The world's largest high-definition video board is scheduled to make its debut during Charlotte Motor Speedway's May race events.
Harrisburg's Galvan Industries, a half-century old company on N.C. 49 near the Cabarrus County line, has worked with the speedway annually for decades. It is galvanizing the 250 tons of structural steel needed to mount the nearly 16,000-square-foot screen.
Galvan's technical director David Prior said the design consists of six vertical trusses that will stand 135 feet tall. Horizontal beams, platforms and diagonal bracing will add support so the screen can withstand gusts up to 100 miles per hour.
"But this job is really just a drop in the bucket," said Prior, noting the company's work with the National Gypsum plant in Mount Holly required galvanizing 10,000 tons of steel. "But it is a unique application for what we do. Generally we're just doing generic stuff, stuff you see every day and don't even think about it."
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Laurens Willard from Charlotte owns the 51-year-old Harrisburg facility, which galvanizes about 30,000 tons of steel per year. Galvanizing is a chemical cleaning process that ends with steel dipped in a bath of molten zinc that's heated to 845 degrees. Steel melts at about 2,000 degrees.
The company's galvanized steel is part of the mansard, or angled, roof at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis. One of the parking decks at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport mimics the curve of an airplane wing using Galvan's bow-string trusses. Guardrails, light posts and sign structures along area and national highways also get galvanized by the local company.
The maintenance-free product has a lifespan of 100 years, at which point it can be galvanized again. Grandstands and other features at nearly every major speedway in the nation are constructed using galvanized steel. Z-Max Dragway's grandstands were imported from Rockingham but look virtually brand new.
Ray Yow, 43, is a Concord native and the first shift foreman in charge of galvanizing the structural framing for the video board. He's been with the company nearly 25 years and said he and about dozen other longtime Cabarrus County residents take extra pride in their local work, which will be seen by millions.
"It's one of our top projects, and we're really proud of it," he said. "A lot of these guys are sports fans and attend races so these guys take pride in it, especially when our friends and family will see it."
The video board effort is a partnership between Charlotte Motor Speedway and Panasonic and is part of the speedway's Fans-First initiative. Designed and created by Panasonic, the video board will allow fans seated throughout the front stretch from Turn 4 to Turn 1 clear viewing angles of instant replays, leader board updates and interactive entertainment displayed in 720P high-definition.
The screen will be illuminated by more than nine million LED lamps during each NASCAR race event at the speedway this spring, including the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on May 21 and the Coca-Cola 600 on May 29.
"This is the biggest Fans-First initiative we've ever had - literally," said Scott Cooper, vice president of communications for the speedway. "What's cool about this project is that it's something totally new that will revolutionize the fan experience at the Coca-Cola 600 and all of our major events.
"Fans will be more entertained and more informed than ever before, and we're all curious to see how this massive, 330-plus ton structure will take shape in the coming weeks above the backstretch. When it's finished, it will be more than 10 stories high."
Other work last week included the installation of support columns that will help lift the Panasonic HD video board 110 feet above the track. Crews from Granite Contracting of Concord removed 18,000 cubic yards of dirt and 3,000 cubic yards of concrete behind the backstretch, where the 200-foot-wide, 80-foot-tall screen will stand. The concrete bleachers that were removed were part of the speedway's original construction in 1960.
About 900 cubic yards of dirt were removed from drilling 12 holes, each 54 inches in diameter and more than 50 feet deep. Concrete piers installed will support the eventual 500,000-pound steel frame that will hold the 165,000-pound video board. When completed, the total structure will weigh 332.5 tons, or 665,000 pounds.