Chattanooga, Tennessee is home to the Tennessee Aquarium.  We are remarkably fortunate to have this “fish tank” for many reasons.  First and foremost, the Aquarium has demonstrated one significant fact—it was the anchor for Chattanooga’s renaissance.  Chattanooga is no longer just a stop on your way to Florida.  It has become a destination for hundreds of thousands of non-citizens on an annual basis.  The aquarium gives tourists and residents something to do during and on week days and weekends.  The digital picture below will give you some idea as to the striking design of the facility.

It is hard to believe this week marks the twenty-fifth (25) anniversary of the aquarium.  I can remember the time prior to construction when many wondered whether or not the facility could support itself with visitors.  How would the City pay the employees?  How would the city maintain the facility?  Why take up precious land when it could be used for manufacturing and production?  All of these questions and more were asked—and answered.

The Tennessee Aquarium has been at the epicenter of the city’s downtown revival.  That fact is reflected with the knowledge that since its opening on May 1, 1992, more than twenty-three (23) million people have visited what has become, by far, the region’s biggest attraction.  In my opinion, the exhibits are much better than the aquarium in Atlanta and the Smokies. (Just my opinion.)

Let’s take a look at several facts that will highlight this marvelous addition to our city.

  • A new economic study estimates those visitors have pumped nearly $3.3 billion into Hamilton County’s economy and helped spur more than $5 billion in private investment downtown. Last year alone, out-of-state tourists coming to visit the Tennessee Aquarium are estimated to have had an economic impact totaling $115.7 million, according to a study by the University of Tennessee’s Center for Sustainable Business and Development.
  • As you can see from the following graphic, the aquarium is just where it should be— right downtown.

Before the aquarium was built, you could go downtown and there would not be one soul on Broad or Market streets.  Broad and Market and the “main drags” in Chattanooga.  Today, those downtown streets are filled with people, even on most weeknights, and most of that has to do with what began with the aquarium.  After 6:00 P.M. any night, go downtown and try to find a parking spot on the street.  The garages have ample parking but on the streets-not so much.  The aquarium has also attracted a huge number of restaurants, bars, food trucks, dance halls, etc etc.  The vision our community leaders had to transform our city began with the aquarium, and without the aquarium we would not be where we are today.

  • The aquarium employs more than two hundred (200) people with seven hundred and fifty (750) volunteers.
  • The facility is home to more than twelve thousand (12,000) animals representing eight hundred (800) species.
  • Annual revenues = $25.2 million.
  • Mitch Patel, president of Chattanooga-based Vision Hospitality Corp., credits the aquarium for much of the growth in the city’s $1 billion-a-year tourism industry.
  • The aquarium’s educational and research mission has expanded its scope and footprint to add research and conservation institutes and extra attractions, such as the IMAX Theater, Ocean Discovery saltwater tanks and the River Gorge Explorer boat trips in the Tennessee River gorge.
  • Chattanooga downtown boosters also have added to its appeal with the development of Coolidge, Renaissance and the Tennessee Riverwalk parks; the Children’s Discovery Museum; the Walnut Street and Holmberg pedestrian bridges; the AT&T baseball stadium for the Chattanooga Lookouts, the expansion of the Hunter Museum of American Art and growth of the Bluff View Art District, among other successes.
  • There has been $5 billion of private investment in our downtown area since 1992, including a billion dollars of projects announced in the past year and a half. That’s just extraordinary, but it shows the power of finding what is authentic and fits your community. That’s what the aquarium has been for Chattanooga.

As a catalyst for growth, the aquarium and other attractions helped to increase the hotel business in Hamilton County nearly fourfold. In 1991, the last full year before the aquarium opened, Hamilton County hotels captured forty-seven ($47) million in total revenues. Last year they generated $187 million in revenues, according to the Hamilton County Trustee’s Office and before the aquarium opened, the only major hotel built downtown in decades was the Marriott, which that opened in 1986 next to the Trade Center. For a major city, even a small city such as Chattanooga, this is big.   Since 1992, more than a dozen hotels have been added across Chattanooga, and more than $140 million in new hotels are being built or in the pipeline in Hamilton County, including five luxury or boutique hotels downtown.

“Jack’s fish tank” questioned

As mentioned above, some were initially skeptical of the aquarium idea, which was proposed by architectural students at the Urban Design Studio in 1981 and later embraced as one of the goals in the community planning process organized by Chattanooga Venture in the 1980s. When the aquarium was pitched to then-Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander among a group of community projects, he urged local leaders, including Chattanooga Coca-Cola magnate Jack Lupton, to make the attraction distinctive and world-class.   Lupton, Chairman of the Lyndhurst Foundation and other backers agreed to build the facility with private money and contributed ten ($10) million from the foundation and eleven ($11) million of his own money.  He also led the forty-five ($45) million fundraising drive.

