Long Beach State is currently having an engineering firm consult Walter Pyramid’s roof, as Interim Athletics Director Ted Kadowaki revealed leaks and damages have been an issue for years.
While athletics won’t get answers until sometime this summer, Kadowaki said that the demolition of the pyramid could be a possibility depending on the results.
Mark Zakhour, vice president of Beach Building Services, says that the consultation will be done by Walter P. Moore, an engineering consulting firm based in Houston, TX.
The firm has experience in planning and working on sports stadiums such as SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. and Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA.
The leaks and roof damage were brought up multiple times this year because the Pyramid suffered leaks from the rainy days during the beginning of the spring semester. This led to water falling onto the court, forcing men’s and women’s sports games to move to the previous athletic venue, the Gold Mine gym.
While the leaks onto the court just started this year, Kadowaki said the Pyramid’s been dealing with leaks for the last five to six years.
Zakhour confirmed this timeline, saying that Larsen Zienkiewicz (LZI) Building Enclosure Consultant investigated the damages to the Pyramid and made repair recommendations in 2017. Repairs then started in 2018, with Versatile Systems INC hired to start them.
“Over time, the roof structure experiences weather-driven thermal expansion/contraction causing constant movement of the metal roof sheeting,” Zakhour said. “This movement, mixed with the age of the materials, has caused tens of thousands of potential leak points where each screw is attached and where every seam comes together.”
Versatile Systems continued to make these temporary repairs to the Pyramid even after the initial leaks, using rigging and mountaineering practices in order to make the fixes to screw holes and seams that are causing the leaks. According to Zakhour, these repairs to those specific locations are in the tens of thousands.
“As the Pyramid reaches its 30-year anniversary many of the original building systems are coming to the end of their useful life,” Zakhour said.
The consultation this year will find alternative ways of taking care of the leaks permanently and is a response to the previous estimate back in 2021 that saw a $55 million repair bill to fix the entire roof.
Zakhour says that architect company Environ, structural engineering firm MHP Engineers and Swinerton Builders were a part of that estimate process. They provided pre-construction constructability services which included a construction cost estimate and schedule.
If the roof were to be replaced, the construction would have to take multiple phases due to its structural foundation, as well as consider safety and wind impacts.
“Swinerton Builders also considered scaffolding of the entire Pyramid, both interior and exterior, and how to prevent water intrusion and provide protection of the existing interior flooring, bleachers, offices, lighting, HVAC, and AV equipment since the schedule for this project would require it to continue through winter months,” Zakhour said.
This estimate is more than two times the cost to construct the Pyramid, which was $22 million, according to a previous Daily Forty-Niner article.
The original design of The Walter Pyramid was spearheaded by Long Beach architect Don Gibbs and was built by the Nielsen Dillingham Builders of San Diego, which ceased to exist in October 2006 after filing for bankruptcy.
D. Nielsen Pollock, the current LEED AP of Nielsen Construction California, formerly worked for Nielsen Dillingham and was involved with the initial bid and estimate of the pyramid.
“It was a very exciting project and I believe that Nielsen Dillingham Builders was the only bidder that proposed on the space frame alternate to a structural steel base design,” Pollock said.
While Pollock doesn’t remember how much the initial bid on the Pyramid was, he says that the company was the only one to propose a space frame design, which cost $20 million, and it was used since a steel design would have cost $26 million.
“The project probably would not have been built due to the cost of the base bid structural steel,” Pollock said about the Pyramid design.
This project not only changed CSULB but also Nielsen Dillingham Builders themselves, as they incorporated a pyramid into their company logo due to the project.
Pollock said, “It truly is an iconic structure and has been a great facility for CSULB.”