Dick Laurance was named UVA’s project director for construction administration in 1992, and has been building full steam ahead ever since. He’s overseen many giant construction projects in his day (including the Scott Stadium expansion), but none was bigger than the recently completed $129 million John Paul Jones Arena. We sat down to ask him all about it.
C-VILLE: The JPJ was one of the biggest projects UVA has ever attempted—how challenging was it to get it up on time and on budget?
Dick Laurance: The key in this whole business is, do you have the right people in the right place, in the right time, to make the right decisions? That’s how we were able to keep it on budget… The actual arena took 34 months to complete, and we got occupancy on 16 June, at 3pm. Let the games begin.
The JPJ was funded entirely through private donations. Did that effect the building process at all?
Nope, not at all. My job was not to worry about raising the money, my job was about spending the money.
You recently had a “super flush,” where volunteers flushed every toilet in the arena at the same time. Were you ever afraid you might need the world’s biggest plunger?
No, no, my test went pretty good. We had 60 people—they all got certificates, by the way.
Do you do that on every project?
Yeah, I’ve always done it…I knew one place that is relatively new to the State of Virginia, I won’t tell you where. They didn’t do it. They suffered on the first event. Because they did the first flush at halftime, and the rest of the game was not too good. You gotta be ready for those halftimes, because everybody’s gotta flush.
You’re retiring soon—what are your plans?
I’m just gonna stay here, enjoy life here, I’ve got all my grandkids up in Northern Virginia, so the wife and I will be visiting a lot. And watching UVA basketball, football, baseball. We’re gonna have a few concerts that we’re gonna go to. First one, Cirque du Soleil, I just got the tickets.