Whitepaper: 04.17.2014

Case Study: High-Stakes Las Vegas Venue is a Big Winner

— Ray Sedey, President, Southern Region

Perched above the busiest intersection on one of the most celebrated thoroughfares in the U.S., a tower crane proudly announced construction of the most prominent attraction to hit the Las Vegas Strip in years. Our team received calls from visitors all across the country; everyone had an interest in what was going on as we demolished the exterior façade behind the MGM Grand resort.

Located at the site of the former Studio 54 nightclub, McCarthy performed a structural retrofit and built back approximately 80,000 square feet in less than 12 months. The five-level entertainment venue brought together an innovative design and some of the most elaborate finishes from across the world to create an upscale Asian restaurant, private dining room, lounge and two-story nightclub.

Beyond its world-class environment, the project symbolized the revival of major construction activity on the Vegas Strip after several years of sluggishness brought on by the economic downturn. All eyes were on this ambitious project as it began to take shape directly behind MGM Grand’s iconic bronze lion statue.

On this high-profile stage, the team raced against the clock to manage numerous challenges and complete the project in time for the venue’s April 2013 grand opening. 

Connecting a Globally Dispersed Team
Stretching across three continents, the project team included a Paris-based interior designer, London-based owner and lighting designer, A/V consultant from Ireland, and more ownership out of Abu Dhabi.

YWS Architects, based in Las Vegas, served as architect of record. London-based Hakkasan Group owns and operates successful restaurants in Europe, the Middle East, India, China and the U.S.; however, the Las Vegas property is its first venue to include a nightclub, operated by Angel Management Group who also has many nightclubs around the world.

To connect the dispersed team, improve efficiencies and enhance collaboration, a proprietary web-based project management system called McCarthy Teamsight® was utilized. With a simple Internet connection, the system allowed team members — including owner, designers, consultants and subcontractors — real-time secure access to project information. This was critical for facilitating communications and Requests for Information (RFIs), especially since the scope was still being defined after construction commenced.  

Navigating Complex Logistics
The project’s location, just footsteps away from MGM Grand customers and the busiest intersection in the western U.S, created numerous logistical challenges. With essentially no laydown area and back-of-house access, the team had to continuously plan for every site delivery. Each piece of material that showed up had to be immediately installed.

To begin the project, exterior walls of the existing casino space had to be demolished without negatively impacting the critical 24/7 operations in the facility. To accomplish this, temporary partitions were installed, including a 70-foot-tall wall that had to be rated and watertight because everything opened to the outdoor elements.

Next, structural, mechanical, plumbing, electrical and life-safety tie-ins were established to the existing operating facility, while ensuring that all utilities remained operational during construction.

Finally, the tight site required hoisting a tower crane approximately 10 feet from the curb line of Tropicana Boulevard and Las Vegas Avenue. This unique solution involved placing the tower crane outboard of the building, directly above the MGM lion statue. Placing the crane outside the building footprint was a solution McCarthy recommended when proposing on this project; it proved to be a major factor in the project’s success. This decision drove the schedule and exemplified the benefit of having true builders involved early. If the tower crane had been placed inside the footprint of the building, it would have been impossible to complete this fast-paced project on time and with the high-end finishes selected well after construction started.

Meeting an Ambitious, Fixed Schedule
The project’s aggressive schedule – from demolition of the existing facility to job completion in less than 12 months – required a fast-track concurrent design and construction phase. Months in advance of the April 2013 opening, Hakkasan began actively promoting the club’s grand opening on dozens of billboards, TV ads and via the Internet, which added to the pressure. Clearly, finishing late was not an option.

To meet the ambitious schedule, a skilled group of design-assist specialty subcontractors were brought on early in the process to facilitate an efficient construction process. In addition, a multiple-shift, seven-day-a-week work program was employed totaling 700,000 man-hours, with peak man power of 350 during the day shift and 150 during swing shift.

Finally, because the project included so many unique environments, a dedicated project manager and superintendent team was assigned to oversee each of the major spaces: core and shell, restaurant and kitchen (levels 1 and 2), Ling Ling Club (level 3), and main nightclub (levels 4 and 5). 

Ultimately, the team finished the project two weeks early, becoming one of the first projects on the strip to pass the full functional life-safety testing on its first try. This is a testament to the working relationships among all project team members from the tradespeople to the subcontractors, inspectors, AMG, Hakkasan and MGM. By finishing early, the owner was able to complete all pre-opening work with time to spare and utilized McCarthy to make last-minute tweaks, resulting in an opening still being talked about.

The team took full ownership of each area to ensure all owner and designer expectations were achieved. They understood what was happening in every square-inch of this 80,000 square-foot facility; it showed when we were able to close out the entire project in less than a month.  

Managing Changes On-the-Fly
The fast-track design and construction process together with unknown conditions resulted in a sizable number of change orders as the design evolved and the space got larger and more complex. Owner-requested changes were being made literally up to opening day and beyond. To be able to quickly respond to these requests, the team needed to be flexible while still carefully managing changes to control cost and schedule impact for the owner.

For example, a few days before the club opened to the public, Hakkasan decided to add panels of LED lights to the entire face of the nightclub’s custom-fabricated disc jockey booth – an area that would be home to some of the most famous DJs in the world. In true builder fashion, the architect with closely with the on-site team to create a solution that was installed and operational in about a day and a half.

Throughout the project, Building Information Modeling was used to resolve potential conflicts on the model prior to installation, averting the added time and expense of discovering clashes in the field. In addition, the team utilized a mobile solution called BIM 360TM Field to easily manage the punch list process on an iPad®, facilitating real-time communication with subcontractors, and allowing close-out issues to be resolved quickly and completely.

“Simply put, this was the quickest and most effective punch list process I have ever experienced,” said Richard Outram, facilities manager of Hakkasan Las Vegas. “McCarthy has set the bar for closing out projects.”

A Triumphant Debut
All of the true builder experience paid off. The team wrapped up the project and received a temporary certificate of occupancy April 2, two weeks prior to the public grand opening.

The entire project was very much a team effort among the builder, designers, owner and subcontractors. This volume of work would not have been completed in a year without a committed team of people, all moving in the same direction every day.

Since Hakkasan Las Vegas opened, it has been the most popular nightclub in Las Vegas, selling out for months.

Beyond its role as the largest, most ambitious project that Hakkasan Group has ever completed, this project also makes a significant statement about the need for true builders in today’s construction world, where all too frequently projects are managed from behind a desk. Having a hands-on knowledge of building techniques, systems and planning is invaluable when the project needs to be done right, on-time and within budget. The lessons learned at Hakkasan can be applied to many large-scale building projects.

About the Author
Ray Sedey is Executive Vice President for McCarthy’s Nevada Division. Based in Las Vegas, he has played an instrumental role in the company’s growth and ongoing success in the Southwest and Intermountain Regions. Acknowledged among the ‘Top 20 under 40” by ENR Southwest, he has managed nearly $700 million worth of construction projects throughout Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico during his career. Ray is a member of the American Concrete Institute and serves on the Executive Board of the Associated General Contractors. Additionally, he serves on the Construction Management Advisory Board for the University of Nevada Las Vegas and the Civil Engineering Board for Montana State University. Contact Ray at rsedey@mccarthy.com


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