Mayor Byron W. Brown in May showed off the new $4.5 million basin at Martin Luther King Park, two weeks before the splash pad opened to the public.
Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak described to reporters how the concrete was the most expensive part of the four-season water feature, consuming 60 percent of the budget. The concrete, which hadn’t been used in Western New York before, was touted as “super crack-resistant” and was poured to last for 50 years.
Seven months after that announcement, at least one crack, more than 12 feet long, was visible in the concrete basin, though much of the 5-acre surface was covered with ice or snow.
“There is some surface cracking that is generally associated with large concrete structures like this one that is 5 acres in size,” Stepniak said in a written statement. “At this time there have been no major issues.”
The city is working with the project consultant to see if anything needs to be done, but the upcoming winter skating season is expected to begin as planned.
Fewer joints would result in less water leakage, Stepniak said last year, though he said that use of the basin has not been compromised.
Cracking is natural in concrete when there are fewer joints, which are basically pre-planned cracks.
The 5-acre project relied on a “dramatically” reduced number of joints to save money, according to Forta Corp., which produces a fiber used to reinforce concrete.
Typical projects have joints every 12 or 15 feet, to avoid cracking, but the basin has joints every 65 feet. The large panels were reinforced with synthetic fibers from Forta and “allowed designers to realize the joint-related time and savings, and resulted in no evidence of mid-panel cracking, even in the large outer-ring sections measuring 65 ft. x 70 ft.,” according to an October 2012 profile of the project from Forta.
The crack that was visible in the basin this week was in the outer ring.
The project has been well-received by concrete experts, evidenced by an award Forta won at the World of Concrete exposition earlier this year for its work on the project.
And after long delays, the splash pad was opened over the summer to positive reviews in the community, and a reflecting pool took its place in fall, as planned.
But the crack concerns one activist.
Samuel A. Herbert, a frequent critic of the project who lives nearby and is with the Coalition to Save Martin Luther King Park, sat in on some meetings with contractors while construction was going on. He said he heard conversations about how fiber in the concrete mixture was meant to prevent it from cracking.
“This is not supposed to be here,” Herbert said during a visit to the park last week.
The project’s design consultant, Wendel, declined to comment, citing a policy that all media communications go through City Hall.
Representatives with Forta and construction contractor Man O’ Trees did not return messages.
The city had maintained throughout project delays that it was more important to get the new basin right than to speed it along. Stepniak made regular trips to the park to check on the work.
Ice skating and free skating lessons for young children are scheduled to begin in January, or sooner, if the weather allows.
Four inches of ice is required for skating, and that will take 10 days of freezing temperatures, said Thomas Herrera-Mishler, president and CEO of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy.
The conservancy is planning to offer free skating from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 5:30 p.m. on weekends through March 15. Skaters 12 and younger must wear a helmet and be accompanied by an adult.
The conservancy is collecting donations of ice skates of all sizes at the Parkside Lodge in Delaware Park to loan to skaters for free.
BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York has pledged $100,000 for 10 years to promote healthy activities in the park; those funds are helping to pay for the skating.