Zak Okray cut his teeth on the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons project and is showing his true mettle on the Bucks arena.
That’s not quite the resume you’d expect for someone who, just five years ago, got his start at JCP Construction as an intern.
In his short career, Okray has been able to work on arguably two of the most remarkable projects in downtown Milwaukee’s ongoing building boom. At the Northwestern Mutual project, a new 32-story company headquarters near the Lake Michigan lakefront, he served as an assistant project manager.
Okray said he oversaw waterproofing work for that project, as part of a $4 million subcontract performed by JCP.
Then he moved to the Bucks arena project, where he now serves as a project manager and manages $30 million worth of work. He went from overseeing one part of the job being performed by 10 workers to managing five or six different subcontractors, each with larger scopes of work.
As for the Bucks’ new $524 million arena, he has been working on it since crews first broke ground on the project nearly two years ago. Working with a construction-management team led by Mortenson Construction, Okray oversees work on vertical transportation, such as elevators and escalators; food service, such as bars and concessions areas; site concrete; toilet specialties, such as toilet partitions and accessories for all bathrooms; earth work; pile driving; site utilities, such as gas and electrical; and landscaping.
Okray also oversaw the installation of a new skybridge over Juneau Avenue meant to connect the arena to the parking garage. The bridge was put into place last March. Hoisting the steel into place required the use of a 550-ton crane.
“Nothing was more rewarding than seeing that skybridge fit into place and have no issues,” he said.
Compared with his role on the Northwestern Mutual headquarters project, his work on the Bucks arena is a “big jump” — one that has brought plenty of stress and headaches. But, he quickly added, he’d have it no other way.
“It is very, very rewarding,” Okray said. “It’s eye-opening as well. It’s something that I, just a few years ago working on Northwestern Mutual, didn’t know if I was quite ready for it. Going through it now it’s challenging, but it’s one of the best challenges I’ve had throughout my career.”