The Center of Community Wellness

“They’re becoming the new malls,” says Yann Cowart, AIA, vice president, sports architecture at Goodwin Mills & Cawood, Montgomery, Ala. He’s referring to large multisport complexes funded by municipalities. “They’ve become a kind of phenomenon. They’re done for the municipality as an economic driver as well as serving people of the town as a wellness standpoint. They’re used by every age group every day. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who use the running track.”

The Finley Center in Hoover, Ala., offers exciting opportunities for residents to gather earns the best in Metal Buildings for 2018

By Paul Deffenbaugh

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Cowart and his team designed the Finley Center at the Hoover Sports Complex, Hoover, Ala., which the judges in this year’s MCN Building and Roofing Award recognized as the best project in the metal buildings category. “I really admired how it embraced the language of metal buildings,” says judge Lewis McNeel, AIA, associate, Lake|Flato Architects, San Antonio. “But it elevates that system in really elegant ways. It’s not trying to hide the fact that it’s a metal building but it’s also many steps beyond just a pedestrian, workhorse metal building.” James E. Theimer, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, principal, TRILOGY Architecture, Redding, Calif., adds, “It’s obviously a very large building, and it’s very difficult to make a large metal building look like anything other than a big shed. “They really worked hard to try to break up that mass.”

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The Finley Center is a 155,000-square-foot complex with 83,000 square feet of continuous space. It can be transformed into 11 basketball courts or 17 volleyball courts, and seats up to 1,800 fans. The Irving, Texas-based MESCO Building Solutions’ metal building comprises 92,120 square feet of the total footprint, with an additional 12,400 square feet of mezzanine that serves as a quarter-mile track.

Jeff Dixon, senior estimator, project manager and metal building specialists for Dunn Building Co., Birmingham, Ala., led the construction crew on erecting the building. “We had 90 days on the building package,” he says. “We manned up a crew, and worked six days a week.” One of the biggest challenges, besides the pace of construction, was coordinating with the construction manager who needed to bring in other trades to get working on parts of the building. “After we got half the building up,” Dixon says, “the crew came in and started doing the track.”

The building was clad with Lewisville, Texasbased Metl-Span insulated metal panels and features Kalwall, Manchester, N.H., translucent panels in the clerestory that flood the open spaces with natural light.

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The perimeter spaces of the complex are conventionally framed, and house concessions, main clubhouse, locker rooms, and other services. Cowart says connecting those elements was one of the challenges the design team faced. “You’re dealing with a substantial amount of sway,” he says in referring the metal building, which has 40-foot eave heights and a 210-foot clear span. “Expansion joints traced around the building to seal it up and we had to coordinate all the connection points.” Still, there was never serious consideration to using anything but a metal building for the main structure. “Pre-engineered metal buildings are still the most economical way to do a long-span structure. From speed of erection and economical delivery, it’s the best bang for the buck.”

Complicating things even more for both the design and construction was the decision to use reverse-tapered columns. “The side walls were sheeted at that slope of the taper,” Dixon says, “and we had to make sure every column had the same slope on it. They had to be consistent.”

The tapered columns offer a distinct feel and more sophisticated look to the large building. “It adds architecturally to the building,” says Cowart, “with the articulating columns creating a sloped wall. It is the essence of energy in the building.” One other benefit for reversing the columns is that they keep the interior space free of projecting columns, which creates a safer environment, especially for football uses.

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The designers also broke up the large front façade with several sloping roof planes and angled spaces that jut out toward the parking lot. The touches and design elements make the sports complex more than just a big building, and it was that design language that caught the judges’ eyes.

Cowart has done a number of large sports facilities, including indoor practice facilities for the football programs at Clemson and Auburn Universities. Those buildings, though, didn’t require the variety of uses and flexibility that the Finley Center does. The basketball courts can be stored in 24 hours, clearing the space for a full-sized football field. All the while, people of all ages are using the elevated track and taking advantage of meeting spaces and tennis courts.