Tight Spaces and Tight Deadlines Are No Match for Cat Customers Inside the State Farm Center

How do you get several 10-foot-tall excavators through a tunnel that’s only nine feet, six inches high? That’s just one of the challenges faced by contractors working inside the State Farm Center on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“It sounds like it’s a large place, but it’s actually very tight,” says Jamie Powell, president of JP Excavating & Trucking, one of those contractors and a long-time Cat customer. “There are lots of trades, lots of companies working in there.”

Another Cat customer, Penhall, got the work started by demolishing the existing concrete inside the arena, which serves as the home court for the Fighting Illini men’s and women’s basketball teams. The JP Excavating & Trucking team is now hard at work removing dirt, rock and sand and getting the site ready for the next set of contractors. Both companies needed big excavators to get their respective jobs done—and that brings us back to that small tunnel.

“We looked at all kinds of approaches. Could we use more smaller excavators instead? Could we tow in an excavator somehow?” says Cody McCabe, a salesperson for the local Cat® dealer, Altorfer. “Eventually, one of the mechanics in our shop came up with an idea that allowed us to partially disassemble two 320D LRR Excavators, bring them through the tunnel and reassemble them on the other side. For two different contractors to rent the same machines for the same project is unusual, but in this case it was the best solution for everyone involved.”

Powell wasn’t surprised that Altorfer went above and beyond to help her company and Penhall find an answer. She’s been a Cat customer for eight years, largely because of the support she receives and the attitude of the people she works with.

“As a woman and a minority in this line of work, I get talked down to a lot,” she says. “Caterpillar is the only company that has gone out of its way to make me feel accepted. They’re open and willing to do whatever it takes to make me a better contractor.”

That support has been critical on the State Farm Center project. Renovations inside the arena—which include the addition of premium seating and state-of-the-art player facilities—face tight deadlines as well tight spaces. The team at JP Excavating & Trucking is working six days a week, two shifts a day, using multiple Cat machines: two excavators, two skid steers, a backhoe loader and a wheel loader. It’s essential that they all stay up and running.

“Altorfer’s been very diligent in making sure I have every piece of equipment I need available,” Powell says. “They’ve given us 24/7 attention and been with us every step of the way. Both Caterpillar and Altorfer are playing a tremendous role in our success on this project.”

For McCabe and the rest of the team at Altorfer, it’s all in a day’s work.

“It’s been a thrill to work through these challenges,” he says. “As a salesperson, that’s what gets me out of bed every day. We all take a lot of pride in the fact that we were able to accomplish something no one else could and do it smoothly.”

Likewise, Powell is taking pride in the fact that her small, family-owned business is finding success on such a large, high-profile project.

“As a local company, we’re very proud to be associated with the State Farm Center renovations,” she says. “It’s the biggest job we’ve ever done, and I can’t wait to see the end result.”

Cat customers Penhall and JP Excavating & Trucking are working inside the State Farm Center on the University of Illinois campus, prepping the arena for renovations that include premium seating and state-of-the-art player facilities.

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320D LRR Excavator

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