At nearly 180,000 square feet, Mohegan Sun’s Casino of the Earth was unveiled in 1996.

Mohegan Sun, owned by the Mohegan Indian tribe, is a gaming, entertainment, meeting, dining and shopping establishment in Uncasville, Conn. At nearly 180,000 square feet, Mohegan Sun’s Casino of the Earth was unveiled in 1996. In September 2001, Mohegan Sun opened the 115,000-square-foot Casino of the Sky.

This addition made Mohegan Sun one of the largest gaming complexes in the world. It features more than 300,000 square feet of gaming space, a 1,200-room luxury hotel tower, a 20,000-square-foot spa, a 130,000-square-foot retail area, and 29 restaurants and food and beverage outlets. Mohegan Sun also has three entertainment venues including a 10,000-seat arena and more than 100,000 square feet of meeting and function space. There are also a 10,000-square-foot indoor pool and a 17,500-square-foot outdoor sun terrace.

Mohegan Sun features tribal-inspired designs that highlight the Mohegan’s culture and their emphasis on the importance of the four seasons in the cycle of life. Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates designed the complex’s exterior and the luxury hotel tower, while Rockwell Group was responsible for the gaming space, retail and restaurant promenade and hotel lobby. Hirsch Bedner Associates designed the hotel interiors and meeting spaces.

An example of these tribal-inspired designs is the 34-story hotel, one of the tallest buildings in Connecticut. As explained on Mohegan Sun’s Web site, the hotel reflects the Mohegan tribe’s sensitivity to the natural landscape and pays homage to the geological and natural forms present on the property’s riverfront site. Its three-winged structure features a crystalline-like exterior that was inspired by the rock and smoky quartz crystal that the Mohegans used to fashion arrowheads and ceremonial objects.

Another example is the glass curtain-wall system around the hotel’s exterior that reflects the surrounding area. The geometry of the hotel and large windows provide panoramic views of the Thames River and surrounding New England landscape. In addition, the faceted tower’s form and the reflectivity of the exterior glass follow the orientation of the sun throughout the day and reflect the changes in seasons. Mohegan Sun also has the world’s largest fully functional planetarium dome. Measuring 150 feet across, it incorporates fiber-optic technology to project displays of constellations, sun cycles and clouds. In Mohegan tradition, stars are considered living beings and their movements guide traditional Mohegan ways of life. Finally, Taughannick Falls is a 55-foot high indoor waterfall flowing down to Chahnameed’s Island, which is named after a historic Mohegan figure.

Master of the Game

For such a complicated, high-profile construction project, it was obviously important to find just the right roofer. Silktown Roofing, Manchester, Conn., was chosen to take part in this 4-million-square-foot expansion. Founded in 1984 with six employees and a couple of trucks, Silktown now employs 320 people and uses fully computerized accounting, inventory and estimating systems. The company has also invested in state-of-the-art equipment like specialized cranes and high-powered vacuum systems. Its crews are skilled at all types of roofing, including commercial flat roofing, steep roofing, metal roofing and elastomeric coatings. The company also does waterproofing, damp proofing, traffic coatings, air barriers, metal-wall-panel systems, composite-wall-panel systems and specialty sheet metal.

President John McConville emphasizes service and workmanship, using only warranted materials that the company sees as having achieved consistent, superior inspection ratings. Safety is also a top priority. Silktown has a separate and independent safety division. All employees attend a safety orientation program where they learn about the company’s policies, hazard communications standards, fall protection and personal protection measures. Training is ongoing with weekly toolbox talks and monthly seminars. The safety officer reviews all new projects and explains safety objectives to each crew prior to beginning a project. Moreover, the safety officer reviews the projects daily and makes any necessary changes.

Know When to Hold ‘Em

Silktown first became involved on the Mohegan Sun project in the fall of 1999. The company was a subcontractor for a Mohegan Indian-owned company called Shantok Roofing. “We bid in conjunction with them – (they were mostly on paper and we did the paperwork!),” explains Chuck Arnold, project manager for Silktown. The bid documents included preference for minority-owned and Indian-owned business participation. If such a company was within 5 percent higher than the (lowest) “regular” bidder, that company would get the job. However, that rule did not come in to play and was not the reason Silktown got the job.

Silktown’s bid was successful, according to Arnold, because of all the different types of work that the company can do, such as damproofing, waterproofing, metal wall panels, etc. In addition to the massive expansion project, Silktown did some reroofing and renovation work on Mohegan Sun as well. The job started in early spring 2000. “We started with waterproofing and damproofing work,” explains Arnold. “In fact, we had to do an emergency mud mat — they found themselves within 5 feet of the water table putting in the elevator shaft.”