The Tennessee Aquarium was designed by Cambridge Seven Associates, which had previously designed the National Aquarium in Baltimore and the New England Aquarium in Boston, to tell the story of aquatic life from the headwaters of the Smoky Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico. The 130,000-square-foot River Journey structure is the equivalent of a 12-story building and follows the path of a raindrop from high in the Appalachian Mountains to the ocean.  The digitals below will give you some idea as to what’s inside.

Many of its tanks and exhibits bear the names of corporate or individual donors. Memberships, admission fees and ongoing capital campaigns help pay to operate and expand the aquarium and support its educational research and outreach.

The 21st Century Waterfront, which included the thirty ($30) million Ocean Journey structure built in 2005, revamped the Ross’s Landing are to include a riverfront park, walkway, pier and boat docks, opening up the waterfront to pedestrians and Chattanooga’s downtown to boats.

The aquarium quickly won over most skeptics, topping its first-year attendance goal of 650,000 people within its first four months and topping out at nearly 1.5 million visitors in the first year. It consistently has ranked among the nation’s top aquariums in visitor satisfaction surveys. Please keep in mind the population of Chattanooga is 167, 674.  This will give you some perspective as to why the facility is so very important to our city.  How many other communities of our size can say they attract over a million visitors per year?  Think about and then, plan your next trip to Chattanooga.

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TOO HARD?

September 7, 2012


Each year the Princeton Review publishes lists of colleges and universities that excel in specific areas of the “university experience”.   They actually conduct polls to question attending students relative to activities that might seem irrelevant to education but none the less very important to students.  I certainly recommend this web site to you.  It has a wealth of information.    Questions are asked regarding several categories as follows:

  • Great Financial Aid
  • Best Career Services
  • Most Religious Students
  • LGBT  Friendly
  • Best Town Life
  • Schools by Type
  • Most Politically Active
  •  Best  College Dorms
  •  Most Beautiful Campus
  • Lots of Greek Life
  • Reefer Madness (Can’t imagine what this one is like.)

 There are also sub-listings such as the ones below:

  • Students Who Study the Most
  • Students Who Study the Least
  • Least Accessible Professors
  •  Best Party Schools
  •  Stone-cold Sober Schools
  • Most Unhappy Students
  • Happiest Students

 It is really fascinating to me that year after year the least happy students seem to be attending schools that are generally known for engineering or STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curricula.  The Review goes into significant detail regarding the categories and represents an “illuminating” read if you have already had the “university experience”.   The two lists below will show those schools making the “good” list and those making the “bad” list.

 

The Princeton Review’s “Least Happy Students” List

  1. Montana Tech of the University of Montana ( School of Mines and Engineering)
  2. Marywood University(Scranton, Pa)
  3. New Jersey Institute of Technology
  4. United States Merchant Marine Academy
  5. Indiana University of Pennsylvania
  6. United States Naval Academy
  7. Clarkson University( Potsdam, NY)
  8. Illinois Institute of Technology
  9. University of Maine
  10. City University of New York — Baruch College

The Princeton Review’s “Happiest Students” List

  1. Rice University
  2. Bowdoin College(Brunswick, Me)
  3. University of California — Santa Barbara
  4. Clemson University
  5. Vanderbilt University
  6. Claremont McKenna College ( Claremont,Ca)
  7. Thomas Aquinas College (Santa Paula, Ca)
  8. Kansas State University
  9. University of Southern California
  10. Pomona College

 When engineering students are interviewed as to their dislikes we hear the same general comments.

                “This stuff is really hard.”

                “I study all the time.”

                “I had no idea it would be this involved.”

                “The labs kill me.”

                 “I have no beer time.”

                “No time to party like the other students.”

                “My daddy made me go into engineering.”

When I attended the University of Tennessee we had classes on MWF, TuThurs, TuThursSat.  Yes, Saturday classes and it WAS hard but we thought it was supposed to be.  The drop-out rate and transfer rate was north of 50% the first year. My junior and senior classes rarely had more than ten students at the very most.  I understand other disciplines such as engineering physics, materials and nuclear engineering had even fewer students in each classroom during those last two years.   One good thing—if you survived to your second semester junior year, the professors knew you were serious about the subject matter and graduation.    Very few students dropped out or failed their senior year.  The teachers always gave you access and time and worked hard to get you over the finish line.  By that time, you had a reputation, for better or worse, and the professors knew you.   They knew what to expect from each student.  They knew you put in the hours.  They knew you were hard-core and intended to graduate regardless.  

