On November 16, 1999, a new era in Detroit Lions history began when the team officially launched the construction of its new downtown stadium, Ford Field. This summer the Lions and the city of Detroit unveiled a 65,000-seat facility which includes a giant glass wall that reveals the city skyline, and the old Hudson's warehouse, originally built in 1920.

The project called for the renovation of a 750,000-sq-ft portion of the 1,826,250-sq-ft warehouse, which is considered to be the cornerstone of this venue. Housing most of the stadium luxury seats, press box, restaurants, food courts, lounge areas, banquet facilities, entertainment venues, and commercial space, the warehouse also presented considerable hvac challenges because of the age of the structure.

Setting a game plan

The Lions are scheduled to celebrate the inaugural regular season game at Ford Field on Sunday, September 22 when they host long-time divisional rival, the Green Bay Packers. The 2002 home opener marks the return of the Lions to downtown Detroit for the first time since 1974.

When 65,000 fans cheer as the Lions receive their first kickoff at the new stadium, chances are they won't be paying much attention to the hvac system. However, those who spent more than three years designing, planning, and building the project are well aware of intricacies involved with the complicated, state-of-the-art hvac system.

As expected, an important decision that needed to be made early on in the project was the type of ventilation and ductwork system required for a space of this magnitude. The design required exposed ductwork in the roof and walls, but installation cost and functionality was also critical.

Heights Heating & Cooling, Inc. (Auburn Hills, MI) was awarded the warehouse and energy center (the cooling/steam plant for the stadium and warehouse) contracting work. The company's vice president, Steve Rollin, said that when the drawings came out they were only about 90% complete, and Heights had to project its cost to what a complete set of documents would be with a "no-extras contract." The company also provided some value engineering ideas throughout the project in conjunction with the architect/engineer of record, the Smith Group (Detroit).

Cooling the lion's den

The system is comprised of five custom, house-sized Governair Corp. (Oklahoma City, OK) AHUs that can supply a 6,000-ton cooling capacity. They are located on the warehouse's eighth floor, with ductwork leading into a shaft that goes down eight stories and ductwork leading to each floor with vav boxes serving each floor. Rollin said working within the existing structural concrete beams to hang the ductwork posed a formidable challenge.

"There's ductwork where you can drive a car in it - 10-feet in diameter through it - so maintaining labor costs was a challenge. With close to a million square feet on the warehouse side, there's a lot of footwork to put in just to go from one side of the building to the other, and just actually installing the ductwork inside the shaft was difficult," Rollin says.

Piping takes the chilled water from the energy center, eight stories up the side of the building and onto the roof, then across the roof and connects to the AHUs. "It's a nice sight. You can stand up on the roof and see all the piping and see the city in the background," Rollin noted.

Increased completion percentage

Rollin says that Heights decided to use SPIROsafe(r) duct by Lindab Inc. (Stamford, CT) for the warehouse section, because it offered a combination of overall value and performance. Additionally, the ductwork components slipped together easily so duct sealant and tape were not necessary, making it ideal for the exposed ductwork.

The warehouse features over 21,500 ft of SPIROsafe Single Wall ductwork and more than 2,500 Lindab fittings. Approximately 7,000 ft of rectangular ductwork was converted to round, and over 500 of the manufacturer's SPIROcomfort(r) RGS-3 registers replaced the old round diffusers for better performance and overall aesthetics.

Selecting the Lindab products for the project "was an easy process" because they had the best price and because you don't have to seal the ductwork in a medium-pressure system, which makes it that much more desirable, Rollin said.

Roughly two years ago, Ford Field was selected to be the host site of Super Bowl XL to be played in February 2006. It will mark the first Super Bowl hosted in Detroit since 1982, and it will be the first time the Super Bowl is played in a cold-weather city since 1992. When the crowds arrive for Super Bowl XL in the dead of winter, chances are the facility's climate will be just right.ES