Iconic Structures of Indiana: Bush Stadium

2009.08.05
Bush Stadium from the southwest

Bush Stadium is a baseball stadium just Northwest of downtown Indianapolis. This ivy covered brick structure with a heavily styled Art Deco entry has been the home of several teams since construction in 1931, all of whom have had a major role in the sports history of the city. Legend says that Wrigley Field (1913) served as inspiration for the ivy covered walls and roof system of the Indianapolis ballpark.

(NOTE: the property is closed and there is no access to the interior of the stadium)

Bush Stadium entry pavillion

Typical exterior walls of Bush Stadium

The structure has been essentially abandoned since 1996 when the Indianapolis Indians team moved to Victory Field downtown. The Indians move wasn’t such a bad plan, it consolidated the sports activities in the downtown area and created another destination in the central core. Victory Field and the Indianapolis Indians team offer one of the best baseball experiences available in the US, I love the current configuration they have. But as seen in a photos here and one from this link, Bush Stadium was quite sufficient as a baseball park and consolidating downtown was the reason for the move rather than obsolescence.

An aerial image from 1995, the last year that the stadium saw a full season

I wanted to concentrate on this structure for a few reasons:

  • It is currently on HLFI top ten endangered list
  • It has an exposed structural system, which always attracts my attention
  • It has a great location near downtown and alongside the river
  • I want to help raise awareness of the structure

Google Earth 3-d building model of Bush Stadium from the south

Google Earth 3-d building model of Bush Stadium from the southeast

The Indianapolis Star had a good descriptive article on this structure last year, but there was absolutely no call to action.

I hope that Indianapolis will find a reuse for this structure, but I don’t think that the current owners, Indy Parks, actually know what to do with it yet. Historic preservation has never been too high on their list of priorities and they seem to be too comfortable with razing a significant structure just to acquire a clean piece of property. Indy Parks official position is that they are entertaining offers for the property, but that no “viable solution” has been proposed.

The current cost estimate for a rehab is $6.7M (and maybe as low as $5M). If you look at how much Lucas Oil Stadium cost (~$700M), you can see that a rehabbed Bush Stadium will cost significantly less. Bush Stadium holds 12,000 spectators compared to LOS’ 60,000, so you get 1/5 the people for 1/100 the cost. No matter where you draw your money from, that doesn’t seem like a bad value. Most importantly, you now have a stadium that nobody can compete with, an authentic art deco structure.

Ripken Design performed the restoration feasibility study sponsored by the Chambers Family Foundation. It seems that no action has been taken since the initial phase, probably everyone is waiting for the city to make a decision or put funding into place.

When you consider how distinct the authentic facade is, you can easily imagine adaptive reuse consultants having an easy time marketing this property. Even if not for baseball or softball or little league, other sports such as cricket, soccer, or a facility of IUPUI’s choosing is possible. Many sports have devoted fans in need of small, yet upscale, stadiums to host championship games or tournaments.

Aerial image from 1937 showing arrangement as a baseball stadium

Aerial image as of 2005, after outfield was converted into the 16th Street Speedway

The entry pavillion is precast concrete with a metal awning. The cast reliefs probably refer to local issues set as mythological stories, which was a big hit in Art Deco days.

An art deco design relief (click for larger view)

Art deco relief showing original name of Perry Stadium

An Native American with ceremonial headdress and baseball equipment

The exterior windows are steel with divided lites. The awning and ticket counter windows give the impression of an old movie theater experience, which is probably not coincidental since they were also a burgeoning industry at this time. The management and operational facilities are directly above the ticket counter windows.

Awning above ticket counter booths with more design elements

Original gates to control traffic in and out of turnstyles

Turnstyles in main room of entry pavillion

Main room of entry pavillion with offices above the ticket booths (check out column details)

The vendors are no longer open but the signs are still hanging around

Beautiful desolation

Typical stadium ramp up to the seating area

A wild view greets anyone walking up the ramp to see the old playing surface

I don’t know how the upper stadium boxes were accessed, but they appear to be a later addition that has not fared very well. On the other hand, the lighting towers are obviously original and look absolutely fitting in their function and appearance. The roof structure is steel trusses with some type of steel decking covering almost all of the seats. That in itself is a rare thing at any baseball stadium.

