by Tim Crosby
CARBONDALE, Ill. — The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees today approved more than $28.3 million in construction contracts for Saluki Way athletics facilities, a building project that will transform the Carbondale campus and give a massive shot in the arm to the local economy. Meeting in Carbondale, board members voted unanimously to award 22 contracts for general construction, electrical, plumbing heating and air conditioning and other services. It is, by far, the biggest portion of the project awarded thus far and will result in a new U-shaped football stadium to replace 70-year-old McAndrew Stadium and massive renovations at the SIU Arena.
Phil Gatton, director of Plant and Service Operations, said the contracts approved today include many Southern Illinois-based contractors. Out of the nearly $32.1 million the University has awarded on the project so far, about $23.2 million has gone to Southern Illinois contractors. “Almost everything that could be local has been local,” Gatton said, pointing out that some contractors specialize in sporting venue amenities, such as seating.
The University hired a construction manager for the project, which allowed it to break the contracts into smaller units and increase competition, Gatton said. Taking this approach allowed more local firms to submit bids, Gatton said, and also reduced mark-up pricing, equating to a better value for the University. Contractors approved today include one from Benton, four from Carbondale, one from DuQuoin, one from Edwardsville, one from Ina, one from Marion and three from Murphysboro, among others. Gatton said the project will supply up to a 1,000 jobs throughout its duration. The contracts call for contractors to use union labor and pay the area’s prevailing wage.
The University hopes to hold a groundbreaking next month and plans to start working with the contractors within 30 days, Gatton said. Plans call for the Salukis to play their fall 2010 football season at the new stadium. The SIU Arena, which will receive new seating in its upper and lower levels and many other improvements, is scheduled for completion by October 2010. Gatton said he is pleased with the bids and the University is receiving a good value. After today’s contracts, the University plans to commission two more rounds of contracts this spring and summer. So far in the project, workers have built new play fields and relocated rugby fields in the area, all of which are scheduled to open this spring. Workers also did preliminary site work. Gatton said the latest round of contracts begins with contractors providing drawings of certain features and procuring materials.
“Everybody is pretty excited about the project,” Gatton said. “There are a lot of positive things happening.”