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Crews working hard to get Vivint Arena renovation done on time

SALT LAKE CITY — In late September, Vivint Arena will be filled with the sounds of country music stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. In October, fans will be excited to hear shoes squeaking, basketballs bouncing on the hardwood and P.A. announcer Dan Roberts enthusiastically asking everybody, “How ‘bout this Jazz?”

In the meantime, tractors can be heard digging and beeping, the sounds of saws noisily echo in and out of the arena, and hard-hat-sporting workers fill the air with a variety of construction-related noises.

On Tuesday, Okland Construction gave local media members a tour of the progress that’s been made in the six weeks since the Utah Jazz were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors there in Game 4 of the second round of the playoffs.

For now, the arena is an organized mess.

In two months, it will be one of the nicest entertainment venues in the country.

“Big changes coming,” as noted on the TV monitor in the makeshift employee entrance.

A lot of work has already been made since construction for this $125 million renovation project kicked into high gear on May 9 once the building’s main occupants were done until next fall.

The Utah-based construction has a hard deadline coming up to have the massive reno job completed by September 15. The Hill-McGraw concert is scheduled for Sept. 27, and the Jazz will move back in and begin playing a preseason schedule in mid-October.

“We’ll finish on time,” Okland Construction project executive Jeremy Blanck said. “We have to. There aren't any choices. We just have to make it happen."

So far, the arena has been gutted of its 19,911 seats (new seats are about to be installed at the rate of 300-400 per day), the upper and lower bowls are being redesigned, a variety of clubs are being constructed throughout the arena, fourth-floor suites are being overhauled, new and updated bathrooms are popping up, a 12,000-square-foot atrium for the northeast entrance is being built, concrete walls are being covered in sheetrock (to give the building a softer, less-industrial feel), corner concession stands are about to take shape and larger entry points into the arena from the concourse have been carved out, and architecturally pleasing stairways are going up, among many other projects.

"This is the most difficult project that Okland has ever undertaken," Blanck said.

In the next couple of weeks, all of the major infrastructure will be in place, general superintendent director Fred Strasser explained. The most noticeable addition will be the large atrium, which will act as a gathering spot for fans as they enter the arena after going through security. The new box office and Jazz Team Store will be located in the main lobby.

Fans should welcome the addition of stylish blue-cushioned seats (upper and lower bowls), the placement of 400-600 new TVs around the arena and a variety of improved eating options and experiences (e.g., spots that offer views into the arena from clubs and dining areas, more stools and high-top tables for standing and socializing).

Okland management noted that there are about 400 employees working around the arena for about 20 hours a day.

"To complete this kind of a job in five months, quite frankly it’s going to be a heroic effort from our whole team to make it happen and from the jazz and the design team," Blanck said. "(It will take) a lot of cooperation and a lot of close collaboration every day."

The size of the arena, needing to rip into walls and the general nature of the renovation all add extra levels of difficulty.

"The schedule," he added, "by far is the greatest challenge."