Digital Builder Episode 73: Behind the Track Look at the F1 Grand Prix in Vegas

f1 construction

Las Vegas is no stranger to exciting attractions and happenings, but if I had to choose a favorite event from last year—aside from AU 2023, of course—it would be the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

This high-octane event not only showcased remarkable racing technology, but it also highlighted feats in construction and engineering. In a world where speed and precision are everything, the same principles apply when building the structures that make this event possible.

Cliff Cole, Director of VDC at the PENTA Building Group, knows this well. PENTA was the lead contractor on the Grand Prix's paddock construction, so Cliff has a unique perspective on what it takes to build a project of this size.

Check out the episode or keep reading to get an insider's look into the complexities of building for one of the world's most thrilling sports events.

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On this episode

We discuss:

  • How the PENTA Building Group tackled the construction of the pit building for the F1 Grand Prix
  • The importance of coordination and ensuring that information is relayed quickly and seamlessly
  • Why creating an inclusive work environment matters more than ever

Overview of the F1 project and PENTA's role

Officially known as the Formula 1 Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix, the event took place on the Strip last November. The circuit was 3.853 miles and featured 14 turns.

On the construction side, Cliff described it as "a project like none other."

"The amount of work effort and the people involved in it—not just the construction or design side but all the local community leaders—have been a pleasure to work with. It's been an absolute tremendous honor for PENTA Building Group and myself to be involved in this type of project," he said.

Regarding PENTA's role, Cliff said the company handled the pit building on Harmon Avenue and Koval Lane. PENTA was in charge of delivering all the barricades, infrastructure, asphalt layout, and grandstands.

The firm also coordinated with various parties, from the Regional Transportation Commission to the Metro Police Department.

Working on a compressed schedule

One thing that not a lot of people know about the project is that the job had to be delivered on a compressed schedule.

"We basically had 11 and a half months roughly from the start of foundations of the pit building until when the race had to start," recalled Cliff.

"Ideally, it would've been great to have triple the amount of time, or realistically, double the amount of time. So, the fact that we had 11 months to put it together is a testament to the great women and men who are putting work into place on the jobsites. There's also the design teams and the owners that had the vision to bring this to Las Vegas and put it on the world-famous Strip."

Collaboration at its finest

The F1 project was an incredibly tall order, and according to Cliff, one of the keys to success was the team's ability to coordinate and work together.

"I've been in Las Vegas for 18 years and worked on some amazing projects. But this, by far, is the most coordination that has been had," he said.

He continued, "Usually, we're in a contained environment on a one jobsite. We work with public entities, inspectors, trade partners, and designers. But this is a magnitude where we're touching 3.8 miles of track all through the Las Vegas Strip and some of the most famous areas that people know of—including the Bellagio Fountain, Caesars Palace, Wynn and Venetian."

The teams who worked on the project had to ensure that they were aligned from day 1, and they used several tools and methods to execute.

That said, it all came down to seamless and efficient communication.

As Cliff put it, "At the end of the day, it was about getting the information as quickly as possible to the right people, communicating effectively, and making sure everybody understands the plan of action and what we have to do to make it happen."

Focusing on continuous improvement

As Director of VDC, Cliff is big on tech and innovation; and for this project, he said that they had to push the envelope around innovation and learning. For instance, they put captured videos that showed exactly how the project came together so the team could see what went well and what they could improve on when setting up again for next year’s race.

"We're really pushing the limits. F1 is an innovative concept as a whole to be able to shut down the Las Vegas Strip. So we're trying to match that energy and that excitement as far as the innovation we're bringing into building."

Cliff continued, "We're definitely passionate and keep striving toward continuous improvement. Our group is always looking for solutions, not just technology but anything innovative. Whether it's lean construction or a different way to communicate information, those things are beneficial."

"All this information we're pouring together now is developing a playbook that we’ll have for years to come when we come back for the next nine years to put this race down."

Celebrating diversity and supporting team members

Projects like the F1 Grand Prix are possible thanks to passionate individuals who bring their best selves to work.

And one of the ways to ensure that folks feel empowered is to celebrate everyone and make sure they feel included.

The good news is that many of those conversations are already happening, particularly in the context of diversity, equity, and inclusion. And while there is still work to be done, the industry has taken steps in the right direction.

"Those conversations weren't happening before. So the fact that it is something that we can talk about, and people feel open to having these conversations, is a win," said Cliff.

He is also a firm believer in building a supportive work environment and leadership development.

"I'm big on mentoring people and ensuring they know how to be successful."

New podcast episode every week

Digital Builder is hosted by me, Eric Thomas. Remember, new episodes of Digital Builder go live every week. Whether or not you're an F1 fan, this podcast offers a lot of insights into construction and team success.

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Eric Thomas

Eric is a Sr. Multimedia Content Marketing Manager at Autodesk and hosts the Digital Builder podcast. He has worked in the construction industry for over a decade at top ENR General Contractors and AEC technology companies. Eric has worked for Autodesk for nearly 5 years and joined the company via the PlanGrid acquisition. He has held numerous marketing roles at Autodesk including managing global industry research projects and other content marketing programs. Today Eric focuses on multimedia programs with an emphasis on video.