Left field of Bush Stadium

Right field of Bush Stadium

One of several enormous light towers

A closer view of the home plate area and the “luxury boxes”

Good view of the windows and ticketing areas

The stadium risers are concrete and look cast in place, supported on brick walls. There is plenty of room for vendors under the risers. The exterior walls have overhead doors at regular intervals, these are access doors for the vendor stands. It looks like one could just back a truck right up into the stall and sell out of the truck. At the very least, it makes loading and unloading a simple affair.

Old vendor stall with roll-up door

The roof is supported by a steel frame structure, likely a moment frame with rigid connections to the truss chords. There is some wood roofing materials falling down, but nothing extensive. The timeline of the stadium shows that public use was still being allowed as late as 2001. I refuse to believe that this structure which has been exposed to weather for 70 years would go from structurally sound to the brink of collapse in 8 years. It seems like a scare tactic to me.

View of the framing from the exterior, note the braced frames in certain bays

The tall steel columns are connected with built-up trusses acting as a rigid frame

Good view of the trusses supporting the roof members

Viewing the structure from the outside, it is clear that this building is still in serviceable condition, and reportedly sees some seasonal upkeep. An outfield wall recently collapsed, but those are typically unbraced at their top so not surprising this would happen while nobody is maintaining the brick. There are no signs of walls being out of plumb, no exposed steel rusted through, nor any evidence of serious degradation by water. Many of the reports reference structural deficiencies, but (at least from the exterior) it appears to be in great shape compared to many of the historic properties I have been in.

My impression is that the decision to leave Bush Stadium was political and the required maintenance of the structure was merely a convenient excuse. Instead of focusing their energy on a solution that would preserve the heritage of the city, the owners (city of Indianapolis) began describing the stadium as “crumbling” or “unsafe” and rapidly abandoned it to raise a new edifice in honor of their own leadership.

Bush stadium is in good shape, even if it does have a few problems needing to be addressed. Only a limited amount of graffiti is present. Many of the window panes are still in good shape, a rare phenomenon for an abandoned urban building. Looking at the above referenced renovation costs, I think it is safe to assume that most of that cost would not be structural issues, but rather M/E/P, accessibility, or “luxury booth” upgrades. Asbestos treatments may be a concern, but there are many structures where management-in-place policies have been very effective.

Looking even further into the future, the stadium is on a direct route from downtown to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Thus, a dedicated people mover could serve both facilities. In my opinion, this is a strong argument in favor of preserving it. It could become another great facility in the portfolio of Indianapolis sports venues. I wouldn’t even be opposed to letting it sit for many more years and cultivating Indy’s first set of urban ruins, to be celebrated in a picturesque way many decades from now.

I just hope that the city of Indianapolis understands that once something is lost, it is lost forever. In the end if we can’t save Bush Stadium then it will be a sad day for us all.

Iconic Structures of Indiana: Lucas Oil Stadium

2009.03.10


If you have been in Indianapolis recently, or perhaps seen the Indianapolis Colts on TV this year, then you have likely seen the latest edition to the Indy skyline: Lucas Oil Stadium.

I love this stadium.

Exterior Construction Photo (by hyku)

Lucas Oil Products bought the naming rights for USD$121M

September 2008 – The Stadium is now open for business

My appreciation for this structure has nothing to do with the game of football or the events inside, I just totally love the way it was conceived, designed, and built. HKS was the Architect and Walter P. Moore was the Engineer of Record. The structure was finished in August of 2008 and has already been used for one full season of American Football and for many other conventions and events. It replaced the innovative RCA dome (or Hoosier dome) used as the Colts stadium since 1984. The RCA dome stood alongside its finished replacement for a few months before being imploded in December of 2008.


A last view to the old RCA Dome

I’ll leave it to other critics (try Circles and Squares or DIG-B) to decide the merits of the architecture of the stadium, I am only writing this post to discuss the structural system and design of a few key elements I find interesting. Also, I strongly recommend anyone who is interested in this stadium to review most of the documents on the IndyStar stadium page. They have some great photo galleries (like this one, but view in reverse order) and a great time-lapse video that shows construction from groundbreaking to completion (see below, I recommend muting and going full-screen).

As you can see from the video, this is a huge structure and it took a long time to complete it. It’s most famous feature is the retractable roof. A lot of stadiums these days have retractable roofs, but Indy’s stadium is the first with a gable roof system that splits lengthwise. It also has sliding end-zone panels that reveal downtown Indy just to the northeast. Beyond that, it’s a pretty typical football stadium, seating 63,000+ spectators on precast stadium risers. It also has all of the standard “jumbo-tron” equipment and luxury suites that modern stadiums use. But let’s discuss the shell and roof of the stadium because that’s what appeals most to me.

