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First steel roof truss placed for Bucks arena

Employees with Janesville-based J.P. Cullen & Sons secure the first section of roof truss on the new Milwaukee Bucks arena on Tuesday. The arena is on track to be complete for the 2018-19 NBA season. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Employees with Janesville-based J.P. Cullen & Sons secure the first section of roof truss on the new Milwaukee Bucks arena on Tuesday. The arena is on track to be complete for the 2018-19 NBA season. (Staff photos by Kevin Harnack)

Although it didn’t take long for construction crews to place the first half of a long-span steel truss on the new Milwaukee Bucks arena on Tuesday, the feat couldn’t have come off without “many months” of planning.

Tuesday saw the installation of the first half of one of the steel trusses that will eventually be joined by six other long-span trusses and two smaller ones to help form the new arena’s roof. The construction manager on the project — Minnesota-based Mortenson Construction — worked closely with the Janesville-based general contractor J.P. Cullen & Sons and others to make sure the work went off without a hitch.

Of course, installing a 23-1/2-ton piece isn’t a plan-as-you-go sort of job.

“A lot goes into it,” Ellen Becker, a project engineer in Mortenson’s Milwaukee office, said. “We started planning for this pick at the end of last summer. So we’ve been planning for a really long time, (and) we’ve had a lot of people involved.”

Well before the steel truss was assembled and lifted into place at the arena’s site at the southwest corner of Milwaukee’s North 4th Street and Juneau Avenue, work had begun on a “comprehensive erection plan,” said Adam Mentink, a project manager with J.P. Cullen. Early discussions covered everything from proper fitting to safety procedures.

A crew with J.P. Cullen & Sons raises a roof truss from the ground on Tuesday while working at the new Milwaukee Bucks arena.

A crew with J.P. Cullen & Sons raises a roof truss from the ground on Tuesday while working at the new Milwaukee Bucks arena.

“It basically comes down to establishing what that plan is right from the beginning.” Mentink said.

The steel pieces that make up the $524 million arena’s trusses are being transported to the project site more or less one by one. Once there, they are being bolted together using a specially designed “truss rack,” Mentink said.

The arena’s roof is being formed with trusses — rather than column supports — because the structure’s primary purpose is to be used for basketball games.

“Trusses allow you to not have any columns in the middle, so you get that open court,” Becker said.

The arena’s first truss is being installed at the venue’s western end. Only the first half was put in place on Tuesday; the second is scheduled to be installed on Wednesday.

Becker said the project team expects all the trusses to be in place by early fall.

Construction crews broke ground on the new arena in June. Now, less than a year later, much of the new venue has already come together. Even from outside the project’s fenced-in site, observers can see seating areas and the arena’s distinctive roof, which curves down at the building’s northern edge to form an exterior wall.

Inside, the arena is also abuzz with activity.

“You couldn’t realize it six months ago, now you’re actually, you know, building a cap on a building,” Peter Feigin, Bucks president, said Tuesday while standing at the project site dressed in a hardhat and work vest. “And a massive cap.”

Feigin said the work is on schedule and on budget.

Just across North 4th Street from the arena, an old parking structure has been leveled to make way for a new entertainment district. Crews being led by Brookfield-based Hunzinger Construction are making preparations for a development that will eventually include three buildings and a public plaza space. Likely uses include shops, restaurants and possibly a brewery.

North of the arena, work continues on a team-training center and parking structure, which are scheduled for completion later this year.

Work on the arena is expected to wrap up in time for the 2018-19 NBA season, and the nearby entertainment is to be at least partly completed by the same time.

About Alex Zank, alex.zank@dailyreporter.com

Alex Zank is a construction reporter for The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 414-225-1820.

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