The iconic Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, plays host to the National Basketball Association’s Charlotte Hornets, as well as various events and concerts each year.

In the midst of several events in 2016, the arena learned it needed to upgrade its outdated domestic water system to comply with a city order. AME Consulting Engineers, a Charlotte-based mechanical, electrical, plumbing and telecommunications engineering firm, had discovered extensive corrosion on the building’s existing galvanized piping and began working with the city and the arena to finalize the best plan of action.

In order to provide clean water for their guests until a permanent solution was implemented, arena staff cleared the standing water out of the system and replaced it with fresh water before each event. It was time consuming, costly and wasteful, and with big events on the horizon, the city ultimately decided 2019 was the year the arena would update its piping system.

Assembling the dream team and materials

Working with Precision Plumbing, a North Carolina-based plumbing contractor, AME chose to replace the original galvanized steel piping with Schedule 10 stainless steel piping to ensure system longevity.

With the pipe material chosen, AME and Precision Plumbing turned their attention to planning repairs around the venue’s busy event schedule, which included the 2019 NBA All-Star Week.

They estimated the new domestic water system would require more than 900 pipe joints, so choosing the right pipe joining method was essential to delivering an efficient installation, system functionality, operational safety and ongoing maintenance throughout the service life of the arena.

Not only did the installation of temporary and new water lines need to be closely coordinated to ensure the building was never left without a functioning water system, AME also had to make sure the new domestic water line routed around existing utilities and concrete building structures.

To accomplish this tall order, AME and Precision Plumbing tapped Victaulic, a global manufacturer of mechanical pipe joining systems. Victaulic’s grooved end products can be installed quickly with hand tools in tight spaces, they provide a cleaner alternative to threading and there is no need for a hot work permit. These solutions gave the arena the flexibility it needed to turn its domestic water system on and off as necessary.

“Since this is a business, we needed to make sure that the area remained clean, there was minimal noise, and we wanted to avoid an open flame,” says Jeremy Ford, senior design engineer at AME. “I’ve worked with Victaulic before and knew their products would be perfect for this application.”

Beating the clock

Further complicating the coordination process, work had to be done in between games and events, which gave the crew just days, and in some instances only hours, to replace piping before they had to pause operations so the arena could open its doors to guests.

“They had to take out sections or levels at a time, then have the water back up and running each evening,” says Bryan Phillips, territory sales manager at Victaulic. “It was a very meticulous and sequenced project, and our ease of joining and accessibility was a huge value-add given the short timeframe they had to demo out and reinstall sections of pipe.”

Crews started by installing and connecting the new hot water system, then demolishing the old hot water piping. That same process was then repeated for the cold water system.

“The project had two main domestic loops, one for the event level and one for the suite level,” Ford says. “We started out in the suite level first, which was the most difficult because there was limited space in the corridor.”

Choosing Victaulic Installation-Ready couplings enabled the crew to easily join the new piping in tight spaces and visually verify the joints were installed properly.

“Due to the physical constraints of the space, trying to weld, braze or solder, or even trying to thread and screw pipe, would have been physically impossible,” says Justin Elliott, president at Precision Plumbing. “Victaulic products were the only way we could get the pipe into its location. The couplings also allowed us to install pipe even when it was slightly wet.”

Expediting installation

To simplify pipe preparation and installation, Precision Plumbing used Victaulic’s VE272SFS roll grooving tool, which grooved the 2.5-to-12-inch stainless steel pipe without creating a mess. During the project, the team ultimately bought a second grooving tool to have onsite and support the crew’s temporary fabrication shop.

“We typically would groove everything out of our fabrication shop, but we chose to setup onsite to be more efficient,” Elliott says. “We needed the ability to make bespoke pieces to match what we were replacing and having a grooving tool onsite was the best way to accomplish that.”

Precision Plumbing prefabricated specific pipe spools to maneuver around tight corners. These bespoke piping components allowed the installation crew to quickly and easily replace piping in difficult spots, while keeping a steady pace.

Efficient installation scores points

The crew successfully upgraded the domestic water system without any leaks. Victaulic, AME and Precision Plumbing together made for a powerful combination, enabling the team to install the new system in tight spaces safely, quickly and efficiently, without the mess caused by alternative solutions.