Engineering Presence Felt High Above Battle at Bristol As Well As on Field

While UT quarterback Joshua Dobbs, a senior in aerospace engineering, and defensive end Corey Vereen, a senior in computer science, might be the most high-profile engineers in this weekend’s Battle at Bristol football game with Virginia Tech, UT engineering is responsible for one of the most visible aspects at the game—literally.

The instillation of “Colossus,” the massive 700-ton high-resolution TV that hangs over the field, required a company experienced in such large-scale projects.

A look at the Colossus TV at Bristol Motor Speedway.

A look at the Colossus TV at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Thanks to its history with massive construction and installation jobs, Barnhart Crane—headed by 1983 UT civil engineering graduate Alan Barnhart—was hired do the job.

“Barnhart is known for bringing solutions to complicated rigging challenges, so when presented with the installation of Colossus, we knew we had to be involved because of a certain historic football game that was to be played,” said Barnhart’s Vice President of Development Brian Thomas, a 1985 chemical engineering graduate of UT.

“UT’s College of Engineering and the university as a whole have had a major influence on our company though our owner and president Alan Barnhart and senior leadership such as Jeff Swanson, who have seen the company grow from twenty-five employees back in Memphis in the mid-1980s to over 1,200 employees in over forty-five locations throughout the US today.”

According to Bristol Motor Speedway officials, about forty miles of cable and fiber optic lines were required, with the largest such cable weighing in at sixty-three pounds per foot.

While the same officials noted that the main suspension lines are larger than those supporting the Golden Gate Bridge, the job wasn’t merely about heavy lifting.

The nature of the fiber optics and the 485-speaker sound system meant that the installation had to be technically precise as well.

“The biggest challenge was the installation of suspension cables that were 3.5 inches in diameter and more than six hundred feet long, with each connected to a suspended halo 160 feet over the infield,” said Thomas. “All of that had to be done simultaneously, without any touching the ground, with limited planning time to mobilize the required equipment and personnel.”

Barnhart Crane’s expertise in such work has earned it a number of national awards, including three Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association awards in 2015 alone, more than any other company.

Bristol officials said that one of the biggest fears—that a punt or pass might strike the TV—were unfounded, noting that the sheer scope of the speedway meant that the screen would be positioned well out of reach of any errant footballs.

 

CONTACT:

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)