HemisFair Arena

 

In 1968, the domed, 10,070 seat HemisFair arena was constructed as part of San Antonio’s World Fair- a six month international exposition celebrating the 250th anniversary of the city’s founding. In 1973, a group of local San Antonio businessmen came together and purchased the Dallas ABA team, the Chaparrals. The team was renamed the San Antonio Spurs and played their first game at the HemisFair Arena on October 10, 1973 losing to the San Diego Conquistadors in front of 5,879 fans. As Spurs games began regularly selling out, the city was faced with a challenge of how to accommodate the ever growing base of loyal fans. By 1976, the Spurs franchise was such a success that it officially became a part of the NBA. One of the conditions of this merger was that there needed to be additional seating for spectators. As a result, in 1977 the San Antonio City Council approved over $4 million in funds to raise the roof of the HemisFair Arena with plans to allow the building to accommodate over 6,000 more seats. G.W. Mitchell Construction, with the design of Noonan, Krocker & Dockery, was commissioned for the challenging task and began construction in April of ’77.

This unique project involved cutting loose the roof structure entirely and raising it to provide a new seating deck. With more than 38 jacks, Mitchell lifted the 2,260 ton roof the 33 feet needed to accommodate the additional seats. The lifting of the arena roof occurred over a four day period at a rate of 2.5 feet per hour. During the course of construction, the City of San Antonio required numerous shut downs and remobilizations to accommodate various functions- including concerts and the ongoing Spurs ’77-’78 basketball season. All of discontinuous work caused a serious hardship to the sequencing of the project. However, despite these interruptions, the arena was completed on time allowing for an increased capacity of over 16,000 to attend events by the summer of 1978. The unusual nature of the project and Mitchell’s ability to complete it on time earned the Texas Building Branch-AGC Outstanding Construction Award in 1980.

For 22 years, HemisFair Arena would serve as the city’s main venue for big scale entertainment; including serving as home to the Spurs first 20 seasons, often referred to as the “nosiest arena in the NBA”. Demolished in 1995 to expand the Convention Center, the HemisFair Arena played a significant part in the history of the Spurs franchise as well as the city of San Antonio. “I don’t know how to phrase it, but San Antonio wasn’t a city then,” said Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, who played with the Spurs in the ’70s. “It was a town, a big town, and the Arena got to be like a party. It was the thing to do. It was a celebration of San Antonio nightlife at a basketball game.”

Building San Antonio’s Medical Community

 

In January of 1978, G.W. Mitchell Construction was commissioned to build a new ground up 166-bed, 110,000 square foot hospital known as Southwest General Hospital. Not only was Mitchell able to complete the construction of the hospital 30 days prior to its original completion date but they also came in under budget. In August of 1979, the hospital celebrated its grand opening with keynote speaker Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez.

As a result of such a positive experience with the owners, in 1983, Mitchell was asked to negotiate with the hospital on a difficult, fast track addition and remodel that would add 60,00 square feet- fifty percent of the hospital’s original size. Again, Mitchell proved to be successful in this project finishing it within the completion date and budget.

Today, Southwest General Hospital has continued to provide high-quality healthcare for residents of southwest San Antonio for over 30 years and remains a vital source of healthcare for the Southside of San Antonio and the surrounding area. It is a 327-bed acute care hospital with specialties in Cardiology, General Surgery, Orthopedics, Rehabilitation, Women’s Health, Emergency Services, Physical Therapy, Wound Care, Hyperbaric Medicine, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatric Services. Southwest General has earned numerous distinctions for quality, including a Health Grades 5-star rating for maternity care seven years in a row, Health Grades 5-star rating in heart failure, sepsis, pneumonia and COPD.

La Villita Assembly Building- Over 50 Years of Celebrating San Antonio

 

In 1958, G.W. Mitchell Contractors began construction on one of the most uniquely designed buildings in San Antonio, La Villita Assembly Building. At the time in San Antonio, there was a desperate need for a convention and events facility. The City Public Service board, who owned the site, wanted a building design that would complement the style of the restoration of adjacent La Villita, a small Mexican village of the 1700s. Designed by the renowned architects, O’Neil Ford & Associates , this two-level, 25,000 square foot circular building with an inverted dome roof is simple in detail yet characterized by its circular shape, color and texture. One of the most distinguishing features of the building is the roof, suspended on 200 Bethlehem steel strand assemblies attached to an outer ring, 132 feet in diameter, and a 40-foot inner ring. One of the first in the nation and the first of its kind in Texas, this type of roof construction eliminates the need for any columns allowing unobstructed views to all parts of the hall. When viewed from the air, the suspension-type roof gives the facade of a circular shaped arena. The building’s circular design was chosen to resemble the bull ring, so typical of historical Mexican villages. To complete the historic ties, six large emblems representing the seals of the six nations whose flags flew over Texas are displayed on the outside of the building. The designs of these emblems were hand crafted in ceramics by Lynn Ford, brother of the architect. The cost for G.W. Mitchell to build the assembly building in 1958 was $654,740. La Villita Assembly Building opened its doors to the public in May of 1959 bringing the City of San Antonio together by serving as the home of thousands of civic and nonprofit events over the past 55 years.

 

Laurie Auditorium: An amphitheater at the heart of Trinity University and San Antonio

 

Completed in 1971, the James W. and Dorothy A. Laurie Auditorium was the first building on Trinity’s campus large enough to accommodate the entire faculty and student body in a single setting. The theatre was named for the 14th president of Trinity University, James Laurie, who was responsible for drastically increasing Trinity’s endowment. This in turn allowed the university to construct a new, modern campus on what was a former limestone quarry, deeming it the “University on the Hill”. Designed by O’Neil Ford and Bartlett Cocke architects, G.W. Mitchell Construction began construction of the parking garage in 1968 and the auditorium in 1970 for a combined cost of $3,277,285. This project marked the 16th construction job completed by G.W. Mitchell Construction on Trinity’s campus. The superintendent on the job, Freeman Oates, had previously worked on the Atkinson Residence (which today is the McNay Art Institute- our first “flashback friday”) 42 years earlier as a laborer for G.W. Mitchell.

Today, Laurie Auditorium is a unique venue that plays an important role in both campus life and the life of San Antonio. The amphitheater design and wide stage allow for unobstructed views throughout the hall. The largest on-campus facility, Laurie Auditorium seats 2,700. As the center of the cultural and social life of Trinity University, Laurie Auditorium also provides San Antonio with an important venue for the continued growth of its entertainment industry. At Laurie Auditorium, one will find regular performances by the San Antonio Symphony, shows by the Arts San Antonio organization, appearances by popular political and social speakers, and as well as more contemporary performances, with appearances from popular performers or concerts by the latest musical artists and bands.