Two case studies highlight the use of fabric to renovate and convert stadium spaces.
By Jake Kulju
Cities are full of movement and change. Parks, public spaces and businesses all reflect the shifting tastes and trends of their urban neighborhoods. To adapt, many urban planners, business owners and architects are incorporating industrial fabrics into their design solutions. From classic awnings to innovative tensile membranes, textiles bring unique change to spaces like no other material can.
Re-padding a ballpark
Columbus, Ohio’s beloved Triple-A minor league baseball team, The Columbus Clippers, is part of the city’s identity. The team’s downtown ballpark, Huntington Park, is located in Columbus’ popular Arena District. The stadium is a modern facility visited by thousands of fans each year, so when the 480 wall pads that lined the park began to show signs of wear and tear, park administrators started looking for a solution.
The ballpark’s goal was to have all of the covers replaced with a more resilient fabric that offered superior UV protection than the standard vinyl-coated polyester, which had seriously faded and deteriorated on many of the wall pads. Columbus-based Capital City Awning Co. had the answer.
Working with park administrators, the company chose Soltex fabric for the project, manufactured by Keyston Bros. Inc., Roswell, Ga. “Soltex fabric has a -65 degree Fahrenheit cold crack, a five-year warranty and better UV protection than the previous polyester,” says Kisha Moldovan, sales manager and marketing director for Capital City Awning. “The fabric was [also] exactly the right color, quality and price range the customer was looking for.”
Soltex fabric is a heavy duty, extrusion-coated material prized for its high strength and wick-resistant scrim. The fabric weighs 17.5 oz. per square yard and is manufactured in 50-yard rolls with a 61-inch width. The durable, easy-to-clean material is well suited for the type of protective covers the Clippers needed in their stadium.
Capital City Awning used a four-person in-house team to replace the worn covers, while multiple crew members removed and installed the pads and covers with “a lot of manual labor and a staple gun” in the stadium, says Moldovan. The entire project took three weeks due to some scheduling challenges.
“This project was very unique [due to] the fact that we were granted the project two weeks before the season started and had to do the project in five phases to accommodate [the team’s] scheduled home games,” Moldovan says. “We had to transport the pads to our facility and fabricate in a very expedited and efficient manner to guarantee the new pads would be installed for each home game.”
As the crew removed the old covers, they determined that approximately 50 of the pads also needed improvement and modification due to wear and tear. “Foam replacement was needed in areas where [it] had deteriorated,” explains Moldovan. All told, the covers required around 16,500 square feet of fabric.
The success of this project resulted in a strong business partnership, and Capital City Awning Co. has since completed multiple smaller projects for the team.
In 1976, the city of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, hosted the Summer Olympic games. Since then, the main venue of the games, the massive Olympic Stadium, has been used for the city’s professional baseball and football teams, as well as a multipurpose venue for concerts, trade shows and other special events.
The addition of a state-of-the-art gymnasium adjacent to the facility’s indoor swimming pool created the need for a barrier to keep humidity from the pool from entering the gymnasium. Instead of constructing expensive ventilation equipment or permanent walls, planners decided to use industrial fabric.
“The project called for the design of two watertight tensioned fabric walls of double curvature geometry, one 21 meters wide by 13 meters tall, the other 19.5 meters wide by 13 meters high, for a total surface area of 544 square meters,” explains Nathalie Lortie, head designer at Sollertia Inc. of Montreal. “The double curvature membranes were fabricated from cutting patterns that we created following our analysis of the tensioned membrane walls using our Easy software. The patterns were cut with a digital cutting table and assembled using high frequency welding. A variety of types of details were realized on the edges of the membranes to be adapted to different types of connections.”
Although this was an indoor project, the resulting loads due to air pressure were considerable. The need to block humidity from the pool also required the membrane to fit like a glove to all parts of the building. The fastening and tensioning systems on the periphery of the tensile membranes were designed accordingly. Corner plates were clamped to the top of the flexible walls, allowing adjustable cables to run loose inside a continuously welded pocket. Surplus fabric was welded to the border of the cable pockets, which allowed the attachment of aluminum profiles that were anchored to the ceiling and adjacent beams.
“The vertical sides and the bottoms of the tensile membranes are finished with keder,” says Lortie. “Vertical adjustable steel cables run parallel to the ridge and valley shape.”
Two different types of Serge Ferrari, La Tour du Pin, France, products were used for the walls. Précontraint© 402 was selected for its translucidity and durability. “[It] also provided the watertight [quality] needed,” says Lortie. Defender© 7772 was used on the lower part of the vertical tensile membrane in areas where the general public could reach the fabric. “The utilization of the Defender 7772 textile was recommended in order to minimize damage in case of vandalism and also to ensure the security of the public,” she says. “It is made up of high-resistance, multi-strand steel cables and was selected for its durability but also because of its anti-corrosion treatment and its great flexibility.”
A six-person crew installed the membranes with an articulating boom and a scissor lift. “All tensile membranes were assembled on site, section by section,” says Marie-Claude LeBlanc, project manager at Sollertia. “We bolted plates onto the membranes and then ran cables through the sheaths.”
LeBlanc explains that anchor plates bolted to the vaulted ceiling received rods that were threaded through the ends of the membranes. “[Each rod] was bolted into the corner plates of the membranes,” she says. “Wire cables were used for tensioning.”
The translucency of the membranes created luminous surfaces that fit well with the architectural style and aesthetic of the new sports facility. Both the client and the architect were satisfied with the end result, and Sollertia was granted more work for the second phase of the facility’s renovation.
Jake Kulju is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis, Minn.