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Going mad for it in Manchester

Titled 'Building Towards the Commonwealth Games', this year's Incorporated Engineers & Technicians conference was staged last week in Manchester. Andrew Mylius joined delegates for a briefing on the preparations for a sporting spectacular.

MANCHESTER, host to the 2002 Commonwealth Games, is gearing up to embrace more than 5,000 athletes and 1M spectators. The anticipated multitude flocking to Manchester will be nearly three times more than the crowds at last year's Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. A giant stadium and some meticulous logistical planning are needed. The race is on to have them ready and running in time.

Client Manchester City Council special projects group has selected preferred bidders for construction of the £90M 38,000 capacity arena, designed by engineers Ove Arup with architects Arup Associates. MEDC are sub-consultants for external works and drainage with DLE cost controllers. Scottish contractor Barr is lined up to supply pre-cast concrete, Watson the steelwork, and Haden Young the mechanical and electrical work. The main contractor is Amec.

Once out of the ground, construction will call for little heavy civils work, claimed Watson technical director Ted Ruffell. The stands will be substantially pre-fabricated and covered by a cable-stayed roof, suspended from a cable net from 12, 57m tall pylons. Erection will be similar to that of the Millennium Dome, calling on cranes, abseilers, and careful forward-planning. Completion is scheduled for late 2001.

Much challenging civil engineering has already taken place and is nearing completion. Ove Arup geotechnics group associate director Colin Curtis mapped out progress on reclaiming the abandoned industrial land on which the arena is to stand.

The 60ha site, in Manchester's run-down Eastlands district, was identified in 1991. It had been occupied by a gasworks, an urban colliery, mills, an iron works and a railway goods yard and, though structures had been razed to the ground, the ground itself was a mess of foundations and residual contamination. The site was also crossed by the Ashton Canal and culverted river Medlock, and bounded on three sides by roads and a rail line.

Site remediation has accoun-ted for 10% of the project's value. Following a desk study to identify historical uses of the site, investigation was carried out to determine the extent and nature of mine workings, locate abandoned mine shafts, find contamination hotspots and assess the mobility of contaminants. It was also necessary to determine engineering properties of made ground, mining measures and the glacial deposits found across the site.

Two deep mine shafts dating from the 1940s were located. Eleven older shafts were found under the former gasworks and a further 15 on other parts of the site. However, the close inspection failed to turn up a shaft recorded on an early map held by the Salford Mining Museum. Curtis was forced to conclude the mystery shaft was in reality no more than a blot on the chart. There are no shafts beneath the arena footprint.

All mine shafts have been capped and, with the exception of isolated heavy-metal contamination hotspots by the gasworks, the construction team has resolved all other ground condition problems on-site. Coal seams at depths of up to 30m have been grouted and stabilised at centres of between 3m and 9m. Where called for, additional stability has been supplied by 20m piles.

Existing foundations have been excavated and crushed on site. The broken concrete is to be used as fill in construction of the arena. Subcontractor for earthworks is Park Royal, and for drilling and grouting, Drill Tech.

Piling for construction of the arena itself is due to begin at the end of the year. Trial piling for foundations and the cable net and arena canopy has been carried out by subcontractor Stent.

Manchester City Council is complementing its new stadium with an indoor tennis complex, national squash centre, an outdoor athletics track with a stand for 500 spectators, an indoor athletics facility, netball and badminton courts, and an administration centre. Swimming pools and a cycle track are already in place. Known collectively as Sportcity, the entire value of new construction, arena included, will be £108M.

Construction, however, amounts to little over half the estimated £208M total cost of staging the Commonwealth Games. The rest of the cost will be eaten up by 15,000 computer systems and a fleet of vehicles.

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