(DETROIT FREE PRESS) - "Once in a while," says Ben Maibach III, CEO of Barton Malow and proud Michigan State Spartan, class of 1969, "the stars just align and everything comes into place."
Indeed, things can't get much rosier than this for Maibach's Southfield-based construction firm or for his alma mater's football squad:
Led by project manager and fellow MSU Spartan Sean Hollister (class of '99), Barton Malow recently wrapped up work on a $168-million facelift and expansion of the historic Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena.
And thanks to MSU's thumping of Ohio State a week ago, the football Spartans will appear in the 100th Rose Bowl game on New Year's Day, after a 26-year absence.
The stars aligned.
Maibach, an adviser to MSU's athletic department, also takes special joy in the Spartans' trip to Pasadena, having played a part in the selection of Mark Dantonio as football coach in 2006.
It's a sweet turn of events, too, for Hollister, who spent two years living in California while working on the stadium project. He had to watch Wisconsin represent the Big Ten in two straight Rose Bowls - including one after the Badgers eked out a 42-39 win over MSU for the 2011 Big Ten title, thanks to a controversial running-into-the-kicker penalty call in the final two minutes.
Barton Malow is a general construction contractor on projects ranging from hospitals to schools and museums, and has carved out a substantial niche in sports facilities, beginning with the Pontiac Silverdome in the mid-1970s. The firm has built 15 professional football and baseball stadiums, and led the expansion and renovation of the Big House at University of Michigan, completed in 2010.
It was that renovation of a large bowl-shaped stadium that made Barton Malow a natural partner for California-based Bernards Brothers in the joint-venture Rose Bowl expansion, Maibach said.
Big projects such as stadiums often involve a joint venture, pairing a national firm with expertise in a certain niche with a locally based outfit familiar with the region's subcontractors, labor pool and governmental structure.
In the case of the Rose Bowl, there were several unusual aspects to the job:
¦ The Rose Bowl is listed as a landmark in the National Register of Historic Places. "There was a lot of oversight from a historical planning standpoint," Hollister said, regarding specifications and use of certain materials.
¦ The stadium also is owned by the city of Pasadena and used for a variety of events, which meant Barton Malow was obligated to keep the facility open while doing the work.
For example, the Rose Bowl hosts the massive R.G. Canning flea market once a month, featuring more than 2,500 vendors and 20,000 shoppers. "Not many stadiums are governed by a municipality. That kind of makes the Rose Bowl a stadium of the people," Hollister said.
Working around the flea market, concerts, UCLA football games and other events Barton Malow and Bernards managed to demolish outdated suites and press boxes to make way for two writing press areas for 160 people, 1,180 new club seats, 54 new suites and 48 loge boxes.
They also added new restrooms and concession areas, widened the pedestrian tunnels used to access the stadium bowl, and installed 2,500 new chairs in the pavillion area, plus new stadium entrance gates.
The Rose Bowl's listed seating capacity for UCLA football games in the just-completed 2013 regular season was 91,136. Though the three-year renovation has expanded the stadium's pavilion area, press facilities, concourses and other amenities, it was expected to result in a slight decline in overall seating capacity.
Hollister returned home to Michigan in June and went immediately to work on a $24.5-million addition to Spartan Stadium on the MSU campus, involving new locker rooms, a new media center, new restrooms and a new recruitment center.
While Maibach, Hollister and other MSU grads among Barton Malow's 1,300 employees take special joy in the jobs with a Spartan connection, Maibach said the rest of firm's business is on a roll, too.
"We've booked $600 million to $700 million worth of new work in the last 60 days," Maibach told me Friday. "Our backlog is the strongest it's been in six or eight years."
On another big sports venue project, Barton Malow is teamed up with Rossetti on $300-million transformation of Daytona International Speedway's mile-long grandstand in Florida. That project, called Daytona Rising: Reimagining an American Icon, is scheduled for completion in early 2016.
Barton Malow also partnered with Rossetti, the Detroit-based architectural firm, on the University of Notre Dame Compton Family Ice Arena, a two-rink facility that opened in October 2011.
Happy as they may be with all the out-of-state work - they're even doing a small project at Ohio State's stadium - Maibach and Hollister will be all about the Spartans and the Rose Bowl a couple weeks from now. They're both heading to southern California on Dec. 30
Detroit Free Press