A new shade for a new arena

Lawrence Fabric & Metal Structures created a cool, dry area for zoo guests.

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Shading a new arena at the St. Louis Zoo turned out to be a demanding yet gratifying project for Lawrence Fabric & Metal Structures of St. Louis, Mo.

The St. Louis Zoo tasked Lawrence Fabric & Metal Structures with creating a tensile structure over the new Lichtenstein Sea Lion Arena that would offer its guests protection from the elements. But there was another challenge with this project: Lawrence Fabric & Metal Structures would have to construct the structure without the use of forward posts so as not to obstruct the views of the sea lion shows.

Installing the structure was complicated and complex due to the large size and standout shape of the design. Lawrence Fabric & Metal Structures set the entire fabric membrane in one piece. Additionally, the small, restricted space at the Lichtenstein Sea Lion Arena called for finesse while moving large equipment around the site.

Lawrence Fabric & Metal Structures’ installation team overcame that challenge by using two man-lifts and two 55-ton cranes to situate the fabric in the arena so it could be attached to the posts. Comprehensive, precise engineering was required for success of the overall installation.

The St. Louis Zoo also requested that the tensile structure implement an impressive and visually striking design. Lawrence Fabric & Metal Structures used 600 yards of Ferrari 1202T2 and utilized a cantilevered design. The entire structure is 135 feet (41 meters) wide and projects 35 feet (10 meters). Eight support posts support the structure; four of them are 12 inches (30 centimeters) in diameter and 25 feet (7 meters) tall, and the remaining four are 6 inches (15 centimeters) in diameter and 10 feet (3 meters) tall. There are also four horizontal 10-inch (25-centimeter) diameter beams measuring 30 feet (9 meters) each.

The new tensile structure provides coverage for more than 800 amphitheater guests, a stage, a rock bridge and a dive platform and slide. The St. Louis Zoo was pleased with the design and its outcome. The Lichtenstein Sea Lion Arena successfully opened June 30, 2012, for shows to the public.

Kelly Frush is a freelance writer from New Brighton, Minn.

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