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Alamodome Maintenance Contract and Rope Access

During a yearlong maintenance-painting project on San Antonio’s Alamodome, the painting contractor needed a variety of technologies for accessing difficult to reach areas. Scaffolding cranes and a seemingly low-tech solution rope access-kept the project on track.

A San Antonio-based painting contractor had painted a majority of the Alamodome, former home of the NBA’s Spurs, with the help of aerial boom lifts, cranes, and scaffolding. But the “inner” cables that support the roof, that is, the cables that connect the roof to exterior 300-foot mast columns, could not be accessed for painting due to a variety of issues with the cranes being used, including difficulty maneuvering the cranes, getting the right “footing” for the cranes, and more generally, scheduling the use of the cranes.

According to Jesse Cantu III, the project manager for the painting contractor, there weren’t many equipment options available for accessing the upper reaches of the facility. Constructing the scaffolding necessary for painting the cable sheaths was estimated 40-day job not counting the coating work itself-and could have put the project over schedule.

With time pressure bearing down, Cantu contacted a Houston TX Based rope access company that specialized in industrial inspection and maintenance painting. Rope access is a method of using ropes to achieve a safe work position at height or in areas of difficult access, without the use of scaffolding, cradles, or mobile elevated work platforms.

The access company deployed a four-man team to both prepare and coat the four cable sheaths for each of the four mast columns. Their work was completed in ten days, and no safety incidents were reported. According to Howard Wall, manager of the access company, because the company’s workers are multi-disciplined. The company can work cost effectively and with fewer workers. Fewer workers, he adds, creates minimal disruption to other operations and crews, as well as less exposure to risks.

Given the nature of rope access work, safety is a high priority, At the Alamodome, the access team leader conducted daily safety meetings prior to the day’s work, and the work team also met each evening for a safety review. According Wall, his workers exceeded the required two tie-offs by maintaining three tie-offs at all times: two lines anchored form the top of the mast column that are also connected to the base of the cables where they join the roof: and one tie-off to the cable at the site of the painting work. The anchor points, or “pad-eyes” were welded to the roof and allowed to remain after the completion of the rope access work, should they be needed for future access.

Hand tools and power tools were used to prepare the cable sheaths surfaces to SSPC-SP 2 and SP 3. All coatings were applied by brush and roller. An epoxy penetrating sealer was used to prime the cables for painting and was suitable for re-coating on the day after its application, said Cantu A high solids urethane gloss enamel was applied as a finish coat; the coatings system’s total dry film thickness was 2.5to 3.5 mils.

Although it was windy and rainy for the last couple of days of the access firms’ work, the company completed its tasks with setbacks caused by weather accounting for approximately one day only, said project manager Cantu. In addition to painting the facility’s “outer” cables (those cables connecting the mast columns to the ground surrounding the Alamodome), other work the painting contractor completed includes removing the existing coatings from the exterior-I-beams eyebrow trusses, and cable anchor fixtures. Scaffolding was used to access the cable anchor fixtures at roof levels; one man swing staged were used to climb the mast columns to access the cable anchor fixtures at high altitudes; and 175 and 300 ton cranes with two-man baskets were used to paint the outer cable runs.

Notes Cantu “Scaffolding and rope access both have their place in construction, but for something like this, rope access really blew it out of the water. When I look at it a little differently, because I now know that I have options.

“Paradise Painting Inc. (San Antonio) was the painting contractor. MHT Access Services (Houston, TX) provided rope access and painting of the inner cables.

Petzl (Crolles, France) manufactures the rope access gear used by MHT at the Alamodome. Keeler & Long, a subsidiary of PPG High Performance Coatings, manufactures the epoxy primer and the urethane gloss enamel finish coat.