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Construction Bids Sought for S.D. Convention Center

Times Staff Writer

San Diego’s $125-million waterfront convention center moved another important step toward reality Tuesday when the Unified Port District’s commissioners voted to solicit construction bids.

If all goes according to plan, bids will be submitted by Feb. 5, and a final selection will be made by March 17.

After the notice for competitive bids is advertised on Monday, contractors who ask for it will receive an avalanche of paper work consisting of 2,200 pages of specifications and 825 construction drawings, weighing a combined 120 pounds, according to John Wilbur, the Port District’s chief engineer.

Interest is already high, Wilbur said, noting that inquiries have been received from contractors as far away as New York City and Atlanta.

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The total construction budget for the 1.4-million-square-foot structure is $125 million, including contingencies, architectural fees, furniture, equipment and fixtures. Of that amount, $5.1 million is being spent now for the excavation and preparation of the 11-acre site at the foot of 5th Avenue, just south of Seaport Village.

The next phase is the construction of the structure itself at a cost of $101.5 million. Soliciting of bids for that phase was approved unanimously Tuesday by the district’s Port Commission.

Included along with the base construction bid will be 10 alternative bid items. The Port District hopes through those items to improve the basic structure by adding, among other things, a $4.8-million tent to cover a rooftop terrace, more elevators and more restrooms.

Architects for the Port District are hoping that bids come in 2% to 3% lower than the $101.5-million second-phase construction cost, allowing the Port District to use the savings to upgrade the center.

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This hope is based on a general softening in the construction business, especially for large projects, leading to more competitive bidding, Ward Deems, one of the principal convention center architects, told the Port District last month.

Originally, it was predicted that the center would open in late 1987, in time to host a Super Bowl gala. The Super Bowl will be played in San Diego in January, 1988. But completion by game day was termed unrealistic by an architectural firm hired to check the center’s construction schedule.

The new estimated completion date is mid-1988.

Also behind schedule is the center’s excavation work. The excavation was supposed to have been completed by Oct. 31, but the contractor, HuntCor Inc. of Phoenix, has asked for an extension that could run more than 100 days. So far, however, Port District officials aren’t worried that the delay could affect companies bidding on the second-phase contract.

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