Construction in operational, heavily trafficked areas, such as entertainment and sports facilities or airports, presents unique challenges compared to more traditional building projects. Contractors must put careful thought into coordinating a seamless flow of foot traffic through the venue, keeping dust and debris out of customers’ sight, and ensuring revenue-generating activities remain fully operational.

“It’s a different mindset. Everyone on a job site wants to be production-focused and ensure we get things done, which is important, but we also have to be able to put ourselves in the shoes of the guests. What does the experience feel like for them? What does it look like? What does it sound like?” says operations manager Jesse Meyer.

With thousands of guests passing by (or through!) these projects daily, safety remains the top priority. Strategic barriers and transition strips are methods used to ensure everyone stays on the right path and safely navigates through the space.

How do you keep guests safe when utility work requires you to dig 30 feet below the primary guest pathway at a major Florida theme park? For Meyer, it required clearing and paving a 20-foot-wide temporary pathway through the center of the project. Hoarding walls were installed to allow thousands of guests to safely pass through the job site daily. Meyer recalls, “We were able to keep a main artery through the theme park and do major excavations just 10 feet on the other side of the wall without guests realizing it.”

Trench plates and transition strips are key to trench safety in projects requiring underground work in guest areas. Transition strips are also used to ensure a smooth transition between various flooring materials and thicknesses. They are continuously monitored throughout the day to eliminate trip hazards.  

On a hospitality project in Orlando, construction manager Blake Holtom recalls a more innovative approach to noise reduction beyond the typical insulated walls and restricted work hours. After being asked to temporarily stop work whenever conference attendees gathered in the corridor areas of the hotel, the PCL team devised a creative solution.

“We were pulling out old ceilings and decided to remove and reuse speakers that were scheduled for demolition. We installed them on the outside face of a 12-foot hoarding wall and wired them back into the resort audio system. The client was really excited because they were able to adjust the volume of music in certain areas to conceal the construction noise,” says Holtom. 

Meyer cites utility work as one of the biggest potential threats to a positive guest experience. Imagine hitting a fiberoptic communication line that takes out all credit card machines, requiring guests to pay in cash throughout their visit. Not only would that impact the guest experience, but it could also result in thousands of dollars of lost revenue for the client. Or perhaps a chilled water line is hit, shutting down the cooling system for a roller coaster.

To prevent such scenarios, PCL utilizes ground penetrating radar scanning, which uses radio waves to identify and locate underground utilities, and vacuum excavation, which allows for the very methodical removal of dirt. “We don’t trust anything until we can put eyes on it,” says Meyer, “We take the utmost precaution to make sure we know where things are because we cannot risk hitting something that could shut down or impact the operations of these facilities.”

On a project at a major Los Angeles theme park, it was noticed that a merchandise kiosk would have to be moved to accommodate temporary fencing around the job site. Understanding that a 200-foot run of fencing wouldn’t be very engaging for guests (and would also result in lost revenue for the client), the PCL team poured a slab of concrete and moved the fence in 10 feet to provide room for the merchandise cart and create a more interactive environment. 

With thousands of people pouring in and out of arenas around the same time, foot traffic plans have to be developed and communicated to get fans, players, coaches, service providers, event staff and deliveries in and out of the building safely. “Flood control” is a term that refers to the prevention of too many people “flooding” an entrance or exit at the same time, which wouldn’t provide for a very positive fan experience.

To help fans easily locate their seats amidst construction, PCL creates diagrams with different seating areas that facility operators can post on their website or send to ticketholders ahead of an event. 

A tireless commitment to ensuring a flawless guest experience at Arena (formally Staples Center) has resulted in PCL being awarded a third phase of major renovations to the arena. The year 2024 will mark the third consecutive summer in which PCL will complete extensive upgrades to the facility it originally constructed in 1998. It is home to the Los Angeles Kings, Lakers, Clippers and Sparks sports franchises.

The slower summer season for the arena still includes 40 to 50 events such as concerts and games for the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.

“We basically have to be ready to mobilize the minute the last team’s season ends. That kickstarts a 4-month window to complete construction before preseason games begin in October,” says Eric Hernandez, the superintendent on the project.

The first two phases included renovations to the family room, chairman’s club, impact club and suite levels. It also included the installation of LED screens and ribbon boards. Eight new VIP suites were constructed, and the upper concourse was refreshed with new finishes. Seating layouts were upgraded to increase seat count.

With three to four events taking place in the arena each week, the PCL team had to keep guest experience top of mind. Great consideration was given to how the arena would look, feel, sound and even smell to ticketholders.

To prevent dust from being an issue, the team used wooden barricades painted black to contain any particulates. During construction, holes had to be cut through existing suites to run electrical pathways for new LED ribbon boards being installed around the arena. During this phase, each suite would be covered with plastic and task vacuums would be used throughout the duration of the work to minimize dust and debris.

Subcontractor buy-in was essential to ensuring the facility would be clean and guest-ready come showtime. Expectations were set forth during preconstruction and daily coordination meetings were held with subs. “It’s not your typical project,” says Hernandez, “No matter who you are, you're going to have to clean up, you're going to have to mop, you're going to have to use Swiffer dusters, you name it.”

Before each event, suites were given a final cleaning before being walked through with a PCL team member and a client representative. Guest safety was ensured by taping barricade layouts on the floor and then walking through the plan with the fire marshal prior to an event.

When new suites were added on the main concourse, they jutted out slightly into the bowl of the arena. To prevent guests from seeing into the construction site, the entire area was covered in black plastic before each event.

The amount of repeat business PCL earns from sports and entertainment clients is a testimony to the commitment the company makes to ensuring a positive guest experience. “It’s because we care. We care about our clients. We care about their clients. It’s not just a job to us. It’s a relationship,” says Holtom.