Arena whistles while they work

Strong winds through a barrel roof play an industrial symphony for construction crew
Tuesday, March 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:57 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Jim Henley has worked in construction for 25 years and says he’s never heard anything like it.

The construction project manager for MU came to work Monday morning on the new MU basketball arena prepared for the usual sounds of gravel crunching under tire wheels and the roar of truck engines. He never expected an industrial symphony.

Strong winds rushing through the arena’s barrel roof created an eerie sound that resonated from the site. The effect was like the sound of a wet finger gliding slowly across the lip of a couple hundred glasses of water.

Though slight variations in wind speed changed the pitch and volume, moments of silence were fleeting. The “music” was more like noise to those stuck on the site for an entire workday. Though construction workers have earplugs to protect themselves from the high-decibel noise associated with construction machinery, the sound created by the wind was not loud enough to be dangerous, just annoying.

“We’ve all got a headache,” Henley said.

Construction on the roof is expected to be completed in about a month, but at this point it’s a skeleton. The first layer of the top of the roof is a metal deck — a huge arch filled with hundreds of tiny holes. The wind was “playing” these holes in much the same way a musician would play a flute.

As is usual for a building under construction, an occasional breeze has caused the arena to “whistle” a few times. Unusually high-speed winds on Monday sustained the vibrations throughout the day. “This is the first day we’ve had consistent 20 mile per hour winds and 35 mile per hour gusts,” Henley said.

The arena was loud enough to be heard on the southern side of the MU campus. Site managers initially thought the sound was coming from three floors of steel beams left exposed by work on the interior, which is ahead of schedule. The arena is expected to be finished by October with a total project cost of $75 million and will seat 15,000 fans.

Bob Berg, construction project manager for Campus Facilities Construction Management, had his own theories about why the arena was singing.

“The arena’s whistling because it’s happy Missouri beat K-State,” Berg said.

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