At the peak time of the project in summer of 2001, Silktown was doing waterpoofing, standing-seam metal, flat roofing and specialty sheet metal work. This required 65 men a day, whereas normally it would be 20.

Silktown’s original contract was for foundation waterproofing, but crews ended up doing 1,400 total squares of water proofing, including 30,000 square feet of specialized waterproofing around the interior waterfall, river, reflecting pool and main swimming pool as well. And of course, Silktown did all the roofing on the project. The flat roof portion was GAF Material Corp.’s mechanically attached 60-mil reinforced PVC over two layers of 1.5-inch iso. The new roofing areas were 5,500 squares, and with renovations, roofing work amounted to well over 6,000 squares.

As part of roofing portion of the job, Silktown did all of the carpentry and flashing, as well as building “miles and miles” of parapet walls that averaged 5 feet high. “We also did all the standing-seam metal using IMETCO’s structural panels,” says Arnold. “It was difficult work. We were using 60-foot long panels on near-vertical surfaces. They soared as high as 80 feet at the top elevation.” Silktown used boom lifts (as large as 110 feet) to get the panels into place. “It was an all-union job,” Arnold explains. “So for most of the equipment (anything with a seat) we had to use the operating engineers union.”

Both GAF and IMETCO products were proposed as value-engineered alternatives to the base bid. “GAF was aggressive with their material pricing and offered a 20-year ‘edge-to-edge’ warranty,” Arnold explains. “IMTECO also provided aggressive pricing and the capability to match the specified color and finish. Both manufacturers were ultimately chosen by the owner’s representative, as they were not necessarily the least expensive of the value-engineered [options] offered.”

Beating the Odds

Challenges on the job included working with all the other trades. There were also a lot of areas to access. “We had to coordinate getting materials to the different areas,” says Arnold. Overall though, “We ended up driving the job. Once we got roofing done, other subs had to work harder and longer. We were pushing the metal deck and steel erectors. As soon as an area was dried-in, [the construction manager] told the other guys to get going.”

Silktown did the hotel towers, which had a top elevation of 455 feet. “There were three towers and seven different roof elevations,” Arnold explains. “All were done with pavers and an inverted roof system. An interlocking paver system on top was difficult because of the towers’ roof pitch of 3:12. We had to do all the framing on the interior of the parapet walls, which were 6 feet high. We did the flashing with GAF PVC.”

The 110-square pool terrace had pavers and an inverted roof. “It had huge, odd-shaped planters all around so we had to cut a lot of pavers, and they were all radius cuts to go around the planters. We also waterproofed the terrace.”

The list of tasks Silktown completed for this project is seemingly endless. “We also did all the louvers (15 by 200 feet),” continues Arnold. “We built plenum boxes around them that you could stand up and walk around in. Then we had to waterproof them. We also did specialty metal work on the inside. You can’t see it, but we did the light shields. We had to do a lot of work while the casino was open and so we had to do it at 4:00 in the morning. We also did a vapor barrier and fireproofing for the interior shaft walls — they were 15 feet wide, 15 to 20 feet long and went up 60 feet.”

After all that, the flat roof GAF PVC job was pretty straightforward. Although after Silktown built some of the roof areas, there were changes made to the design, so crews had to go back and redo them.

When the Dealing’s Done

Arnold was the project manager on the job and was there a majority of the time. Field Superintendent Jimmy Mayo was also on the job, and, according to Arnold, Mayo made things a lot easier by his hard work. “On his first day — I had been there for six months already — I was showing him around because we were ready to start roofing. I told him that he’d probably lose 10 pounds on the project because it was so huge and we were working in so many different areas,” says Arnold. “Sometimes I would go to work on the roof and never make it. One day early in the project, we were working on one of the highest roofs. To get there you had to go up 70-foot stairs then up two 40-foot ladders, across another roof, then up the standing seam roof … I started up six times but never made it to the highest point! I’d have to deal with something in another area and have to go all the way back down … I went through four pairs of boots on the project!”

What did Silktown learn from this experience besides the importance of being in shape and having sturdy work boots? “If we had another job like this we would have a full-time setup on the site,” says Arnold. “We did have a small trailer for storage. But you have to be there all the time. This was a design-build project and we kept getting updated drawings. We had to check them carefully for changes, or it would cost us money in the end.”

But in terms of money, Silktown definitely came out ahead. “Our base waterproofing contract started at $200,000 and ended up being $1 million,” Arnold explains. “Roofing for the flat-roof portion started at $1.6 million, but with the standing seam portion went up to $2.4 million. Overall, it was an $8 million job. We established a lot of good relationships and have gotten good referrals.” Silktown finished the job in Sept. 2002 and, at press time, in an indication of the owner’s satisfaction level, the company was going back to do another roof.