DETROIT — And it’s a looong drive to center field!

  The old Tiger Stadium field holds fond memories of Hall-of-Famers such as Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Mickey Cochrane, Al Kaline, and George Kell, up through today’s newest batch of talent. No wonder some traditionalists fought to keep a new major league baseball stadium here from being built.

Baseball has been played on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull Avenues in Detroit longer than any other location. For 101 seasons, “The Corner” has been home to Motown’s Bengals, and since 1912, Tiger Stadium has served as the proud venue for the team’s home games.

Today, one of the cornerstones of a Detroit redevelopment plan has been the construction of a new ballpark for the Tigers, spearheaded by club owner Mike Ilitch (Little Caesar’s pizza mogul, who also owns the Detroit Red Wings).

However, as the new ballpark has taken shape, even the loyalists seem to like what they see. Dark-green structural steel girders are close to the shade of the old ballpark. Games will be played on natural turf. Gone will be the lack of parking, lack of luxury suites, and obstructed-view seats.

Designers of this new facility promised to combine the best of the old and new parks, so that the city can boast a showpiece that includes the latest amenities while embracing the historical nature of downtown Detroit architecture.

With a seating capacity of approximately 40,000, the ballpark will be one of the most intimate facilities to host a major league team. Comerica Park will offer premium-sight lines that place fans right on top of the action.

Total cost of the project: $260 million.

Infield scramble

Since play will be on natural grass, the trades are currently scrambling to complete the infield work by August 1, in order to let the new grass take root as quickly as possible.

Prime mechanical contractor for the project is 11-year-old Pace Mechanical Services Inc. (an Emcor company), Westland, Mich., a member of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA). Pace maintains an average 50 tradespersons on the site, split between plumbers and pipefitters. Pipefitters are members of Local 636, plumbers are from Local 98.

In addition, Pace staffs five draftspersons, a drafting coordinator, project engineer, and a project manager. According to project engineer John Clay, “As the construction progresses, we have crews in up to 10 different areas at any given time.”

Jeff Brugner, who oversees installation of the mechanical systems for Pace, said he grew up a Cubs fan, but also went to see the Tigers play in their “old” stadium. “It’s an interesting viewpoint, seeing the future unfold here in time for the new millennium, almost in the blink of an eye.”

Mechanicals, ventilation

Most of the stadium will be supplied by eight air-handling units ranging from 4,000 to 10,500 cfm. Five are constant-volume units, while the rest are vav units.

Suites and concession areas will be served by water-source heat pumps — some 200 of them — in capacities from 560 to 4,000 cfm. The heat sink (or source, depending on the season) is a 3,000-gpm condenser water loop. The loop is connected to a Marley cooling tower by a heat exchanger.

During the heating season, heat is added to the system by 10 Patterson-Kelley modular boilers. The boilers also supply heating water to the air handlers and the domestic water heater.

The Trane Company will supply the 182 water-source heat pumps, 100 of which are specified for the luxury suites. This is luxury, indeed; each suite will have its own heat pump unit.

Five larger, package water-cooled air handlers will serve greater areas, such as the team locker rooms, batting cages, and access tunnels.

Lower first cost was the reason for using the water-source heat pumps, according to Glynn Crutsinger, of Trane’s Waco, Texas business unit, and Trane sales engineer Joe Steele, based in Farmington Hills, Mich.

The heat pumps are in the 2- to 20-ton capacity range. All horizontal units run up to about 10 tons, and vertical units are in the 10- to 20-ton range.

M-E Engineers Inc., Denver, specified the equipment and is the mechanical-engineering services contractor. The contractor has worked on Coors Field in Denver, Pacific Bell Park, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and several others.

In advance of opening day 2000, the heating systems must be available to serve as temporary heat for the coming winter’s continuing construction.

Hale Contracting offers additional mechanical support, with MCMI adding Andover temperature controls, and R.L. Bondy in charge of the insulation.

The ventilation system has been constructed by Allied Ventilation Inc., Warren, Mich., a member of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association.

The contractor has hoisted ductwork up to 80 in. dia to condition the enclosed on-site team offices, luxury suites, and concession areas, including kitchen exhausts. Much of the ductwork is exposed. Construction of the ductwork began in December 1998 in Allied’s shop. The ductwork was then trucked to the site for installation.

Nick Seraphinoff started Allied in 1981. Superintendent on the project is Frank Baran. Brian Walewski is project manager, and Dennis Scherret is the foreman. Their workers belong to Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association Local 80.

Staffing up

Staffing has been a problem for Pace. The strong economy, heavy demand for local construction (Pace is also working on a rehab of the city’s waterfront Renaissance Center and a new terminal at the Wayne County Metro Airport), and Executive Order 22 all contribute. (The latter requires Pace to staff 50% Detroit residents, 25% minority, and 5% females.)

According to Clay, “The most complex characteristics of this project are its large size, round shape, and fast-track design. The systems are designed straight-forward, but are just now becoming complete.

“As the project completion deadline of opening day 2000 approaches, every available area of the building is being erected as fast as possible. Coordination of work is imperative.

“Another unusual aspect of this job,” Clay continued, “is that the building is divided up into two areas, the ballpark and the ‘out’ buildings, which are the office, retail, restaurant, and concession areas. The two areas are run by two different management teams, as if they are separate projects.”

Who's on first?

One unusual spin on this project, at least from Trane’s point of view, is that a competitor’s control package was specified. The controls were shipped to the Trane plant for mounting, and required some minor modifications.

Overall, Trane would have preferred to supply its own controls for the units, but the ability to work with a competitor and mount their controls helped secure the bid for the Trane heat pumps. Most of the coordination was worked out easily enough via phone and fax.

Steele says he is at the jobsite at least once a week, trying to keep up with a steady stream of changes that entail new drawings. The first batch of heat pumps is to be shipped this month.

The day before Steele talked to The News, he received word of an additional change that entails another 30 vav boxes for the team offices, and an additional 80 tons of cooling.

To some, it sounds like a typical major construction project.