An initial study determining the feasibility for a multi-purpose facility in Fort Bend County was completed in 2018, showing great demand for a venue that could accommodate the need for a space to hold community events and for the growth of sports tourism.
“What we found in the market is that we have two large growing school districts that were forced to have competitions, graduations, large meetings, things of that nature in Houston because we just did not have anything in Fort Bend County that would host events like that,” said Kevin Matocha, President of Stonehenge Holdings, the developer for the project. “That, coupled with the fact that sports tourism continues to grow in the United States, we’re seeing leaps and bounds of how sports tourism can change the environment.”
When the Fort Bend County EpiCenter is complete, the facility will be host to agriculture events like horse shows, cattle shows, and the Houston livestock show; school/community events like competitions and graduations; sports events like tournaments and championship games; concerts; and more. The 230,000-square-foot facility can also be used as an operations center and emergency evacuation shelter for hurricanes and other disaster events.
The 10,400-seat facility will have a combination of telescopic and fixed seating, with the ability to be transformed into multiple seating arrangements for different events. The EpiCenter will include a 170,400-square-foot main arena with concessions and restrooms; a 20,000-square-foot multi-purpose event center providing floor space for events; a 39,000-square-foot pavilion with covered staging areas and additional venue support space; and 2,500 surface parking spaces.
“We have visitors which will now come to visit our community for the first time through any one of these different events. So that indirect impact is enormous to communities,” Matocha said. “It's just a wonderful opportunity to have the entire family come and support a son or daughter playing in high-level sports, but also for the family to go out and experience new areas of the country that they've never been. We continue to see this growth certainly throughout the southwest, and it's a wonderful scenario to bring to your community. We’re happy to be a part of it in Fort Bend County.”
The Fort Bend County EpiCenter is located on 52 acres of land near U.S. Highway 59 and West Fairgrounds Road, with two large outparcels in front of the facility providing the opportunity for future expansion and development of hotels, restaurants, and retail. Construction of the facility will be complete in August of 2023.
The Fort Bend County EpiCenter project will use a public-private partnership to collaborate between the government and the private sector to finance, build, and operate the project. The contract was awarded to Satterfield & Pontikes Construction as general contractor, PBK as the architect, Stonehenge Holdings as the developer, and Big B Crane for concrete and steel erection.
“We have several 200-ton cranes, most of which are Link-Belt 248’s (H5, HSL, H II) and we hang a lot of steel with them,” said Kenneth Green, Operations Manager, Commercial Construction Division at Big B Cranes. “The features I like about the Link-Belt 248s are the size of the cab and the comfort/location of the controls. The thing I like most is the ease of mobilizing them. Four to five people are able to fully self-assemble and disassemble these cranes and in really hard to get places.”
For the Fort Bend County EpiCenter project, Big B Crane purchased a new Link-Belt Cranes 300-ton 348 Series 2 lattice crawler crane. The crane delivered directly to the jobsite from HOLT Crane & Equipment and went into service the second week of June 2022. Three months later in early September 2022, the crane already logged over 500 hours.
“We were in the market for a 300-ton lattice crawler and so we did all the obvious research, looking at charts in this class,” Green said. “We worked with our sister-company Deem Structural Services, a steel erector, and found that with this 348 Series 2 we could get 300 feet of reach with 220 feet of main boom and 80 feet of jib. That was big because some of the others in this class at that configuration can only get to 245 feet of radius.”
The heaviest loads for the 348 Series 2 have been 120,000 lb precast panels for the new facility’s exterior. There are four sections of poured in place tilt panels that the 348 Series 2 lifts, leaving one end open so that the crane can work from the center of the building, hanging remaining steel and lowering precast concrete sections that will later become the stands for the new building.
“HOLT’s service department has been exemplary. Their service managers are very responsive, and their parts availability is great,” Green said. “In most cases, needed parts are in stock and shipped out same day. This greatly helps our customers reduce downtime and keeps their project flowing smoothly.”
The 348 Series 2 features a Cummins QSL 9, 350 hp Tier 4 Final, and Tier III engine options with a Kawasaki pump and motor package for fast, responsive, fingertip control providing simultaneous operation wherever it is needed. Dual swing motors provide dynamic control for the incredibly smooth free swing. The operator can also dial swing up or down with a speed control knob in the cab.
Greater fuel economy is just one of the benefits offered with the Series 2 ECO winch system, resulting in lower operating cost, less engine RPM under load, fewer emissions, and all the line pull you need with 28 mm rope. When activated by the operator, ECO hoist provides maximum line speed with lighter loads all with the engine under 1,000 RPM. Also, the operator-selectable “auto-engine shutdown” is standard equipped and allows the engine to shut down automatically after extended periods of inactivity, so long as critical operating criteria are met.
At ConExpo 2020, Link-Belt Cranes made its first display of the new combination top for the 348 Series 2. The heavy-duty combination top boom section is built for conventional boom makeup or luffing boom configuration. Bar pendants connect main boom, luffing jib, and luffer back stay – making for easier assembly. New to the heavy-duty boom extension is backstay bar pendant storage. This allows the 348 Series 2 to go to work with heavy-duty boom while the luffer backstay pendants are stored on the conventional boom. This makes the job of converting to luffing attachment faster, saving time and money. The hook and pin design greatly simplifies the process of mating the combination top with the luffing jib base section. Lattice style front and rear posts further reduce transport weight.