The Beast Urban Park in El Paso, TX, recently renamed from Eastside Regional Park, has completed Phase I of a 92-acre development. Once completely finished it will be the largest city operated park in the area. Featuring world-class aquatic amenities, the Beast Urban Park brings much needed public facilities to a residential community that grew faster than anticipated and greatly outpaced recreational resources. The new, three-part complex will include a state-of-the-art natatorium with a 50-meter competition swimming pool, a multi-generational community center with a gymnasium and multipurpose classrooms, and an outdoor waterpark highlighted by El Paso’s first wave simulator. All of these facilities will be surrounded by a landscaped walking path and public art. With Perkins + Will Architects selected for the Phase 1 Design, Sundt Construction was contracted for the build.
Among the project’s many complexities, assembling the building form of the recreation center had been a puzzle of literal proportions. Constructed of concrete tilt-up panels, Sundt Construction leveraged their knowledge of concrete, as the panels were constructed on-site, framed, reinforced, cast, and erected as the building’s primary structure and exterior skin.
“The challenge in these precast panels begins with their unusual shape,” shares Sundt Construction Project Manager Enrique Esplain, of the Z-shaped monolithic, exterior wall sections, which are 40 feet tall and 18 feet wide. “We are used to casting concrete panels this large, but the awkward angles made them hard to lift and hard to erect. Color is also an issue. There is an inconsistency received on the finish with site-cast concrete. This is based on placement, weather, casting techniques, timing, and application of curing compounds and bond breakers. The City didn’t want grey concrete, so we needed to come up with something that feels very much like El Paso.”
Colorized concrete can be achieved in many different ways including adding an integral color to the concrete mix before it is poured or applying any of many different types of dyes, paints, or stains to the concrete after it has cured. Initially, in El Paso, the design called for using an integral color, which is one of the most common ways of adding color to concrete. By adding color pigment admixtures to the concrete before it is poured, contractors are generally able to create a layered sense of color that results in a multi-tonal appearance similar to natural stone. After developing two different 3’ x3’ panel mock-ups using integral color mixes that didn’t secure the City of El Paso’s approval, the Sundt team recommended trying a stain instead.
Sundt Construction approached Bomanite Licensee, Bomanite Artistic Concrete, about doing an acid stain on the concrete panels for the Beast Urban Park. Bomanite Artistic Concrete was thrilled with the opportunity to participate in such a dynamic public commission. The process of staining the panels began with clearly establishing the city’s desired aesthetic, which was less than exact in the beginning. Bomanite Artistic Concrete’s President Aaron Echaniz noted that “the City wanted a treatment that made the panels fit in with the surrounding landscape but also complements the unique, very modern architecture. We did several different mock-ups before finally settling on a treatment that falls somewhere between deep rust and old leather.”
The chosen solution was Bomanite’s Patène Artectura System, a topically-applied coloration system that simulates a semi-weathered, antiquing effect. Because the acid-based stain was to be applied to the panels once they were tilted-up in their final place, the process for staining them had to be dialed in and approved before the work could begin. Using a compressor and an industrial sprayer, the acid-based Patène Artectura was sprayed on the vertical panels by hand working from the top down. Workers had to be very mindful of maintaining a consistent distance between the sprayer and the panels to eliminate unintended blotching while troweling away any drips.
“On the technical side, one thing that was really important was prepping each panel to receive the stain,” says Echaniz of the process’s potential complications. Burs were carefully scraped off panels before each was thoroughly sandblasted to open the concrete’s pores so that the stain could fully penetrate the surface. Once the stain was applied, an acrylic sealant was added to give the colorized panels a fade-free permanence that will last a lifetime in El Paso’s arid climate.
“We are very proud to be a part of this magnificent project” finishes Echaniz of his firm’s role in El Paso’s newest park, which is expected to open to the public in 2021. “Craftsmanship is very important in our work and this community-enhancing project is going to bring a lot of joy to the people of El Paso for generations to come.”
Bomanite Artistic Concrete received the Gold Award for the Best Bomanite Toppings Systems Project for their dedication in exceptional solutions to concrete challenges of all sorts and scales.