to everyone who asked.”

As of Tuesday, more than 1,100 truckloads of debris weighing 600,000 tons had been trucked to seven sites, where it is being sorted. About 70 percent of the debris, including all of the steel and aluminum, will be recycled, Ballard said.

Of the two sides, the west side will be the most challenging to finish on time. That side will be topped with the press box and also have the Priority Automotive Club, a 5,000-square-foot facility designed to accommodate 400 high-end donors.

The east side will largely include seating, restrooms and concessions stands.

Ballard said that ODU has already purchased all materials needed for the stadium, and nearly everything is ready to be delivered.

“We’ve got a tight schedule,” he said. “But the University spent a lot of time working with us to make sure we had a smart plan.

“We’re going to get it done.”

And what will be done with the thousands of photos taken by S.B. Ballard cameras?

Jason Chandler, associate athletic director for revenue and strategic marketing, said the photos will be spliced together to make a time-lapse video of the entire project.

Chandler said it may not be ready for the first game, but when it is, it will be shown at football games as well as online.

“It will be interesting to see, in just a few minutes, nine months of demolition and construction,” Chandler said.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.