Engineer helps Pinnacle Bank Arena arise in her hometown -
Published Saturday, June 15, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:40 pm
Engineer helps Pinnacle Bank Arena arise in her hometown

While studying architecture and civil engineering in her hometown of Lincoln, Erleen Hatfield sat through plenty of speeches and picked up tips from professionals in the field.

Two decades later, the New York-based partner at international engineering firm Buro Happold has come full circle to share some of her own expertise.

She's leading a structural engineering team working on the 16,000-seat Pinnacle Bank Arena, the new home of Husker basketball to be completed in August.

Making a mark on one of Lincoln's most transformational projects has meant monthly work trips to her hometown over the past year and a half, most recently this weekend to check on the scoreboard, catwalks and other structural details. It also had her kicking off a popular lecture series for the UNL College of Architecture, and fielding questions like those she once posed to pros ahead of her.

Find the latest in local business and development, from who's saying
what to what's going in at that corner,
in the Money Talks blog.

“Twenty years ago I was sitting in their seat, listening to speakers and learning from them,” said Hatfield, 45. “For me to go back and actually speak was an honor, a thrill.”

Overall, she said, her greatest personal satisfaction will be in knowing the progress the arena will spur in the West Haymarket District.

As a kid growing up in the capital city, she recalls little action in the area that is to become an entertainment and restaurant district with condos and an $800,000 digital screen called the Cube where movies would be broadcast.

“There wasn't much there,” Hatfield said. “The train station was a train station. To see this transformation is fantastic.”

Hatfield — who graduated from UNL with a bachelor's in architectural studies in 1991 and a master's in civil engineering in 1996 — actually was born in Ohio but was raised since elementary school in Lincoln, so she considers herself a Nebraskan. She has worked worldwide and now is Buro Happold's regional discipline leader for structural engineering in North America.

She also was a project manager in the construction of Omaha's CenturyLink Center, which opened in 2003, an assignment Hatfield pursued largely because it was in her home state.

When she started hearing rumblings of a possible arena even closer to her childhood stomping grounds, she was dogged about playing a role. “Back before it was even a project,” Hatfield said, she placed strategic calls to see if there was something she could help out on.

Hatfield's Burro Happold team worked closely with DLR Group, whose architectural work she praised.

Specializing in the structural design of sports facilities, Hatfield also is a frequent lecturer on new technologies, including Building Information Modeling, which played a pivotal part in the creation of the Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Using BIM technology, the team developed solutions that allowed the project to be built in two consecutive parts, a necessary feat as the arena site was on rail lines that were still in use and wouldn't be fully removed until after the project was in full swing.

Faced with a time schedule, the arena was planned in a way that most construction could take place as tracks were removed. A concrete structure went up in the center where no tracks impeded progress, and the outer structure was made of steel that was prefabricated off site and assembled after the edges of the site were cleared of tracks.

The resulting “hybrid” structure makes the facility somewhat unique among sports arenas, Hatfield said.

“By finding this clever way of concrete and steel, it allowed the arena to be built on schedule,” she said.

As Hatfield prepared for her latest visit, she marveled at its potential impact on the city where her parents and brother still live.

“How exciting this is for Lincoln and the university,” she said. “For me to be able to do this in my hometown is really, really satisfying.”

Contact the writer:


Contact the writer: Cindy Gonzalez    |   402-444-1224    |  

Cindy covers residential and commercial real estate, economic development, tourism and hotels, and immigration issues related to businesses.

OSHA: Union Pacific must reinstate worker who reported injuries suffered on job
Hy-Vee opens its first Omaha Market Cafe
West Corp.'s 1st-quarter profits up 33 percent
Stock market ‘not rigged,’ TD Ameritrade CEO says
No 'bear' qualifies to ask Warren Buffett questions at this year's Berkshire meeting
'Main street' concept takes shape at Sterling Ridge
First lady announcing one-stop job site for vets
Powdered alcohols no longer have label approvals
'We have a serious problem in Nebraska': PSC discusses concerns over Uber, Lyft
Recycle that old computer at free event
Proposed 5% hike in cab fares meets reluctant state transportation official
Secondhand shop-hop is this week
Electrical supplier 3E moves
Family Great Outdoors Day planned at La Vista Cabela’s
New law means no sales tax on coins, bullion
Nebraska banking and finance director to retire
Valmont earnings dip after record 2013 sales
America’s middle class no longer on top of world
Sales of new U.S. homes plunge 14.5 percent in March
Earnings roundup: McDonald's profit slips as U.S. sales drop
Nebraska Crossing Outlets stores, layout
State regulator tells 2 ride services eyeing Omaha, Lincoln to cease and desist
Google signs deal with MidAmerican Energy to power Bluffs data center
Supreme Court conflicted on Aereo’s streaming TV service
'Being frugal counts': Student pays for college with pennies
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Tokyo Sushi
$5 for $10 or $10 for $20 toward All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Purchase
Buy Now
< >
Inside Business
To submit an announcement for "Inside Business", click here. For questions call (402) 444-1371 or e-mail
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »