James R. Wilkins Jr. Athletics and Event Center
James Wilkins, Jr. has been a generous donor to Shenandoah University over the years much like many of his family members. His father, James R. Wilkins Sr., was instrumental in getting Shenandoah College and Shenandoah Conservatory of Music to relocate from Dayton to Winchester in 1960. The college and conservatory merged into a single institution and became Shenandoah University on Jan. 1, 1991.
KSi provided structural engineering services for the new $24.5 million, 77,000 square foot facility, providing a multifunctional space for major school and community events. It features 63,000 square feet of multipurpose fieldhouse with retractable seating for nearly 1,600, a 200-meter, six-lane competition track, throwing cages, sand pit and pole vaulting areas, batting cages for baseball, softball, and golf, locker room facilities, a concession stand, and an athletic training area.
Challenged by a limited budget, the project team balanced cost-efficiency with long-term value. A key challenge was solved by using interlocking precast panels to form the structure’s perimeter—a construction approach typically used for manufacturing projects. The extensive use of brick for the facade provided an opportunity to use one of the six brick-laying construction robots in the U.S. called SAM, or Semi-Automated Mason. SAM handled the burdensome repetitive tasks of installing bricks, allowing trade workers to focus on applying their knowledge and skill without heavy lifting. The project team says SAM provided a valuable “real-world” assessment of the robot’s capabilities and substantially reduced labor costs. SAM placed nearly 375,000 bricks during a three-month period, including a “personal best” of 3,270 bricks placed in an eight-hour shift.