When the NFL announced in May 2014 that its 52nd championship game would be played in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2018, a race was on within the hospitality, commercial real estate and construction industries in the Twin Cities to capitalize on the future economic infusion from the big game.

Now, with the NFL championship game just under two months away, the final push is on to complete construction of new restaurants and hotels to accommodate the influx of football fans and the throng of media attending the big game.

One of the largest NFL championship-fueled projects was the expansion of the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel which involved construction of Mystic Lake Center, a new 180 room, 12-story hotel tower connected to a 70,000-square-foot, convention center.  The looming deadline imposed by the championship game compressed the timeline for design, permitting and construction of the project and placed a premium on creative approaches.

“We needed what I like to call our own ‘special teams’ unit to enable us to complete the project in time for the big game,” said Isaac Kendall, Project Superintendent with PCL Construction Services, Inc.’s Minneapolis district, the general contractor that led the Mystic Lake Center expansion project.  

For any large-scale construction project, one of the best ways to accelerate construction is to complete the shell of the building as soon as possible so the facility can become weather tight to allow interior work to begin. The design called for use of an Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS). This continuous insulation (CI) system is among the most widely used exterior cladding materials in commercial construction.   

Many prominent buildings in Minneapolis have exterior walls built with EIFS, including the Mall of America and countless hotels.

PCL turned to Swanson & Youngdale, a 70-year-old Minnesota contractor specializing in EIFS construction, to assess options on the fastest and most effective way to construct the building envelope.    

Kevin Halvorson, Vice President of Swanson & Youngdale’s drywall division, showed PCL how they could cut months off the construction timeline if they used pre-fabricated EIFS panels that were built off site in a weather-controlled environment and brought to the construction site for faster installation.

Halvorson was confident in his company’s ability to meet the tight timeframe thanks to his partnership with the Lutz Company, a Minneapolis-based company that distributes EIFS components for Dryvit Systems, Inc., the largest EIFS manufacturer in North America.  

PCL and the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel team did their homework before giving a greenlight to the plan for pre-fabricated panels at Mystic Lake Center. “We had other companies build panels before for other jobs but never in as complicated a design,” said Kendall.  “The Mystic Lake project required floor to ceiling panels that incorporated the windows. We didn’t want to give up quality that I knew we could count on with traditional field applied EIFS, but we also knew that we didn’t have the luxury of time to use the traditional approach on the entire project.”

To assure PCL that the pre-fabricated approach would provide the same quality as field applied EIFS, yet in a fraction of the time, Swanson & Youngdale worked with the Lutz Company to develop a full section of exterior cladding with an integrated window system. After seeing the wall section, PCL was convinced. The completed section was then shown to the Design Team and Owner, both of whom signed off on the accelerated construction approach.

It took just 37 working days for a five-man crew to install 30,000 square feet of panels on the 12-story hotel tower. For the 70,000-square foot convention center, where traditional field applied EIFS had to be used because of a curved wall design, ten workers spent five months completing the job.

“I was amazed at how fast the panels of EIFS were installed on the hotel tower,” said Kendall. “Speed wasn’t the only major benefit of this approach. If we had gone the conventional way with field applied EIFS on the hotel tower, we wouldn’t have been able to install the windows until all of the EIFS was completed and the scaffolding was down. Thanks to panelization, as soon as the installation crew completed a section, I could have a caulking team come right behind them to secure the windows in place. Having multiple trades working on the project at the same time was a huge time saver.”

Halvorson estimates that the use of pre-fabricated panels shaved six months off the construction timeline. Tim Lutz knows he’ll be watching the big game on February 4, 2018. The only question is whether he watches at U.S. Bank Stadium or from the comfort of his home with friends. The answer to that question will depend on which teams are playing in the NFL championship game. What Lutz knows for sure is that Mystic Lake Center will be done on time, well before the official coin toss on February 4.

“I’m proud to have teamed with Dryvit in providing Swanson & Youngdale with a solution that gave PCL and Mystic Lake Casino Hotel the time savings they needed to get this project done in time for the ultimate game in sports,” said Lutz.