Marana Regional Adds New Apron for Golf Tournament

Rebecca Douglas
Published in: 

When a professional golf tournament rolls into town, it brings plenty of big iron with it. That's why Marana (AZ) Regional Airport quickly adjusted its master plan to accommodate the 2007 Accenture Match Play World Golf Championship.

"It's the third largest tournament in the world," explains airport director Charlie Mangum, "and we're one of only two general aviation relievers for Tucson International, which is just 15 miles away."

With an $8 million purse and the world's top 64 players competing, Mangum knew the airport needed more parking capacity for large aircraft.

"We only had room for five corporate-size aircraft," he recalls. "Closing the crosswind runway for more parking just wouldn't work."

A new large aircraft apron was already part of the airport's master plan; it just needed to be moved up the list of priorities.

Quick Draw

To qualify for FAA funding, plans for the project needed to be complete by late June. Ironically, design time was compressed to just six weeks due to a delay in aerial photographs providing topographical survey information.

"Usually a project like that would take four to six months," notes Jessica Mullen, principal engineer of Z&H Engineering. "Having 120 days for construction was tight; we were paving on Saturdays and Sundays to make it. But that was nothing compared to the design deadline."

Completing the design on time, however, was pivotal. It allowed the airport to receive $3.3 million of funds from the FAA in addition to the $1.8 million it originally received. "We were only going to go ahead with the first two parts of the project," explains Mangum. "Then, some additional end-of-the-year money became available because another airport couldn't use it in time. All our design work was done and we were ready to put the project out for bids. The funds had to be used by the end of the FAA's fiscal year and we were able to make it happen."

Just One of Those Projects

Both airport officials and its contractors consider Marana's large aircraft apron one of those rare projects that ran unusually smoothly.

"We were under the gun from the get-go," comments Mangum. "But everyone pulled together and everything fell into place. Overall, it's one of the fastest, easiest projects I've worked on."

Whenever possible, Mangum prefers to work substantial projects such as the apron as construction management at risk projects. A recent $1.5 million waterline installation reminded him why. Based on previous similar work, the construction firm questioned the necessity of latches throughout the pipeline. The city water department subsequently changed its requirements, and the airport saved $100,000.

Facts and Figures

Project: Large Aircraft Apron

Location: Marana (AZ) Regional Airport

Prime Consultant: Z&H Engineering

Cost: $4.17 million

Size: 16 acres

Construction Time: 104 days

Design Time: 6 weeks

Of Note: Design expedited to secure FAA funding; construction expedited for World Golf Championship

Key Participants

Contractor: Granite Construction

Geotechnical Engineers: Western Technologies

Electrical Subcontractor: Rural Electric

Geogrid Supplier: CONTECH Construction Products

"With a low bid situation, the contractor would have had to just follow the plan," says Magnum. "But with construction management at risk, it's more like value engineering. The construction firm manages the project."

Even though timelines for Marana's apron necessitated a straight competitive bid process, the outcome was similarly positive. The project was completed six days ahead of schedule and $273,000 under budget. The financial savings were put directly toward designing a new entry road to support future airport development.

Mangum says using a local contractor, Granite Construction from Tucson, helped the overall dynamic.

"They're part of our community," he notes. "In some low-bid situations, the contractor hits you with a lot of change orders. Even though the design was done quicker than usual, we didn't have that happen."

Mullen, from Z&H, also credits Granite: "We knew what a big deal this golf tournament was to the airport and city, and we all worked together to get it done on time. If anything would have gone wrong - from the quality of materials to quantities being off on the documents - it would have been even tougher to pull off."

As planned, the project was suspended for 10 days during the golf tournament. The hiatus occurred after paving but before striping; other final details, including grading around the edges and installation of tie-downs, were also completed after the tournament.

More Than One Way to Stabilize Soil

With only 120 days to construct a 16-acre aircraft apron at Marana (AZ) Regional Airport, Z&H Engineering needed to save time wherever possible. Crews gained one to two weeks on the front end of the $4.1 million project by using a less traditional method to stabilize the job site's silty soil.

"Usually we use lime-treatment, and it works great," explains principal engineer Jessica Mullen.

Lime-treatment, however, requires specially trained contractors to mix hydrated lime into the existing materials, and it takes seven days to cure. With only a few companies in the area qualified to complete such work, Z&H couldn't afford to be at the mercy of another company's schedule; so it specified a geogrid for subgrade preparation.

Geogrids are continuous sheets of high-strength plastics (polypropylene and high-density polyethelene in this case) manufactured in large rolls that look like oversize carpeting. Laborers from the construction crew working out of a regular pickup truck were able to lay the Tensar BX-12000 Geogrid in three weeks at the same time aggregate base was installed. Crews placing the asphalt quickly followed behind.

The cost was the same or less than using lime treatment, says Mullen. "On this particular project, it was just what we needed to save time," she explains.

Airport director Charles Mangum was comfortable with the alternate method of soil stabilization because it had been used successfully for a ramp project at his former airport, Falcon Field in Mesa, AZ.

Z&H's experience in the airport sector undoubtedly contributed to the project's success. "It's not a sideline for us," notes Mullen. "We specialize in general aviation and small community airports, and we really love what we do."

In total, Z&H has completed more than 300 projects at 46 airports throughout the Southwest. The $4.17 million apron ranks as a mid-size contract for the civil engineering firm, but to date was the largest single project completed at Marana Regional. Mangum gives the firm high marks for professionalism, engineering expertise and the consistent accuracy of its work.

If You Build It

Just as expected, the airport enjoyed a significant uptick in traffic during the tournament. Between players, sponsors, spectators and tournament officials, Citations, Lears, Challengers and other large aircraft made good use of the new apron.

During the 2007 tournament, Marana Regional handled 32 jets - including Tiger Woods' outbound Falcon. This year, as word spread of a landing/takeoff option closer to the tournament, 45 jets used Marana Regional. Monthly fuel sales at Tucson Aeroservice Center, the sole provider on the field, were up at least 30% due to the golf tournament, says general manager Ron Herbert.

Traffic and fuel sales are expected to be even brisker next year, when the tournament will be played at Marana's new Ritz-Carlton Golf Club. The likelihood of Tiger returning to defend this year's win raises expectations even higher.

"He's like a one-man economic boom," laughs Mangum.

With more championship golf scheduled and other local hospitality development booming, the new apron is just the beginning at Marana Regional. Crews will break ground on a new terminal, restaurant and two corporate hangars right after next year's tournament.

"The whole area is growing rapidly," notes Mangum. "A lot of high-end resorts are going up; we need to be in position to accommodate the general aviation and corporate traffic that's coming with it."  


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