When the University of Kentucky set out to renovate its iconic Kroger Field, the owners knew they wanted to reinvent every corner of the space to make it feel more authentically Kentucky. It was a big challenge for a project that had to be completed while the stadium was open for football season, according to Greg Hosfield, architect and project manager for Ross Tarrant Architects in Lexington, Ky. That was one of the many reasons the team chose precast concrete for the exterior.
“The use of precast helped in allowing the exterior façade to be constructed quickly with minimal disruption to the game day experience,” he says. It also provided a completely new aesthetic to the façade of the stadium, while keeping the budget and schedule in line.
The façade was cast in 87 massive 8-in.-thick architectural precast concrete panels. “The large size allowed us to reduce the number of pieces and bearing points, which lowered the overall cost of the project,” says Kevin Locke, senior principal with Ross Tarrant. To make the pieces feel smaller and more detailed, the larger panels were divided into smaller sections with reveals and two finishes: a heavy and light sandblast in a random pattern to emphasize the smaller panel design. “With the two finishes, one mix was able to be utilized, which gave two distinct looks while saving cost,” he says.
To ensure the variations in the finish were consistent, the design team worked closely with Gate Precast to alter the finish of small sections of each panel to help blend the entire façade together. “This required a great deal of design collaboration, as well as ongoing coordination and adjustments during manufacturing and construction to achieve the intended final product,” Hosfield says. “The process was challenging and required an innovative approach, but it yielded great results.”
The massive weight of the panels and assembly crane also caused concerns regarding their impact on the drainage system. To mitigate that risk, the project team built a dedicated path and crane pad with timbers to prevent any damage. The project remained on schedule, and caused minimal disruption, even as the 2015 football season began before construction was complete.
The result is an attractive, durable, high-performance design that more than met the expectations of the university and Wildcat Football fans. “The goals for this project included transforming the appearance of the existing stadium and enhancing the fan and athlete experience,” Locke says. “The use of precast was instrumental in achieving these goals.”