Darren Kruse is a project manager at Gast Construction and he was chosen to oversee the Sanford Health Athletic Complex and SCHEELS Center renovation. Every day since Gast won the contracting bid in 2013, Kruse has worked closely with site superintendent Don Berhagen by his side. We’ve followed the progress of the SHAC closely through Kruse’s eyes over the years so we caught up with him one final time to give us the lowdown on how this $50 million renovation was possible.
Bison Illustrated: Overall, how would you say renovation went?
Darren Kruse: From our side, it went long, but it’s been a long process. We’re going to finish right when we said we were going to. It’s been a complex project because we’re taking a very old building, gutting the whole thing almost and building an all new inside and additions on all four sides. We have some new construction and some old construction renovation. Renovations always seem to take longer than new construction because not only do you have to deconstruct, then you have to construct afterward.
Have you done anything like this in the past?
Not me personally, but Gast has done pretty large renovations before. One example would be, not quite to the scale of the SHAC, but we did a large renovation and additions at Concordia College at their Offutt School of Business. We’ve also done some large renovations at MSUM.
What was an example of those unseen delays that happen during the renovation?
The pool was a bit of a delay. I don’t think the design team exactly knew what was going to be required to hold up all those new foundations because that pool was so old and it leaked for so many years. Once we demolished the pool itself, until that time, they weren’t able to go in and test the soils. It was a bit of a process and we had to punch some holes in some walls to get their rig in there to do borings. We ended up having to put helical piers in there. I don’t know how many they put down in there, maybe 20, 25 of them and they had to drive a big track hole in there and screw those things into the ground basically. That was a unique experience and I don’t know if anything could be attributed to one person. It was just an unseen condition that no one really knew about until we got to that actual point of the demo, but we were able to find, collectively with the design team, a solution and got it installed and kept moving on.
The locker rooms are in the same general area. Did you keep some of the piping down there?
No, the old locker rooms and all that were demolished and knocked down. Every bit of concrete slab on the ground was torn up and replaced. It was all pretty well gutted. About the only things that stayed were parts of the second floor and that existing stadium seating, below the old press box. That’s really the only thing that stayed.
What’s left to be done now that we’re less than two weeks from opening this bad boy up?
We’re finishing up some carpet and the Terrazzo flooring in the entrances. There’s some paint and things like that but that’s really about it. We’re doing some display cases down the corridor 1020, it’s down by the basketball locker rooms. It’s really kind of the finishing touches.
What’s it been like to work with Matt Larsen and Todd Phelps on this project?
Matt and Todd have been great, NDSU overall has been really good. There are times where we get through some difficult situations but it’s a difficult project so it takes a lot of people to all be on the same page to make it work. Overall, I mean it’s been really good. It’s a really good project for us to have on our resume and for me to have on my resume as a project manager. I can look back in 20, 30 years from now and it’s still there and being used.
How many guys have you been rolling out there overall?
As the general contractor, the most we had was 12 or 14, now we’ve been winding down, we’re at four to eight finishing up. I think we’re down to four. We have a lot of subcontractors working under our contract too. So maybe at the peak of construction, there were easily 100 workers inside the building at any one time. That’s mechanical, plumbing, electrical, general contracting and our subs.
When did this process start for you?
We bid this project in September of 2013, and then we started doing some planning with initial planning and scheduling talks with the architect and owner back in October and November of 2013. It’s getting close to three years of having my fingers in the project.
Thanks for all your help Darren. It’s been fun to watch this renovation unfold over the last two and a half years.
I can’t emphasize enough how much teamwork is a part of the process. I know when you and I talk, you can’t talk to everybody to get the information, but that’s one of my big mantras is working as a team. We couldn’t do what we’ve done with this project if it wasn’t for Don Bernhagen, my superintendent. He’s the one on site every day and handling all the day-to-day problems and he and I talk multiple times. I always tell him, he and I are a team on this. Overall, we had a really good group of contractors out there.