• Excited students charged the field at the grand reveal event.

file under: Design-Build, Facilities, Program Management, North America, United States

Rising Up for Deserving Students

Students would be mugged walking from school to public transportation. Track athletes would jump over desks and trash cans in hallways to practice hurdling. Athletic field bleachers were in desperate need of cleaning and repair. This was the situation at TechBoston Academy in Dorchester, Massachusetts, USA, until ESPN facilitated the makeover of athletic facilities at the school and Roberts Playground as part of the cable network’s “RISE UP” series.

It Takes a Village
CDM Smith donated professional engineering and construction services for the project, serving as program manager and completing the design-build project in only 6 weeks. “ESPN planned to reveal the makeover to the students on a specific day. Our only option was to finish the renovations in time for filming,” explains Bob Button, CDM Smith associate. Unexpected challenges—like Hurricane Irene, which hit the area just days before the reveal and required significant debris clean-up—could not delay completion.

The effort depended on extensive community collaboration, requiring staffing, resource and financial commitments from multiple contractors and suppliers during peak construction season. Several city agencies were also involved. “We leveraged our business relationships—not only companies we work with, but companies we work for—to build a network and pull the entire thing together,” says Button.

iRise athletic facilities meetingSuccessful project completion in only 6 weeks required extensive coordination and planning.

Deanne Bell, co-host of RISE UP, said in her September 26, 2011 blog post, “To get this renovation done, it took a village—literally … the entire city of Boston came together for the Dorchester Bears.”

Safety First
A major component of the work was improving student and community safety. The team installed safety lighting and a walkway for students to travel from the school to public transportation. The community also benefits from this 2,000-foot pathway system and workout stations that were installed along the route.

In addition, CDM Smith designed and constructed substantial site improvements. Working with project partners, the firm performed extensive tree removal for visibility and public safety, installed a 60-meter sprint track, rehabilitated existing baseball and softball fields, and renovated existing bleachers.

“Despite our constrained schedule, measures were taken to be environmentally responsible,” notes Button. The athletic field’s lighting uses a web-based control system, allowing the lights to be turned on and off remotely, saving energy and money. In addition, construction debris was recycled, either onsite or at a local brownfields redevelopment.

Along with the field upgrades, students are also thrilled with the school’s new indoor facilities, which include a refurbished girls’ locker room and new cardiovascular and heavy weight workout rooms.

Big Names, Huge Impact
Members of the local community were not the only ones getting involved with the effort. U.S. Olympic sprinter Lolo Jones visited the students to help out and work out—and motivate the student track athletes in the process. Meanwhile, Wes Welker of the New England Patriots geared up in a hard hat and safety equipment to assist students and CDM Smith construction workers tear down an old chain link fence that was creating a safety hazard on the field. The symbolism of the fence coming down had students screaming with excitement.

Tom Menino, Mayor of Boston, and Danny Ainge, Celtics President of Basketball Operations, showed their support at the dramatic reveal. According to Menino, “We know that taking part in sports does so much more than give the body a good work out, it also exercises the mind … this investment is going to make a huge difference for the students and the community at large. By clearing out the brush and old fence and installing new lighting and pathways, we have reopened the park to the neighborhood. And already more people are coming to use it because they feel more welcome and safer.”