Engineering the Pan American Games
By Mitch Meadows | December 5, 2022
The Pan American Games is a multi-sport competitive event preceding the Summer Olympic Games by 1 year, every 4th year. Each event hosts thousands of the top athletes from the nations of the North and South American continents. Spectators flock to see the various events and the major cities that host these events must be prepared for the influx. Temporary stages, platforms, lighting structures, and grandstand bleachers must be erected for use over the duration of the games. D.H. Charles Engineering was contracted to complete the engineering of many of these structures for the events taking place in Toronto, Canada in June of 2015.
Nussli, a US and internationally based firm at the time, produced a series of drawings that outlined these systems along with their layout. Each system was modular scaffold based with specialty products that allowed an additional grandstand seating system to be installed at the top for accommodation with seats and platforms. Additional structures such as LED screens, tents, and enclosures were also incorporated into the design. DHC in turn used these drawings to analyze and evaluate the systems for hundreds of thousands of pedestrians and various lateral loading conditions. While DHC is an engineering leader in the industry, this project was by no means an easy task.
Multiple large-scale scaffold structures had to be installed over tens of miles throughout various regions in the Toronto Metropolitan area, bringing up different conditions for vertical and lateral wind loading at each venue. In addition, Ontario Canada has its own special structural requirements and wind design procedures, which had to be accounted for in the permitting process. Special load testing procedures and observation were performed to ensure the guardrail systems met all code requirements. The final touch on this complex project was that each venue had to be physically inspected and observed to meet the design plan and structural requirements, which led me to a multiple day, cross city inspection extravaganza through Toronto, my first ever trip to the city.
When I arrived, I was met by Nussli’s project engineer who would be leading me through each event venue one by one to ensure all was in order prior to the games. The city’s beautiful buildings caught me by surprise, and I was blown away by the massive CN Tower dominating the skyline. One of our first stops was a beach volleyball event built in the heart of the city, with imported sand and all. The colors of the bleachers seemed to match the background of the city as if it was built alongside the major structures of the skyline. I couldn’t help but pause and appreciate the opportunity I had to be in that exact place and moment. Throughout the next couple of days, and many venues, Nussli’s project engineer and I got to know each other well and worked through several different engineering issues and layout changes on the spot to ensure all the systems would perform adequately under the full weight of the spectator influx. To this day, thoughts of that project and trip bring back great memories. I can’t help but be thankful for the vast challenges and opportunities that are available to those of us working here at DHC.