Teamwork transforms challenging project into a grand slam
by Lesley Goddin
A 63-acre campus in Lake Nona, Fla., Orlando, is home to the U.S. Tennis Association’s (USTA) largest training and player development center. The site, which was formerly a cow pasture, is expected to create more than 150 jobs and will be the new home of the University of Central Florida varsity tennis team. Expected to be complete by the end of this year, this is the USTA’s first outdoor facility, which allows players to train and compete year-round.
The facilities include more than 100 tennis courts for players of different skills levels from from youth tennis team events to national championships for those ages 90 and over. A lodge is planned to accommodate players during training, and a mammoth stadium that can house two simultaneous tennis matches and 1,200 spectators.
The center also includes offices for USTA Player Development, and USTA Community Tennis Division that will relocate from Boca Raton, Fla., and White Plains, N.Y., respectively. The office building houses a tennis pro shop, fitness area, locker rooms, player lounge and cafeteria on the ground floor. The office building is also home to a 25’ x 36’ installation of Fiandre 5’ x 10’ porcelain gauged panels, deftly installed by NTCA Five Star Contractor David Allen Company (DAC) with support from MAPEI and European Tile Masters (ETM). The panels were installed in the ground and second floor of the office building.
Preparation for this project started when DAC’s superintendant, foreman and lead installer – as well as project manager Cynthia Bendiksby – attended a thin-tile installation training offered by Crossville, with which DAC has a Laminam project starting up this month, Bendiksby said. DAC attendees became familiar with handling and installing the colossal thin porcelain panels, a skill that laid the groundwork for a two-day MAPEI training at the USTA site immediately before installation began. MAPEI regional technical rep Gerald Sloan, and sales reps Dan Costa and Joe Shoemaker were on site to support this training.
“We were assisted by MAPEI and ETM representatives,” Bendiksby said. “We used MAPEI Ultralite S2 and the lifting and setting equipment manufactured by European Tile Masters.” This was a challenging installation, due to the size of the 5’ x 10’ tile panels, said Jim Whitfield, MAPEI technical director. The panels were to be installed vertically up to the third story, finishing 35’ in the air, three panels high.
Previewing the project, DAC’s Bendiksby observed, “Needless to say, there will need to be a ton of practice, from mixing the S2 thinset (which none of my crew have worked with), spreading/keying both the tile and the wall, loading it onto a scissor lift and getting it all done within the shortest timespan possible before it skims over in the 90 degree Florida heat.
“Already I am seeing issues with the weight of the panel with three men on a scissor lift and how to get the panel up to that height while mounted on the rack,” she said.
Excellence and ingenuity save the day
Team MAPEI and ETM to the rescue! MAPEI technical rep Sloan, and sales reps Costa and Joe Shoemaker assisted the DAC team in back buttering and notching on the ground. The large mortared Fiandre Marmi Maximum Premium White tiles were then passed up to installers on the scissor lift. From there, the DAC lift crew had to ascend with the rack loaded with tile and mortar and place it on the Dens Shield backer, already troweled with mortar.
But this didn’t happen before some fancy footwork involving the lift. Whitfield suggested 2” x 6” lumber be attached to the front of the scissor lift platform, overhanging to form an extension table on which to set the rake and tile. From there, the plan was to raise the scissor lift straight up, and ease the rack and tile with mortar off the 2” x 6” onto the wall, into the troweled mortar.
The problem was that there was no 2” x 6” lumber at the site. Ben Szell of ETM – who earned the nickname “MacGyver” by Bendiksby for his ingenious solution on this project – dismantled one of his ETM racks to build a secure aluminum extension that would hang out of the platform and support the tile rack securely.
The DAC crew proclaimed the MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar “a hit. Everyone liked how creamy it was; how coverage was achieved and the lightweight factor helped with this large heavy tile,” Whitfield said.
Bendiksby added, “The joints were filled with Mapesil Avalanche. Equipment included the European Tile Masters trowel, cutting table, e-grips, sawhorses – and most obviously an electric lift capable of carrying three men plus a 200-pound tile with outrigging. MLT was the leveling system.”
Over the course of the eight days of installations, the team went through a few dry runs, and worked through the issues with tools and the scissor lift.
“But in the end, we really came up with a solid method of installation everyone was comfortable with,” Whitfield said. “Martin [Howard, of DAC] commented to me at the TCNA Handbook meeting, that after a few panels they knew, if they had to do it again, they could complete the project in just a few days.”