I feel we have become a society in which rigor and discipline, for the most part, have dropped by the wayside.  I had much rather be entertained than study, but hadn’t we all?   I don’t know of a time when attention spans have been so short.  We feel the need to hop from one thing to another.  Multi-tasking has become uppermost in our minds for just about every endeavor.  In looking back, I can say my years at the university were well spent and have allowed me to provide for my family in a nice fashion.  4.0 GPA—forget about it!  Never happened and did not happen to most of my fellow classmates in mechanical engineering.  A “gentleman’s C” was sometimes a hard-fought proposition and concerning finals-win, lose or draw you were very happy when they were over.   Wonder if we can, as a nation, regain the enthusiasm we once had for education, even though some courses of study remain difficult?

 

DIGITAL AGE

July 28, 2012


 I subscribe to a great magazine called “The Engineer”.  It has been published in the UK for over 150 years –all in print form.  The first edition was published in 1856 for the sole purpose of keeping the engineering community in the Crown informed relative to developments in engineering fields and related technology.   The following statement was recently made by Jon Excell, editor-in-chief of the magazine:

“The pressures on print publications are well known.  Increasing distribution and production costs, and the impact of an ongoing economic crisis on advertising revenues, have conspired to create a challenging environment for all magazine publications.  At the same time, rise of the internet with its global reach, low publication costs, and unfulfilled communication potential presents some truly exciting opportunities.” 

The announcement continued to state that as of July 16, 2012, the last print version of the “Engineer” would be available.  From that date, only digital versions of the magazine would be published.  It is a matter of survival.   I think what we are seeing with the “Engineer” is the direction we are headed with publication in general.  I’m not saying books will disappear from shelves but we are seeing with devices such as the NOOK, Kindle, i-PAD and the new HP tablet the probable direction mass publications will take.  All you have to do is examine the monthly or annual costs of digital vs. print and you can see where the future lies.   Several newspapers and magazine publication in the United States have made this transition already.

 I have a great friend and neighbor who teaches at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee.    This is a private boys’ school; sixth grade through twelfth grade.  We were doing some “front-yard” talking this past week relative to the start of the 2012-2013 school year.   Eric (my neighbor) indicated that McCallie would be initiating a pilot program to evaluate e-readers instead of hard-bound text books.  The estimated savings was phenomenal.  I mean thousands of dollars when you consider damage, obsolesce, lost books, etc etc.  The students would be furnished e-readers for this purpose with the text and related subject matter downloaded for specific classes.    This will be a two year program in which student, parent and teacher reaction will be evaluated.  The consensus of opinion is a gradual, i.e. three year, movement to e-readers. 

Another fascinating “event” talking place at my youngest grandson’s school is the removal of all chalk blackboards.  These blackboards will be replaced with “digital blackboards” that will access the internet so that educational “streaming” can occur, including video taken and produced by the school itself.  The blackboards work on the very same principal we see when viewing the nightly news or local weather.  The ability of the teacher or student to “write on the board” will be available and provide excitement to the student in addition to  educational possibilities.   That naughty child slated to erase the board as punishment will vanish forever—at least at The Bright School.   Very exciting indeed.

As you can see, we are moving ever-so-quickly to embrace existing digital technology.  I think this is a marvelous direction and I champion the change although in a way, it’s really sad to see books and related publications disappear.  I can’t really imagine my Kindle laying on a coffee table with directions on how to download an e-book purchased from our recent visit to Canada or Italy.


 

Last week my wife and I visited our youngest son now living in Dallas, Texas.  (It’s really nice to have them gainfully employed and off the “payroll”.)    He is an MIS graduate from the University of Georgia and works for AT&T in their 401K area as a quality control specialist.   Monday was a tough day for him with multiple meetings so we decided to take the day and visit Dallas Cowboy Stadium.   Let me mention right now that I am a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and I went only to observe and not to praise.  The stadium is located in Arlington about forty-five minutes west of Dallas.   Fairly easy drive even with traffic.   I was not disappointed.  It is an absolutely fabulous stadium.  The architecture is stunning; the engineering is remarkable.  I’m not saying it is one of the ten wonders of the modern world, but maybe eleventh.  What I would like to do now is give you an engineer’s viewpoint relative to the structure with several observations along the way.   Let’s look at the stadium itself.

