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The Retractable Roof and Movable Field at University of Phoenix Stadium, Arizona

Mark C. Waggoner, Principal, Walter P Moore, Austin, Texas, USA

University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, USA is one of the first in a second generation of US multipurpose stadium venues that serve both the primary sports tenant and the community that funded the stadium construction. Built as the first permanent home of the Arizona Cardinals National Football League (NFL) franchise, the stadium also hosts the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (AZSTA) as an equal cotenant charged with utilizing the venue facilities beyond the eight NFL game days each year. Central to the design program was the ability for the building to be functional, flexible, and rapidly adaptable to the needs of both tenants, while demonstrating a world-class architectural design. Enabling the rapid adaptability of the stadium are two key kinetic structures. The 46 000 sq.m, 213 m span roof structure includes a 9000 sq.m movable roof that retracts to create an opening over the playing field. In addition, the playing field is mounted inside a giant movable tray structure that glides out of the south end of the stadium to reveal a state-of-the-art trade show floor. This article describes the structural design and construction of the roof and field structural systems. Keywords: long-span roof; retractable roof structures; steel construction; kinetic architecture; operable pitch; roof lift erection method; strand jacking; vibration.

Fig. 1: University of Phoenix stadium exterior view

challenged to develop an opening for the retractable roof that was only just large enough to give the feel of outdoor play with the roof open in order to control the roof mechanization costs and retain a slender profile of the movable roof panels.

The final roof solution (Fig. 2) created a roof opening of 74 m 110 m framed by two large lenticular trusses spanning 213 m along the long direction of the field to four large inset structural concrete columns. This solution was driven by the need to provide a stiff

Roof Design
A key aspect of the formal architectural concept (Fig. 1) was that the roof mass presents a relatively low-rise form that did not visually dominate the unique building skin below. These requirements translated to a 16 m allowable rise over an eave perimeter span of 250 m, a ratio unacceptable to realize traditional dome action economically. At the same time, the design team was

Fig. 2: University of Phoenix stadium roof structural system

Structural Engineering International 1/2008

Structures in North America


line of support directly beneath the movable roof panels and the suitability of the lenticular form to the architectural constraints. The upper 16 m of the 26,5 m total lenticular form depth could stick up above the stadium eave to form the roof surface, while the remainder could be tucked beneath the roof, yet stay above the spectator sightlines. The use of discrete, linear spanning primary elements versus two-way systems that require the entire roof form to be completed on shores also proved advantageous for constructability. At an early stage of the design, the roof erector proposed to build the primary trusses and all framing between them on the ground and jack the entire assembly into place. The entire structural design was subsequently worked around this roof erection concept, in a unique and rewarding collaboration between engineer and contractor.

the planes of x-bracing existed on each face of the truss, it was possible to introduce a single horizontal connecting rod at the central crossing point of the rod pairs. With the main rods installed straight to their fixed length, an induced catenary action was created by tensioning the single draw-in rod to 3,5 kN, simultaneously producing 23 kN of prestress in each of four sets of rod pairs. The remainder of the fixed roof consists of relatively conventional secondary trusses of welded wide-flange shapes that span between Brunel trusses and to the exterior stadium perimeter. A panelized roof surface between secondary trusses consists of custom joist girders at 10 m centers supporting conventional joists and metal deck. Sized deeper than necessary for their 20 m span, the stiffness of the joist girders was utilized as the primary stability system for the secondary trusses through torsional bracing, eliminating the need for costly horizontal bracing systems in the roof plane. Lateral loads on the roof structure result from conventional unbalanced and drag wind loads as well as the impact and braking requirements of the retractable roof panels. The Brunel Trusses are hard connected to both supercolumns along their longitudinal axis in order to share the large braking and impact forces. Restraint forces from temperature changes are readily handled through vertical deformation of the Brunel Truss combined with horizontal flexibility of the cantilevered supercolumns. Perpendicular to the Brunel Trusses, each secondary truss is hard connected to the adjacent bowl structure. Because of their pitch, the secondary trusses develop thrusting action under applied load. A series of staged lateral connections during erection allowed elimination of thrusting loads that would be undesirable for the bowl concrete frames from roof dead load, while the thrust forces from imposed roof loading were readily transferred.

