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Thursday, Dec 7, 2023

Construction — Convention Center Expansion Passes Milestone

Construction: Project

Currently on Time

And Under Budget

When elected officials and tourism executives gather this week for a topping-off ceremony at the San Diego Convention Center expansion, the fact it’s on time and within budget likely will be mentioned more than once.

The ceremonial placement of the last steel beam at the entrance to the grand ballroom marks the approximate midway point to the expansion that will double the size of the existing convention center.

“It is unusual for a public project, and something we’re proud about,” said Ron Rudolph, project director for Golden Turner Construction Co., the expansion’s prime contractor.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the $216 million expansion should be completed by May 2001. Following that, there will be a four-month fine-tuning process before the first convention opens in September.

The expansion’s success in terms of staying on budget has much to do with the city’s decision to do the project through a design-build process, Rudolph said.

The process entails the city selecting a contractor and providing the company with design drawings and agreeing on a guaranteed maximum price. The arrangement makes the contractor responsible for hiring the architect and other subcontractors and permitting it to make design changes.

This arrangement requires the contractor to deal with change-order claims and eliminates the claims being passed along to the city.

The original Convention Center which opened in 1989 and was built entirely by the San Diego Unified Port District, originally was estimated at about $120 million but ended up costing more than $160 million, largely because of change orders.

When the expansion was approved in 1996, its estimated cost was $194 million, but delays arising from litigation on the city’s financing through lease revenue bonds caused that price to rise.

Rudolph said the project has gone well since its beginning in August 1998.

The biggest challenge was finding a sufficient number of top-grade welders for the structural steel phase that just ended. Because anything less than superior welding work on the beams was unacceptable, the contractor was required to hire a high-quality work force.

With the steel phase completed, work will begin on the building’s exterior and interior. Some parts of the interior have already begun, Rudolph said.

To ensure the project is on schedule, work goes on six days a week for about 10 hours a day.

“I have no life,” Rudolph said.

Despite the pressure, Rudolph is glad to be in charge of the project , the largest he’s ever managed. Before this, the biggest he oversaw was the reconstruction of the Del Mar Race Track grandstand in 1994.

In other expansion news, construction of the Sails Pavilion, which enclosed the previously open air area on the existing center’s second floor, was finished last month and used by a convention last week. That enhancement, designed and built by Douglas E. Barnhart, Inc., Joseph Wong Design Associates and Dealy Development, cost about $10 million.

Completion of the lowering of Harbor Drive by nine feet to accommodate a third entrance/exit to the center’s underground parking lot also is completed. The street, which was closed for months, reopened in early May with two lanes.


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