  The picture does not really do justice to the size or basic configuration.  By that I mean you cannot tell the walls are canted outward 14 degrees to enhance the mechanical design and support the massive movable panels located in the dome itself.   This structure replaced the Texas Stadium which opened in 1971 and served as the Cowboys’ home through the 2008 season.   The new stadium was completed on May 27, 2009 and seats 80,000, making it the third largest stadium in the NFL.  The maximum capacity, including standing room, is 110,000. The Party Pass (open areas) sections are behind seats in each end zone and on a series of six elevated platforms connected by stairways. The cost for “standing room only” is about $29.00 with sell-outs every game.   The original estimated cost to build the structure was $650 million dollars but the actual costs was $1.15 billion, making it one of the most expensive sports venues ever built.  The city of Arlington, the state of Texas and the NFL contributed to overall financing which made construction possible.      It is the largest domed stadium in the world, has the world’s largest column-free interior and the 2nd largest high definition video screen which hangs from 20 yard line to 20 yard line. The screen assembly is absolutely massive.  Our tour guide indicated that when the screen was positioned, the supporting beams dropped four inches due to the weight.  (The maximum calculated drop possible was eight inches.)   These screens hang ninety feet above the playing field.   Two video screens facing the sidelines each measure 72 feet high by 160 feet wide, roughly equivalent to 4,920 52-inch flat panel television screens.    LEDs serve as individual pixels for viewing and, of course, they all work in unison when operating.  That alone is an engineering marvel in my opinion. 

During a game with the Tennessee Titans, the very first year, the Tennessee kicker actually hit the screen during a forth-down punt.  This generated some concern but not enough to necessitate any real changes to elevation or positioning.   In addition to the magnificent screen, there are 3200 HD TVs located throughout the stadium for the benefit of the fans. 

The facility can also be used for a variety of other activities outside of its main purpose (professional football) such as concerts, basketball games, boxing matches, college football and high school football contests, soccer matches, and motocross races.  We were told that the previous week, there were three weddings, all on the fifty yard line and right on the Texas star.  That’s devotion.

Before we go much further, let’s give credit where credits due and look at the companies performing the work.  These are as follows:

General Contractor: Manhattan Construction, Dallas, Texas
Architect: HKS, Dallas, Texas
Structural Engineer: Walter P Moore & Assoc, Dallas, TX
Concrete Contractor: TXI Operations, LP, Dallas, Texas
Consulting Architect: Cooper Robertson & Partners, New York, NY
Contractor: Bencor Corporation of America, Dallas, TX
Contractor (steel): Desert Steel, Irving, Texas
General Contractor: 31 Construction, Dallas, Texas
Grouting/Millwrights: Derr Steel Erectors & GroutTech, Inc, Hurst, TX

You will note that all of the work, with one exception, was performed by firms within the state.  I personally think this is very admirable.  Now for interesting specifications:

Site Size: 135 Acres
Total Sq. Footage: 2.3 million
Project Est. Completion Date: June, 2009
Fixed Seating: 80,000 people
Total Capacity: 100,000 people
Total Yards, Concrete: 200,000 cu. yds.
Total Reinforced Steel: 21,000 tons
Size Moveable Roof: 661,000 sq. ft.
Ea. Mechanized Roof Panel: 63,000 sq. ft.
Ea. (2) Arched Roof Supports: 1224.5 ft. long x17 ft x 35ft
Max. Roof Height: 292 ft.
Arched Truss Weight (ea.): 3,255 tons
Video Score Board Size: 20,000 sq. ft.
Grouts Used On Arch Footers: L&M EPOGROUT 758
Total Epogrout 758 Used: 440 Cubic Feet (880 units)

The field you see below is actually three stories DOWN.  It’s subterranean.  96,000 truck loads of earth were removed prior to starting the foundation work.    Can you imagine the time it took to remove and haul that number of loads? 

The “carpet” is laid in ten yard widths with the yard-line markings stitched into the backing then adhered onto one inch open cell foam padding.  There is no “painting” on the surface at all—just stitched into the composite.  I thought this was very interesting.  If you look closely, you can see two stars in the picture.  One indicating the Cowboys’ locker room and one indicating the Cheerleader locker room.  The visiting team does not get a star to run through.   I might mention the wood used for the individual lockers is made from the same material as the wood trim in Ms. Jerry Jones’s Bentley.

The stadium’s 660,800-square-foot retractable roof can be open or closed, depending on weather conditions.  It takes 12 minutes to open or close each roof panel and the roof opening is visible from an elevation of five miles. The roof is supported by two enormous arches, soaring 292 feet and weighing 3,255 tons each.   Please go back and take a look at the first picture of the stadium and you can see the huge beams supporting the roof panels.   The roof isn’t the only thing that can be opened when the weather is nice. Cowboys Stadium has the largest retractable end zone doors in the world, measuring 120 feet high by 180 feet wide and made of glass.   You can see one end zone section below.                              

These doors allow entry for special events, such as “monster truck” demonstrations, motocross races, etc etc.

 I certainly recommend that if you are in the Dallas area you take a look at the Cowboy’s stadium.    We took the self-guided tour but there are audio tours and tour guides for visiting groups.  It truly is an engineering marvel.

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