Canopy sculpture snag stalls BR project’s completion

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --    Construction delays on Show caption
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Construction delays on "The Crest," the citys $900,000 sculpture over the Galvez Plaza stage, may mean shifting the date for cultural events such as the first Live After 5, scheduled for April 5. Workers could not to get part of the sculpture to fit together properly and it has to be re-fabricated, officials said.

Delays due to weather and other factors have hampered the completion of two downtown construction projects, which could have an impact on some cultural events set for this spring, officials said Friday.

“The Crest,” a $900,000 canopy sculpture set to stand over the stage at Galvez Plaza, will have to have a segment of the 85-foot-long sculpture re-fabricated because workers could not make it fit properly, said Davis Rhorer, head of the Downtown Development District.

Heavy January rains slowed the projected opening of Repentance Park, which is adjacent to Galvez Plaza, he said.

Delays in constructing “The Crest” could affect cultural events slated for April, Rhorer said.

The segment is being re-fabricated in Kansas City, and should be back in Baton Rouge during the first week of March, Rhorer said. After that, crews will have to complete the structure and then add the layers of stainless steel covering to the sculpture to give it a shiny appearance, he said.

Workers began construction of the 65,000 pound, 35-foot-tall curved oval in mid-December, and it was originally expected to be completed in February. An earlier delay was due to a bigger crane being required to lift pieces, Rhorer said.

Rhorer said he is hopeful the sculpture can be finished by the first of April.

“It’s such an important component of North Boulevard Town Square and the Central Green,” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing to look at, and it functions as well.”

The canopy will hold a truss system that will support the rigging for concerts and other productions, Rhorer said. The delays were frustrating, he said, but to be expected in a one-of-a-kind piece like this one.

“Of course we would like to see it done,” Rhorer said. Other similar pieces have taken longer than expected to construct, he said.

Rhorer said he is preparing alternate plans for events if the sculpture isn’t completed by April. One such alternative could be A.Z. Young Park near the State Capitol for Live After Five, he said.

The Crest was funded through state sales tax rebates dedicated to the downtown Riverfront project. The funds could not have been used for any other city-parish needs.

The Metro Council approved the project in 2011 after extensive debate and concerns from some council members over the cost of the project and whether it would be structurally sound.

Fences will be coming down around Repentance Park next week, said Tom Stephens, a design engineer with the city-parish Department of Public Works.

Earlier estimates that the park would be open by mid-January were pushed back after about two weeks of steady rain, Stephens said.

“We have eight inches of sand mix on that slope, and the water makes it run a little bit,” Stephens said. Each time it rains, it takes nearly three days for the site to dry out enough for the contractor to work on it again, he said.

The park has been under construction since February 2012. Weather and unexpected underground obstacles delayed the project from its original projected completion date September, Stephens said.

When complete, the park will contain a large undulating hill and a modern fountain with 750 jets.

The $3.5 million project, like The Crest sculpture, is paid for with state sales tax rebate that can only be used for downtown riverfront projects.

Editor’s Note: This article was corrected on Feb. 23 to reflect that the sculpture is 85 feet long and 35 feet tall.