ylene (PTFE)-coated fiberglass tensioned fabric forms the panel cladding, allowing a significant amount of light into the building. Each retractable roof panel consists of eight trusses riding on four carriers at each panel support line. Taking a cue from the Brunel Trusses, the retractable trusses are also lenticularly shaped, but use a vierendeel system to resist unbalanced loads. The truss chords consist of 355 mm square rolled HSS shapes, with closely spaced vertical HSS shape web members. Relatively simple moment connections create the vierendeel system. Adjacent trusses are joined by horizontal bridging elements at top and bottom chords, which connect to horizontal trusses between the truss pairs at each end of the panel. Diagonal members in a vertical plane were intentionally avoided in order to present a regular orthogonal grid of framework that avoids the cluttered appearance of most long-span systems with repetitive trusses (Fig. 3). The retractable roof mechanization system is shown in Fig. 4. Each pair of retractable trusses sits atop a single two-wheeled carrier, allowing predictable load distribution without a mechanical suspension system. The two 1 m diameter wheels at each carrier ride along a continuous 175 lb hardened crane rail. Of the four carriers along each panel edge, two are powered and two are idler carriers. A cable drum is mounted to the powered carriers and rides with the panel as it moves along the sloping rail. Two wire rope cables, one on each side of the rail, connect from each cable drum to a fixed attachment point at the center peak of the Brunel Trusses. To open the roof, the cables simply unwind from the cable drum at a controlled rate as the weight of the structure drives the panel downhill. The cables are wound back onto the drum to close the roof.

Roof Structural System

In deference to the similarity of their lenticular form to I.K. Brunels 1859 Royal Albert Bridge, the primary spanning roof elements were dubbed Brunel Trusses. Of course, these elements do not act at all like a traditional truss, but rather a self-resolving superposition of an arch and a catenary tension element separated by compression struts. Only light diagonal rod x-bracing is required in the webs to resist unbalanced loads. As a result, the large, complex, and unsightly gusset plate connections typically associated with massive trusses are avoided entirely. The top chord of the Brunel truss consists of a 4,5 m square box truss fabricated of wide-flange shapes and laced with double angle members. Each top chord segment is joined to the next through simple end plate compression bearing plates. A pair of Hollow Structural Section (HSS) struts arranged in a V configuration connect the top and bottom chords. The bottom chord tension element consists of a pair of jumbo wide flange shapes spliced with relatively simple bolted connections. Due to various unbalanced loading cases from wind loads and potential retractable panel locations, each of the x-bracing rods could experience load reversals and thus required significant prestress. Conventional in-line prestressing methods would have been time consuming to accomplish in the erected position of the trusses. Because
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Roof Erection
At the stadium jobsite both Brunel Trusses, the fixed trusses that span between them, and the operable roof panels were assembled on the ground, roughly 37 m below their final position. The ability to assemble the largest components of the roof nearly on the ground with simple scaffold and manlift access greatly speeded assembly and created an extremely safe working environment for the ironworkers.

Retractable Roof Panel Structure and Mechanization

The retractable portion of the roof consists of two 55 m wide 79 m span panels that bi-part about the center of the field. Each panel rides along the sloping top surface of the Brunel Truss in a departure from past US retractable roofs, which have all previously ridden on flat rails. Polytetrafluoroeth-

Structural Engineering International 1/2008

Fig. 3: Retractable roof structure

Fig. 4: Retractable roof mechanization system

Because the erection intent was known at the outset of the project, the effects of the roof lift in the distribution of the internal dead load stresses was able to be considered through a nonlinear staged construction structural analysis that explicitly modeled the exact erection sequence. The temporary conditions during the roof lift and subsequent erection steps were also considered early in the process. Such measures included a separate wind tunnel test of only the roof lift assembly. Stability of the system both during and after the lifting process was provided by a giant temporary x-brace that was created at the mid-span of the roof to function as a torsional brace. A temporary laced box strut connected the bottom chords, while special temporary connections were made to allow four of the operable roof trusses to serve as a strut connecting the top chords. Temporary strand cables formed the cross bracing. The 6000 t roof lift was successfully completed over five days in late February 2005 (Fig. 5). The roof was lifted by two strand jacks installed atop each of the four supercolumns. At its peak, the strand jack system lifted the roof at 6 m/h. Movement and strain behavior of the roof were monitored throughout the lift using an extensive array of wireless monitoring equipment. Following completion of the roof lift, the remainder of the roof was erected through more conventional crane lifts from the exterior of the stadium.

