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Among those who signed the construction beam during the March 28 UMMC  topping-out ceremony are, from left, second-year medical student John Lippincott; former Vice Chancellor Dr. James Keeton; fourth-year medical student Sara Ali; Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine; and first-year medical student Michelle Wheeler.

Construction projects’ topping out ceremonies celebrate important milestones

By LYNN LOFTON

Major construction projects usually have topping out ceremonies at a certain point in the progress of the project. Is this merely ceremonial, or does it serve a more fundamental purpose? Some recent high profile projects that had topping out ceremonies include the Biloxi Shuckers baseball park, the new medical school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and the Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort in D’Iberville.

Leigh Jaunsen, AIA and a partner with Dale Partners, designed the Shuckers park which was built by Yates Construction. Asked about the significance of these ceremonies, she replied, “They are typically a celebration that marks a milestone in the construction schedule. They are often used to bring attention to a project, especially when it’s a public project, but contractors sometimes do some sort of topping out ceremony as a way of showing appreciation for their employees for reaching the milestone and for acknowledgement of a job well done.”

At UMMC, Jonathan Wilson, chief administrative officer, said, “The topping-out ceremony signifies a completion milestone of the outer structure of the School of Medicine.The skeleton of the building is complete.”

The university felt it was important to observe this milestone because it signifies that a major component toward construction is completed. “We thanked the contractors for the work they’ve done, and the work they will continue to do,” he added. “The topping-out ceremony was a joint ceremony between UMMC and the contractor, Roy Anderson Corp. It’s a way for the contractor to recognize and reward its workers who built the structure.”

The expected completion date for the new medical school is spring 2017, and it will be open for classes in fall 2017.

Jaunsen says a topping out is usually associated with placing the last piece of steel on the project, which is at the top. For the Biloxi ballpark, the media and representatives from the city, including Mayor A.J. Holloway, were there to watch the last piece of steel at the roof get placed. “We signed the beam before it was lifted into place,” she said. “It was a significant step towards closing in the building and getting the heavy equipment off the site. Once closed in, the weather does not have a significant impact on getting the building complete so the actual date of completion can be more accurately discerned. As you know, determining an opening date for the team was extremely important for that project.”

A joint ceremony was held by Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort and Roy Anderson Corp  to  commemorate the official topping out of the casino property when the construction site reached this milestone without any safety violations or injuries.

The celebration was meant to recognize the diligence and hard work of everyone working on the property, a casino spokeswoman said. Speeches were given by Roy Anderson Corp and Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort representatives along with elected officials. During the celebration, a tree was lifted and set on top of the 18 story structure. In accordance with an old construction tradition, upon establishing the highest point of the structure, or topping out, a tree should be placed on the top of the building. This event is meant to evoke good luck and balance within nature.

While in the construction phase of the project, Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort created more than 800 construction jobs and generated millions of dollars for local and regional businesses. Since its December 2015 opening, the casino employs 1,200 people.

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