So what makes the Lucas Oil Stadium an achievement worthy of celebration? Why do I think it’s the best modern “dome” stadium? Partially I think it’s just a feeling, but I’ve got some good substantive reasons, too:

  • The overall form pays tribute to the massive sports arenas of the region such as the Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University
  • The material choice reflects the common materials used in downtown Indianapolis
  • The structural system uses enormous portal frames similar to the large industrial buildings throughout downtown

It all comes down to context. The building isn’t removed from the city surrounding it either by form, material choice, or structural system. Everything just seems to fit. That was the one complaint about the RCA dome, it appeared as though an alien spaceship had landed in the midwest. I fear the Dallas Cowboy New Stadium went down the alien path, however. It is unique in its own way, but mostly Dallas just needed something BIG. (aside: I grew up in Texas; yes everything is bigger; no don’t mess with us) The bigness was very important when both Dallas and Indy were competing for 2011 Superbowl. Dallas won out because more fans = more money.

I actually prefer smaller stadiums. Both Heinz Field in Pittsburgh (USD$281M) and the Columbus Crew Stadium (USD$28M) are regional stadiums that have successfully met the requirements of their tenants. The smaller stadium size allows fans to get very close to the action, and lowers tickets costs and maintenance. Having attended games at all of these locations, and being caught in thunderstorms, heavy snow, and hot sun, I can say that Lucas Oil Stadium’s (USD$720M) famous roof was well worth the effort. The Lucas Oil Stadium stayed with the small stadium formula but optimized the fan experience.

To be honest, a good stadium design hasn’t changed much in the past 2000 years. The Roman Colosseum could seat 50,000 spectators. This structure used earth-moving processes and concrete construction similar to today’s efforts. The complex system of trap-doors and ability to convert to a lake for water battles are pretty notable. The structure had a lot of versatility built-in. Architectural historians are pretty sure the stadium even had a retractable fabric roof, either supported from poles or using catenary action in an inverted dome sytem. Throw in the advanced plumbing system, beer and bread vendors, and free admission (yes, free) and you might even think our designs have regressed.


Cross Section of the Flavian Amphitheatre (Colosseum)


Cross Section of the Lucas Oil Stadium

But there is a huge difference between the Lucas Oil Stadium and a simple outdoor stadium (modern or ancient). Lucas Oil Stadium gives the power to completely control the weather element. During nice weather, the stadium is open at the top and side. During extreme weather events or hot/cold seasons, the stadium can be closed up and operated as a conditioned space. This doesn’t matter as much for a simple game like football which should be played outdoor as much as possible, but for other events like RV shows, Final Four basketball games, or high school band competitions it is essential. The real benefit here is certainty. Indy can guarantee that large events can be hosted anytime of the year without worry. The added bonus of holding the event in a sports stadium lends a certain amount of clout to the event as well. This gives a huge advantage in securing conventions and events. Versatility is the key here, and it only costs money.


Enclosing a volume such as Lucas Oil Stadium is no easy task. The wind force on such a large surface area can build up to incredible levels. There are no floor diaphragms to help distribute the loads evenly around the building. The brick facade and sensitive roof mechanisms demand a very stiff frame, as any movements can cause cracking or throw off the alignment of the retractable roof system. This is where the experience of Walter P. Moore as a company is tremendously important. The structural system concept was based on previous successful methods, but also different from any previous system because of the unique roof configuration.

If you refer to the photo above you can see the most important piece of structure: the Supertruss. There are two of these above each sideline in the North-South direction, and they support a large percentage of the roof loading. The supertrusses are essentially portal frames, which means they resist moment at the transition from vertical to horizontal. This behavior is in contrast with a typical post & beam system which allows the beam ends to rotate freely. The advantage of using the portal frame is a much stiffer structural member; the penalty is dealing with the insanely large forces that develop inside the member. I recall a Walter P. Moore designer telling me that the moment in Reliant Stadium supercolumns were being measured in “kip-miles”, I would assume a similar situation would occur in the Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Supertrusses develop internal forces using truss behavior, with top and bottom chords, diagonal web members, and gusset plates tying everything together. I don’t know the dimensions of the members used, but the weight of even a single gusset plate on one of LOS’s supertrusses is probably heavier than a typical truss used in one of my projects. The supertrusses are massive in every sense of the word.



