How the new Coachella Valley Arena will handle “the big one”

Earthquakes are a reality in Southern California, but no one can predict for sure when the next massive earthquake, known as the “Big One” will occur. Experts define the large earthquake as an earthquake of at least a 7.8 magnitude along the southern part of the San Andreas fault. This fault line runs deep below the Coachella Valley. So Peter Daut of News Channel 3 took an in-depth look at what this means for the new 300,000 square foot arena currently under construction near Palm Desert, next to the fault line.

The science started with seismologists, who looked at the likely seismic accelerations, that is, changes in speed, that could affect the arena during an earthquake. Engineers then took these accelerations and designed the building to withstand powerful seismic forces.

“It is designed for seismic forces 25% higher than the typical new structure,” said structural engineer Ryan Anderson. Anderson is part of the team hired by developer, Oak View Group, focused on design and security.

Daut asked him, “What are some of the safety features that people should be aware of?” Anderson replied, “We use two well-established, high performance seismic structural systems. Asphalt mixes are excellent for energy dissipation, are excellent shock absorbers, very predictable seismic behavior, and are therefore very commonly used here in California. “

Steel frame buildings are designed to bend with the tremendous forces of an earthquake without breaking. This is what happened at Dodger Stadium in July 2019, when the magnitude 7.1 Ridgecrest earthquake rocked southern California. That same earthquake rocked an NBA game in Las Vegas, but caused no damage.

Compared to all of the many other arenas that Oakview Group has built around the world, the Coachella Valley Arena is designed for the highest seismic forces and features the strictest structural precautions. The reason: the San Andreas Fault, and you can actually see the fault line a short distance from the arena.

“Unsurprisingly, we have found that the seismic forces are higher than any other arena we have designed in the United States, and even in California. So that was a very important aspect of our structural design. the arena was located in another part of the country, ”Anderson said.

The arena must also meet California’s stringent building standards code, which has extensive requirements that were last updated a year ago. The Riverside County Building and Safety Department is the executing agency that reviewed all of the plans, well before construction began. The county even has a full-time structural engineer on-site to make sure everything is compliant.

“We have some of the most advanced building codes in the country,” California Emergency Services Bureau spokesman Brian Ferguson said. “The taller a building, the greater the risk. There are load capacities that you must adhere to to make sure you are using the right type of building material and it is constructed in such a way that it will stand up. there had to be pressure on it, either by capacity or by an earthquake or whatever. “

Daut asked Anderson, “How sure are you that the arena will be safe in the event of an earthquake?” He replied, “Confident. We have designed the arena for all known seismic conditions that we can possibly experience with the building code in mind, and believe we have designed it for all of those conditions.

Another thing to keep in mind: the arena is not high in relation to its horizontal dimensions. County officials said its shear walls and limited openings make it very resistant to earthquakes. So if “The Big One” hits, they say the arena could actually turn out to be one of the safest places in the entire valley.


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