Bennett Gymnasium’s transformation into new engineering and physics laboratories has fallen behind schedule.
The upgrade to the historical facility is one of five major projects included in ACU’s Vision in Action initiative.
Construction on Bennett Gymnasium began in April 2014, with the original date of completion expected to come before the start of the fall semester, said Kevin Roberts, vice president of operations.
Roberts said the project has fallen behind schedule because of a domino effect of minor hiccups during construction.
“It’s kind of hard to unwind exactly which (event caused the delay),” Roberts said. “But essentially, there were some preceding events that led to it.”
A busy summer for the city of Abilene delayed the acquisition of proper construction permits by four weeks, Roberts said.
“Permitting, usually at the outside, it takes two weeks,” Roberts said. “And that’s a really long time. A combination of some vacation time with the city, and then May ended up being the busiest month for permits ever in the history of the city of Abilene. What normally took two weeks took us six. Everything just ground to a halt.”
Construction also hit a snag while drilling to pour cement piers, Roberts said.
“We started drilling down, and at about 16 to 18 feet we hit concrete,” Roberts said.
The concrete was poured during the 1929 construction of Bennett Gymnasium. Roberts said the construction crew was unaware the concrete columns existed because the original blueprints for Bennett could not be found.
Engineers returned and redesigned the layout for the steel beams, causing another multi-week delay, Roberts said.
Steel had already been ordered to build the new laboratories before the crew knew it would have to relocate the beams, Roberts said. When the time came for the Bennett order to be processed and manufactured, the engineers had not finished redesigning the layout. As a result, the order was pushed to the back of the waiting list.
“We lost our place in line,” Roberts said. “Now we’re way behind.”
As the order moved its way up the line the second time, the entire Texas steel industry suddenly experienced a shortage of raw materials used for supply, Roberts said.
“All of a sudden we lost another three or four weeks, just idle because we couldn’t get the iron ore for those guys to start working on the steel,” Roberts said.
As of Friday, all necessary materials had been delivered to the construction site, Roberts said. Construction should now move ahead at a swift pace.
“They’re over there right now erecting it, putting it up,” Roberts said. “We’re back on track. We have a high, high level of confidence that we’ll be done for the start of the spring semester.”
Roberts said the construction crew is prepared to work two shifts a day, six days a week, in order to complete the project.