In New York, reconstructing a Hurricane Sandy-battered waterfront concert landmark

Last October, Hurricane Sandy tore through the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on New York’s Long Island, severely damaging this historic venue that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. On May 30, thanks to the efforts of Skanska’s design-build team the 14,000-seat theater reopened for the season, hosting a concert by country superstars Rascal Flatts.

The Project Team at Jones Beach

 “We set a goal to repair and restore the theater in less than six months, so not a single event this summer would be missed,” said Tom Webb, executive vice president and general manager for USA Building’s Metro New York office. “Thanks to terrific collaboration, we were able to meet that goal. I want to thank our project team, as well as the local union workers, who invested countless hours to complete this project.”

The up to 10-foot storm surge that Sandy generated in the area submerged lower levels of the venue, and most areas – including the stage, seats, backstage, concessions and VIP zones – were badly damaged. More than three million gallons of seawater needed to be pumped out of the structure and hundreds of tons of debris and damaged building materials had to be removed.

In addition to repairing the venue, this $20 million project included upgrades, including new orchestra seating and an expanded VIP area. Where possible, the venue’s infrastructure was redesigned to mitigate damages from future storms. For example, the main electrical system was relocated to the second floor, above the 100-year floodplain.

Fast-paced work
Skanska’s involvement began in late November, after being invited by venue operator Live Nation Entertainment submit a proposal for the project.

Skanska teamed up with architecture firm EwingCole and tapped its own Design-Build Center of Excellence to provide Live Nation with a total solution. Additionally, the project team included employees who had previously worked at this site.

Getting the required drawings, permits and other approvals in a short time frame required an intense, collaborative effort between Skanska, EwingCole, Live Nation, the insurance company and other stakeholders. Construction encompassed more than 100,000 work hours and the project included completely rebuilding the stage and boardwalk. More than nine miles of special MCM cable had to be replaced in tunnels and access ways below the venue. Restoring Nikon at Jones Beach Theater created 225 jobs for local workers, many from areas hardest hit by Sandy.

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Segmented approach
“The key to this project was breaking the work up into small, manageable parts,” said Carolyn Wettstein, USA Building senior project manager. “For instance, the electrical work – the key trade on this project – was split into four zones, each with a separate subcontractor. That way, if one subcontractor ran into issues the entire project wouldn’t be affected.”

As the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater is a local landmark, working on it was special. Whitehouse said most of the craft workers on this project attended concerts there. “Everybody wanted to get this done, especially since the vibe from the general public was that it couldn’t be done in the short timeframe,” he said.