Mayor Chris Beutler picked the construction team that came in second on a scoring system used by a selection committee to rank companies vying to build Lincoln's West Haymarket arena.
The Sampson-Turner team was a nose ahead on the score card, with a 95.03 average score compared to Mortenson-Hampton team's 94.55.
"A statistical dead heat," was what Public Works Director Greg MacLean called the scoring just before the mayor explained his reasons for picking Minnesota-based Mortenson Construction to work with the local Hampton Industries.
Beutler said the tipping point centered around two goals: getting the work done on time and under budget.
The goal is to have the arena open for the University of Nebraska's fall 2013 basketball season.
Mortenson has some critical experience in dealing with railroads, and specifically with Burlington Northern Santa Fe, when it built the Minnesota Twins Target Field, said Beutler.
The company built a portion of the stadium seating over the BNSF mainline, "with 14 commuter trains a day going by as they were constructing the whole thing," the mayor said.
"It seemed to me that experience gave them a slight edge, in terms of getting it done on time."
Mortenson also provided a much lower estimate for its earnings on the job -- $8.17 million compared with $14.45 million for the Sampson-Turner team. Turner Construction is based in New York; Sampson Construction is local.
Although the estimates were not an apple-to-apple comparison, Beutler said, "there was some meaning in the way they (Mortenson) addressed their initial cost estimates."
The estimates were a "very good sign," he said.
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The three-member Joint Public Agency, which includes Beutler, ratified selection of the Mortenson-Hampton team as the construction manager at risk for the arena during a brief meeting Wednesday.
Mortenson will work with architects and others to design the arena, which is expected to cost around $130 million.
When that design is 60 percent complete, the company will provide a guaranteed price for construction.
Beutler said his decision was based on his assessment of the national companies, not the local companies that were partners.
The national companies were the ones with experience in large arena projects, he said.
"I will hold the big company responsible."
Joe Hampton said his company's job will be to coordinate the use of local workers and be Mortenson's "eyes and ears in Lincoln."
The 11-member selection committee read the proposals, interviewed company representatives and scored each of the four competing companies on seven criteria, ranging from reputation and integrity to financial resources and quality of performance on previous projects.
The score cards should be available Thursday at www.lincoln.ne.gov, under West Haymarket JPA.
Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.