With all the Pan Am venue designs bundled into a single bid, individual venues did not necessarily get the best or most cost-efficient design.
By Kevin Hollingworth
Published October 19, 2012
I am an avid read of Raise the Hammer and enjoyed reading Adrian Duyzer's recent article on the Pan Am Stadium design. I would like to provide some additional insight into the stadium debate/debacle.
Pan Am Stadium rendering
I'm a civil engineer and I used to work for an engineering consulting firm that was part of one of the three pre-selected bidders that were competing for this project. I no longer work there, so I've been somewhat removed from the final designs.
One of the most important - if not the most important - fact that was omitted in almost every news article I read was the bidding process itself. It wasn't just the new soccer stadium that was being bid on. This project contained four components, including the Hamilton Soccer Stadium, Milton Velodrome, York University Athetics Centre, and City of Toronto Track and Field Centers.
I myself was directly involved in the Milton Velodrome component. However, being a Hamiltonian myself, I had an obvious interest in the Soccer Stadium and would often look at the latest drawings going out the door. As such, I don't have exact details concerning the Hamilton component, but I do have knowledge of the overall process.
Each component followed the same sort of process, just with different criteria for each venue as established by Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and the respective local municipality.
Essentially, it was IO driving the entire process. They produced a very detailed terms of reference (TOR), with help from City staff, in which all three bidders had to follow. A fourth consultant was initially hired by City staff to complete a base design for which all three bidders had to essentially follow upon which each individual bidder would add their touches.
Throughout the bidding process, we had to make presentations based upon our preliminary designs (three total) at specific milestones. After the first two presentations, IO would have the opportunity to select some of the key ideas from any of the three project teams and re-define the TOR to include these changes.
One example would be the rotation of the stadium. Our first preliminary design chose to rotate the field for the reasons stated in the media (wind, sun, etc.) and IO incorporated this change into the overall TOR which all three bidders had to follow in subsequent designs. At no point throughout the process did we see the other two designs and/or presentations.
One of the big drawbacks for this setup was that the individual venues did not necessarily get the best or most cost efficient design. But rather IO ultimately looked at all four venues together as a package and selected an overall winner. Thus, "Ontario Sport Solutions" had the best overall package, but may or may not have had the best Soccer Stadia design or Velodrome design.
The reason behind combining the venues to follow this bidding process was primarily due to time constraints. It was felt that this was the best approach to ensure each venue was substantially completed by a hard date, typically one year prior to the games. It also narrowed the pre-selected bidders down substantially.
I personally felt this process was completed unnecessary for a couple of reasons. For one, each venue was handled separately both internally, each had different IO members overseeing the process, and each was in a different municipality.
There was no reason why they couldn't have written it up as four separate contracts. A separate bid solely on the University of Toronto (Scarborough) Aquatics Centre had just recently concluded prior.
The majority of the other proposed venues were being bid on separately. Some were even given to a project team without having to be bid on! Splitting it up would have ensured that all four venues would get the best design possible for the money.
Secondly, the total contract value wasn't weighted evenly between all four venues. The total value of the contract was $206M, of which three quarters was apparently for the Hamilton Stadium.
I'm leery of that figure, as I know at the time of me working on the Velodrome project, the projected value of the facility was $45M. Add in $149M stated for the Hamilton stadium and you've already almost maxed out the full contract value. Last I heard, the York University stadium was in the $50M range, so I expect the stated contract value is for 'hard' costs only.
I don't recall much about the City of Toronto venues. I believe they were just freshening up three athletic fields to serve as training venues. Given all the talk about accountability, especially in construction contracts, and you can see by combining the bids into one contract, you have the ability to shift funds around with greater ease if (more likely when) overruns are experienced.
The final disadvantage to this bidding process is that a construction budget was set right from the get-go. All three teams created their respective designs to meet this budget. Each team was encouraged to propose unique design ideas to set themselves apart from the other two bidders.
So basically, right from day one, it was known that the full $150M was going to be spent on the Hamilton Stadium. At no point was there any incentive to cut costs. Rather, IO just wanted a unique design for a set price.
I think we can all agree that the renderings shown of the Hamilton venue fail to demonstrate any "unique" design aspects.
In my experience, typical municipal projects I have bid on in the past are scored on a weighted value where cost would often be the largest component. In this case, it was primarily the prospective designs and project team experience that decided the winning bid.