Several hundred attendees composed of the staffs of Kroenke Sports Enterprises Commerce City and Turner Construction along with media members and invited guests celebrated the "Topping Out" ceremony for the new Rapids stadium.
The crowd was composed of all sorts of people involved in the project from professional players such as Joe Cannon to Rapids suite holders to construction workers that are currently building the venue.
(To view exclusive photos from the ceremony CLICK HERE).
Everyone in attendance was able to sign his or her name along with a personal message on the actual beam that would be secured to the highest point of the stadium assuring that their name to be part of the stadium for all of posterity.
The ceremony would call for the signed beam along with a fir tree and American flag to be lifted up to the roof structure of the East building of the stadium to be secured in a symbolic fashion.
A topping out ceremony represents one of the construction industry’s oldest customs – placing a symbolic beam atop a building to represent the highest point or "topping out" of a structural project.
Why was a fir tree affixed to the beam in the ceremony? In olden times humans began constructing their shelter with wood. Before cutting a tree they would formally address the forest reminding it of the consideration they had always shown toward the trees and asking the forest to grant use of a tree for construction of their home. When the house was complete the topmost leafy branch of the tree used would be set atop the roof so that the tree spirit would not be rendered homeless. The gesture was supposed to convince the tree spirit of the sincere appreciation of those building the home.
The custom of placing a tree on a completed structure came with immigrants to the United States and became an integral part of American culture in barnraisings and housewarmings.
Today the custom is continued most frequently on completed structures such as bridges skyscrapers and stadia! Ironworkers have carried on the topping out tradition and consider it their own. While others join the celebration of topping out it is the ironworkers and their skills that make them first to reach the pinnacle of a structure and it is around this group of workers that topping out revolves.
As part of the ceremony speeches were made by KSE Vice President Paul Andrews Rapids VP and Managing Director Jeff Plush Commerce City Mayor Sean Ford and Turner Construction Project manager Gene Fatur. Their thanks and praises to all the workers who have been working so diligently on the stadium's construction preceded the moment that everyone was waiting for.
As the signal was given a huge crane lifted the beam which was decorated with the fir tree and an American flag representing prosperity and celebrating the American tradition. The crane controller maneuvered the beam with surgeon-like precision flying it around the entire bowl once before inserting it into its final resting place on the East roof of the stadium.
The ceremony finished as the beam was secured into place by workers on the roof structure and the lone fir tree with the flag flying stood majestically atop the new Rapids stadium in the soft Rocky Mountain breeze.
As quickly as it began a major milestone in Colorado Rapids franchise history came to an end with the last of the steel structural pieces being put into place closing a chapter in the stadium's building process.
The flag and the tree will continue to be silent witnesses of the next stages of the stadium's construction reminding all that less than 1 year remains until April of 2007 when the stadium is due to open giving the Colorado Rapids and the club's fans a magnificent venue to finally call their own.