could be converted to a convention floor in a single day, it became obvious that despite a greater initial cost a mechanized playing field provided the only solution to achieve the venue flexibility desired at the stadium. A 71 m 123 m movable field tray was developed that slid from its position inside the stadium along 13 steel rail lines to sit outside the south end of the stadium where the grass could grow in the ample Arizona sun (Fig. 6). A relatively simple structural grid supports the weight of the soil and turf through a series of twin composite steel beams spanning to single wheel boxes. Twelve rail lines are embedded flush with the event slab, while the central rail is upset and serves to guide the tray into the stadium. 38 drive wheels were located along each outer rail, providing a wellproportioned traction drive system

that also allows easy access from the exterior for maintenance. This system requires only 76 horsepower to move the 10 500 t field in just 1 h. Horizontal rollers at the guide rail keep the entire field tray tracking in a straight line into the building. These rollers ride in a groove in the event slab, which is filled in by kerf covers when the stadium is outside of the building. Each roller is fixed horizontally to the side of the rail head through spring loaded assemblies, which allow distribution of peak loads between guide rollers. Extensive structural analysis of the interaction of the rigid in-plane tray structure with potential misalignment of the central guide rail was conducted to determine the guide roller design loads. Because the weight of the field tray had been optimized to allow an economical and fast-operating mechanization sys-

Movable Field Tray Design

In studying various options for providing a natural grass playing field that
Fig. 5: Roof lift Structures in North America 13

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Fig. 6: Movable field tray

tem, the steel structure that supported the surface was susceptible to transmitting undesirable vibrations. The players themselves would never be bothered by the floor vibrations while playing since their bodies are already experiencing accelerations far in excess of what the floor might cause. However, the stationary coaches and officials, as well as the players lined up for a play with a man in motion, could be distracted if the field bounced noticeably. Though the field could never provide the same feel as playing on solid ground, it had to be sufficiently stiff that it did not become a distraction to the game. Though extensive design guidance exists for evaluation of typical building systems for vibration performance, no published information was available that might set out acceptable performance for a professional sports floor. While established analytical methods could be extended to reasonably predict accelerations, the acceleration acceptance limits that exist for other building types could not be applied. A series of tests on mock-ups of the proposed system were conducted to establish an acceptable design. Each mock up was instrumented with accelerometers and subjected to both simulated football activity as well as more controlled excitation through a shaker

device. The results provided a valuable assessment of the dynamic response and damping characteristics including the drainage, soil, and turf media. Of most benefit though was the ability to demonstrate actual performance to the team representatives that would in the end use the field. This testing process pointed to an optimum combination of structural stiffness, drainage system depth, and soil depth that provided a superior kinematic experience for the players.

SEI Data Block Owner: Arizona Cardinals Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority Architects: Eisenman Architects, New York, NY, USA HOK SVE, Kansas City, MO, USA Structural Design: Walter P Moore, Austin, TX and Tampa, FL, USA Mechanization: Uni-Systems, Minneapolis, MN, USA Field Vibration Consultant: Dr Tom Murray and Dr Mehdi Setareh, Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, VA, USA Construction Manager: Hunt Construction Group, Phoenix, AZ, USA Roof Steel Fabrication and Erection: Schuff Steel, Phoenix, AZ, USA Roof Fabric: Taiyo Birdair, Amherst, NY, USA Steel (t): Total cost (USD million): Service Date: 7700 425 (hard cost) August, 2006

The adaptability made possible by the retractable roof and playing field has enabled University of Phoenix Stadium to host over 180 events in its first year of operation. With the ability to host a trade show the day after an NFL game, the stadium has already influenced the design of future venues by demonstrating how well-engineered kinetic structures can greatly enhance revenue generating capacity with relatively modest initial investments. Developments in kinetic structure technology for movable roofs, walls, stands, and other major structural elements will allow future venues to build on the example set at University of Phoenix Stadium through even more robust venue flexibility.


Structures in North America

Structural Engineering International 1/2008