At the press conference announcing the Winston-Salem Open last December, Wake Forest athletics director Ron Wellman was asked if he had any worries about building a tennis complex in just eight months.
Wellman emphatically assured those in attendance that the new complex would, indeed, be finished on time.
Mike Lancaster heard Wellman loud and clear.
"I took that as Ron Wellman saying, ‘Frank Blum, you’ve got to finish them,’" Lancaster recalled.
Lancaster is the Vice President of Construction Services at F.L. Blum Construction Co. It is his job to oversee the on-site construction of the new complex, to take the blueprint drawn up by architects Walter Robbs Callahan and Pierce and turn it into a reality.
With qualifying set for Aug. 19 and the Winston-Salem Open main draw set to begin Aug. 21, that gives Lancaster about seven more weeks to get the job done.
"I am confident that we will get it done, and I also know that I have no other choice," Lancaster said. "Our reputation with Wake Forest and the Winston-Salem community lays in the balance, so we want to make sure we do whatever it takes to hit that date."
Lancaster said that he has been impressed with the way everyone associated with the tournament has worked together with the same vision. There have been several different entities involved – Walter Robbs Callahan and Pierce, Blum Construction, Winston-Salem Open officials, Wake Forest officials, ATP officials, even the USTA in the early stages – but it has all been toward the same goal.
"Everybody understood what a great thing it is to have this tournament coming to Winston-Salem and what an outstanding thing it was for the community, so everybody moved in an expeditious manner from the start," Lancaster said. "We’ve had a great team effort. I’ve got to give Walter Robbs Callahan and Pierce a lot of credit. They played a major role in bringing it all together, and they have come up with a complex that serves not only this tournament, but also serves Wake Forest athletics and serves the community."
On any given day, Blum Construction has between 30-40 workers on site.
Even though the tournament was announced in December, construction on the complex didn’t start until Feb. 2, partly because various permits from the City of Winston-Salem had to be obtained.
At first, the biggest concern was the soil. The complex is down in a valley of sorts, below BB&T Field and next to Wake Forest’s Indoor Tennis facility.
"What we were really concerned about at first was unsuitable soil," Lancaster said. "The soil in that area was really saturated. Some natural springs run through that area, so we were concerned about wet soils, because in terms of compaction, wet soils are not very good. We spent a lot of time drying out soil."
Currently, Blum is in the stage of laying asphalt to serve as the base for the five show courts and six practice courts.
Plans are for the Deco-Turf II surface to be applied to the main show court on July 1. The surface will be applied to other courts in the early days of July.
"To do this well, you need to have the asphalt down and allow the asphalt time to cure before the coatings go on," Lancaster said. "They can do some things to expedite the curing process and remove some of the excess oils, but typically you want 30 days. You can imagine with that many courts, after each pouring is a lot of time. So that is taking a lot of effort, to get the asphalt down so we can put on the Deco court surface."
There’s one thing that Lancaster can’t control, the weather.
But so far, so good.
"It was a tight schedule to begin with and it remains a tight schedule, but we’re on pace and we’ve been blessed with really dry weather over the past few weeks," Lancaster said. "So that has been a good shot in the arm. We’ve had people working long hours and weekends to accommodate the good weather. So we’re right on schedule."