Here you can see the supertruss as it connects to the foundation system. I should probably point out that major projects like the LOS stadium can have well past 50% of the structural cost in foundation costs. In this particular case, the civil engineers had to account for underground utilities including a new pedestrian tunnel linking to the convention center in addition to all sorts of wastewater, electrical, and telecom trunk lines. Just locating all these services is a major task unto itself. Accommodating them or building around them certainly adds a challenge to the already difficult situation. In the case of the LOS, one entire corner of the building had to supported by an underground bridge across an existing CSO line.

When you look at Lucas Oil Stadium, try to visualize a huge network of piers, concrete pads, and a huge mass of soil supporting all the weight. Buildings don’t just sit on the ground, they interact with them and become part of the earth. Just like the root system of a tree, a building is truly part of the subsurface environment. But referring back to the photo of the supertruss base connection, I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to see they left this part exposed. Here is the exact location where most of the weight and wind force is transferred into the foundation. It is an incredibly important structural relationship, and I am glad they celebrated it.







I have included a few shots of the supertruss as it continues up the levels and transitions to a horizontal member. I am so glad they left this portion exposed, these components are usually hidden behind walls and gypsum, so it quite special to see it. It really is a great representation of the strength of the building. Next up is the minor trusses. They aren’t “supertrusses”, but they aren’t so bad, either.

Steel framing under construction



You can see the truss poking out at roof level

The smaller trusses intersecting at right angles to the supertrusses serve a few purposes. First, they carry the wind loads down to the framing in the other direction. Next, they prevent buckling of the supertrusses. Finally, they provide a rail for the roof to travel along and set the gabled roof profile. Most importantly, though, they look pretty cool. There are five of these trusses in the East-West direction. You can see them on the inside of the building or poking out from the top of the walls.

Going back to the construction video, you can see several phases of construction. The first is the foundation and earthwork. The playing surface of the stadium was lowered a few stories for some practical reasons. The stadium seating starts first, and then the first supertruss (west side) starts going up. The temporary erection structures for the supertruss are large enough to be considered a separate project, I would imagine. As time progresses, the gable trusses are installed in pieces. The other supertruss (east side) goes up, and the gable trusses are finished. About this time, you can see the cladding being applied. This isn’t fake brickwork or metal panels painted brick red (well, not very many at least). The masons assembled brickwork into large panels which were then lifted and set into place. I thought that part was pretty clever too, it sped things up and kept the masons safely on the ground.

The final parts of the video show the roofing, windows, and finishes being installed. The finish installation is a pretty rapid process compared to the overall project, but it probably is the most rewarding for the builders. Up until that point, everyone is really operating on faith that the designers knew what they were doing, so seeing the actual product assembled and functioning takes a lot of stress off of everyone involved. And besides, it’s pretty freakin sweet just to see the biggest operable window in the city opening up.

Sliding Window Photo (by hyku)


East side entry lobby – insert huge fan pun joke here

I also wanted to show some photos of the general interior. The huge fans were a great touch, they really push the whole industrial feeling of the space, and they certainly get the job done. I wish they had more stairwells or escalators, but most spectators will get to their seats using a really long ramp system. It’s wacky and kind of boring, definitely the biggest missed opportunity of the design.


Makes a person wonder… where the hell am I, and where am I going?

RCA Dome Implosion

2009.01.01

The RCA dome (or Hoosier Dome) was imploded Saturday, December 20 at around 9:30 in the morning. I was lucky enough to be slightly involved with the project, making observations on the buildings that were supposed to remain standing. So I got up Saturday morning like a kid ready for Christmas. I always like the RCA dome, it was a pretty brilliant structure. But you can’t stand in the way of progress, and the Lucas Oil Stadium is certainly as good if not better.


Anyways, one of the guys I work with got VIP tix for working with the demo contractor. Score! You see the price on that ticket? That’s probably my favorite part.


These guys tear things down for a living and they have a sense of humor about it. The day before the implosion I got to explore the sight making sure everything was cool, there was only one instruction “don’t step on the yellow wires.” I was kind enough to oblige them. The stadium was oddly quiet and strange, almost post-apocalyptic.


We arrived early on Saturday morning for the implosion, we had a good view of the implosion next to the new Lucas Oil Stadium. I thought it was a fitting location to watch the show. Ring in the new by tearing down the old. A good topic for a New Year’s Eve posting.

And finally, a video of the implosion as it happened. I recommend turning up the volume (and especially the bass) to get the full feeling. Goodbye Hoosier Dome.

Note: it’s a large AVI file (300+MB) but high quality and complete from beginning of charges to after the dust clears, will take a long time to download

Categories : random  stadium