Earns New Multipurpose Arena For Hidalgo Area
Rio Grande Valley Events Center
To Host Newest CHL Franchise
Texas has a rich history of revolutions, beginning with declaring
its independence in 1836. Now another "revolution"
is happening and residents in South Texas are ready to welcome
The $18 million Rio Grande Valley Events Center is scheduled
to be completed in Hidalgo this fall and will be the new home
for the Killer Bees of the Central Hockey League. Built with
a combination of local and government funding, the multipurpose
arena will join a growing number of similar facilities cropping
up in several midsize towns throughout the country.
John Akerley, project manager for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based
developer International Coliseums Co., calls it a "revolution"
in North American professional sports.
"As the Central Hockey League has expanded, it has virtually
run out of buildings in which to play," Akerley said.
"The CHL wishes to continue to expand and one way is
to offer cities options for multipurpose centers with a major
tenant already on board.
"The Rio Grande Valley was interesting to the CHL because
there is already a team in El Paso, a new building has opened
for a team in Laredo and there is another team in Corpus Christi.
So the Lower Valley was an ideal spot for further league expansion.
"It seems that the major leagues have priced themselves
out of the market for family entertainment," he added.
"To pay the huge salaries for athletes today, they have
courted the corporate world and television to survive and
some cities just can't do that. All of this has created a
void for the family entertainment dollar, and the various
minor leagues around the country - into which category the
Central Hockey League certainly fits - fill that void.
"We are seeing a growth of these level teams, both in
hockey and in baseball, to the detriment to these higher-priced
players. Plus, there are a whole lot more medium-sized cities
throughout North America than major league cities. So cities
such as Hidalgo see Laredo and Corpus Christi with teams and
they want to be a part of it."
The 130,000-sq.-ft. events center will have a seating capacity
of 5,500 for hockey games and approximately 6,500 for other
City officials are ecstatic about the new facility. "This
exciting new project will benefit the people of the entire
Rio Grande Valley, not just in Hidalgo or Hidalgo County,"
said Hidalgo Mayor John David Franz. "This new facility
will be the entertainment hub for all Texas residents in the
Lower Valley and our many friends in Mexico as well as a source
of pride for all Valley citizens."
The events center is being constructed with city funds in
combination with a loan from Texas State Bank guaranteed by
the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Fortunately, we
were able to get that guarantee because of the size of the
city," Akerley said. "The USDA has programs to encourage
the development of small cities and Hidalgo fit into that
Although Hidalgo has a population of only about 8,500, the
surrounding area boasts more than three-quarters of a million
"There will only be 40 hockey games per year, so we will
be bringing other family entertainment to the events center,"
said Dean Dennis, Western Region vice president of facility
management for Global Spectrum, the Littleton, Colo.-based
company that will manage the events center. "We just
confirmed that the Lipizzaner stallions will be one of our
first shows, but we will bring in other shows such as Disney
On Ice, the Harlem Globetrotters, monster trucks, Sesame Street
Live, wrestling, concerts ... just about any family type entertainment
you can name, we plan to feature here."
Other anticipated events include arena football, basketball,
indoor soccer and the area's annual Borderfest event held
each spring. Championship boxing is also expected at the venue.
"We know there is a very large following for boxing
in this area," Akerley said. "Our facility is certainly
large enough to accommodate any televised championship fight."
Groundbreaking for the events center was held last June.
Because the water table is low in the area due to the proximity
of the Rio Grande, the building is constructed on grade with
spread footings. The first concrete pour began in August for
a variety of pads ranging from 6 ft. square to 8 ft. by 15
ft. by 6 ft. Crews poured 53 of the largest pads, which support
the building's structural columns.
From there, the structural steel was erected to form the
shell for the seating bowl as well as the support for the
unique curved roof.
"The structural steel is the most unusual part of this
project for us just because of the design and sheer volume
of it," said Gonzalo Rodriguez, project manager for Pharr-based
general contractor Williamson Construction. "We just
don't have the type of projects in this area that work with
this magnitude of structural steel."
Because the facility will serve a multitude of purposes and
host a variety of events, additional steel had to be designed
into the structure to support the rigging for special lighting
or electronic equipment.
"If it was a single-use building for something like
hockey only, you could get away with using much less structural
steel," Rodriguez said. "But each truss here can
carry an additional 70,000 lbs., so there's no question that
the roof is a major component of this building."
When completed, the facility will feature approximately 1,000
tons of structural steel, which was supplied and erected by
Tri-City Steel & Fabricators Inc. of McAllen.
The seating bowl for the center is precast concrete over
the structural steel form. San Antonio-based North American
Precast Co. supplied and placed the bowl, while the other
concrete in the building was supplied by Varmacon of McAllen.
Hidalgo-based Rio Grande Steel handled the reinforcing steel.
Exterior features will include distinctive yellow metal cladding
at the top of the facility that will compliment the hockey
team's official colors. In fact, local residents have already
nicknamed the building "The Beehive."
On the east and west sides of the building will be architectural
screens made of composed wood, which will help hide the two
large chiller units on top of the arena.
Ninety percent of the exterior will feature white brick masonry,
installed by The Rock Masonry of Hidalgo. The other 10 percent,
which encompasses the loading dock/events staging area at
the rear of the facility, will be concrete masonry units.
The entrance will feature generous amounts of gray-tinted
curtainwall, rising approximately 40 ft. from grade at the
main entrance, and 36 ft. under a canopy. The curtainwall
subcontractor was Ray's Glass of Hidalgo.
The entrance will feature a concourse complete with ticketing
office. Ticket-holders will enter at the event level and then
make their way to their seats above. Club level suites will
ring the top of the seating bowl with access via stairwells
Although the facility is being constructed on a somewhat
barren site on the outskirts of Hidalgo, the grounds surrounding
the events center will feature an extensive landscaping program
including native palm trees and decorative sidewalks and walkways.
"The city is very strict on landscaping because we want
to preserve as much of the native trees and plants that we
can along with the development of this land," said Hidalgo
building officer Virgil Gonzalez. "By law, we require
20 percent landscaping on any project. That simply means we
want 20 percent of the property minus the square footage of
the building to be landscaped."
Landscaping will be located throughout the project, including
the 200-vehicle parking lot to be located at the rear of the
When the Killer Bees begin CHL play this fall, they will
join the 16-team league that also features Texas franchises
in Amarillo, Fort Worth, Austin, Laredo, Corpus Christi, Lubbock,
Odessa, El Paso and San Angelo.
| PROJECT TEAM
|| Williamson Construction,
|| City of Hidalgo Municipal
|| International Coliseums
Co., Scottsdale, Ariz.
|| PBK Architects Inc., Vancouver,
|| Eduardo Vela Architects,
|| Murray & Associates
Inc., San Antonio