Thousands of people flocked to downtown Cleveland, as the public was invited to attend the free grand opening for Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, which provided attendees the ability to view the $185 million in renovation work completed by highly skilled and highly trained building trades members.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Cavaliers Chief Executive Officer Len Komoroski, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish all praised the work performed by roughly 2,700 members of area building trades.
Once the ceremonial ribbon was cut outside, fans headed inside to see the renovated arena, which included expanding the building’s footprint to create more space and amenities.
“It looks nothing like the former arena; very impressive,” Dave Wondolowski, Executive Secretary of the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council said during the celebration. “This will draw many great events in the coming years.”
The project’s economic impact for the community project also will be positive, Wondolowski added, as the hundreds of annual events will bring in visitors from across the country to spend their money in Cleveland.
The timeline to renovate the 26-year-old facility was tight, as the project was completed in two phases. Antony Bonavita, Executive Vice President of Venue Operations at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse said there was always a concern about finishing the project on a tight timeline.
“When you have a project of this size and scope, and specifically a renovation project, you never know what you could run into,” he said. “We did not want to sacrifice quality for speed, which I am proud to say that we didn’t and we finished on time.”
“Our members never let us down. They are the best at what they do day in and day out,” Wondolowski added.
The first phase was completed in late September 2018. While some of the work on the second phase was completed during the 2018-2019 Cavaliers season, the vast majority of phase two could not begin until the Cavaliers and Cleveland Monsters finished playing their games at the arena.
Beginning in early May, more than 1,500 tradesmen and tradeswomen descended upon the structure and completed most of the remaining work in just over four months.
“I have said this time and time again, that not being a Clevelander, I have come to know and respect the level of care and quality that each of the trades put into their work,” Bonavita said.
One of the most noticeable aspects of the renovation was the creation of the large north atrium, where Iron Workers added 1,475 pieces of glass to the structure. Each piece weighs about 990 pounds.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Komoroski said the glass exterior was added to give the building an iconic look, while also allowing the public to see what is happening inside.
Just a day before the grand opening, building trades members were busy preparing for the big day.
On the exterior of the building, members of Cement Masons Local 404 were touching up a few items, while painters, insulators, electrical workers, terrazzo workers, plumbers and other trades were inside working on finishing touches and cleaning up work areas.
An IBEW Local 38 crew of Tom Meisterheim and Damien Dragich were making final connections to the fire alarm system. They had been working at the site since March 19 switching out old systems and installing new alarm systems.
“It’s quite a showpiece,” said Meisterheim. “The building really pops. It’s a totally different look and people will be impressed with the very extensive upgrades.”
“I’m proud to have worked on this project and can’t wait to come back and show it off to my family,” Dragich added.
The Cavaliers privately funded $115 million of the total $185 million project. Public funding of the renovation project was capped at $70 million.