Artwork at 49ers stadium challenges CMSI of Carson City

Lester Robertson has a problem: How do you built art sculptures that use more than 5,500 NFL regulation-size footballs, knowing the sculptures will be housed in the biggest, most visible construction project in northern California?

Robertson, president of Complete Millwork Services Inc. of Carson City, has to find a way to encapsulate thousands of footballs for two separate sculptures in the $1.2 billion stadium being built for the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif. The sculptures are just a part of the overall work awarded to Complete Millwork Services, which will manufacture and install interior furnishings in public areas, bars, food courts and 22 owners' club suites, including 49ers owner Jed York's personal suite, at the new stadium.

The footballs will be housed end-to-end in two large curtain walls made of an iron framework that stand about 40 feet tall and stretches more than 70 feet. The 49ers logo will be represented by different color shades within the sculpture. There are four smaller walls to build as well.

Keeping the footballs inflated poses another problem. So far, Robertson's experimented with filling the balls with foam to keep them firm, but with little satisfaction. Yet another challenge is finding a way to box the footballs in an iron framework that can be easily re-assembled in the field.

"There are walls of football, and the design is not completed yet," Robertson says from his cluttered office in Carson City that houses dozens of stacks of blueprints for jobs across the country. "Somehow we are going to incorporate these 5,500 footballs into these giant walls."

Landing the 49ers work is a coup for Complete Millworks Services. Vice President Jeff Stone says the interior work is one of the more important aspects of the stadium construction. Stone bid the work, and he had to defend his bid and the scope of Complete Millwork's abilities through an interview with co-general contractors Devcon Construction and Turner Construction, as well as with team owners.

The company operates out of a 119,000-square-foot manufacturing center on Goni Road. The company has additional offices in San Jose and Las Vegas that staff installation teams and project managers. The bulk of the company's 115-person workforce is in northern Nevada, however, and all its products are made in Carson City. The company employs exclusively union carpenters and millwrights.

Complete Millwork has its roots in Robertson's former company, Robertson Cabinet, and Complete Millwork Services Inc, which was run by David Becher. The two companies merged in 1999 and retained the Complete Millwork Services name.

The recession cut the company's revenues by more than half, Robertson says, but the company is trending upward in 2012 after several flat years. Its best year on record was 2007, when it surpassed $40 million in gross revenue.

Complete Millwork services does most of its work in the finish trades, including wood, metal, glass and upholstery work. It also dabbles in lighting when asked.

"It just depends on what the customer wants," Robertson says. "We will do anything it takes to satisfy the customer."

The Cheesecake Factory restaurant chain is a repeat customer. The Carson City company is currently shipping pre-made bars, seating, stools and hostess stands to Cheesecake Factory restaurants being built in the U.S. as well as several locations in the Middle East. The company also has manufactured the interior finishings for restaurants in Kuwait and Dubai, and it's got work on the books for additional restaurants in Lebanon and Riyahd, Saudi Arabia.

Overseas revenue account for about 10 percent of the company's gross revenues.

Complete Millwork specializes in "kit" assembly of cabinetry, seating and other aspects of interior finish work. Its draftsmen take architectural drawings and re-draft them into autocad drawings for re-submittal and approval. Once drawings are re-approved, drafters strip the drawings into individual components and convert the drawings into code for CNC machines.

"It is the heart of our operation," Robertson says. "You take the custom Lego parts and put it all together. The difference between us and most manufacturing facilities is that almost everything we do here is different. A Cheesecake Factory restaurant is similar, but they also are very unique. Everything requires its own drafting, color schedule and laminate."


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