ANDERSON – When the Patriots and Falcons face off in Houston for the Lombardi Trophy, Chris Barkdull will be glued to his TV screen.
But he couldn’t care less who wins the game.
Instead, Barkdull, owner of Anderson-based sheet metal shop CB Fabricating, will be eagle-eyed for glimpses of a Texas-sized stainless-steel lazy river his team built that now sits atop the Marriott Marquis Houston parking garage.
“Just to think little Anderson is making this thing that will be on display,” Barkdull said.
CB Fabricating worked with the Indianapolis-based aquatic structure and equipment manufacturer Natare to laser cut and shape sections of the 500-foot long structure that sits on the fifth story of the hotel’s parking garage.
The river is in the shape of Texas and allows swimmers to float through the twisting and turning structure. It also includes an infinity-pool area that allows swimmers to catch a look at NRG Stadium where Super Bowl LI will take place Feb. 5.
The lazy river is expected to be heavily featured during the broadcast of the Super Bowl.
Though it’s the first time something he’s made will be featured on national television, Barkdull said it’s always great to see others appreciating his work, whether it’s a massive faux river or something more ordinary, like the thousands of soap dispensers or paper towel holders CB Fabricating makes for a national contract.
“Me and my wife were in a restaurant in Indianapolis just last week and they had our soap dispensers and it was just like, ‘wow, we made that,’” Barkdull said.
Building the lazy river offered Barkdull’s team a chance to learn new some new techniques as well as garner national attention.
Working with stainless steel that will be in constant contact with water, which causes normal steel to rust, meant the shop had to upgrade its tools and implement new handling procedures to avoid contaminating the material.
“If stainless steel even touches normal steel it can leach into it and then when it comes into contact with water and oxygen it rusts,” Barkdull said.
Jim Carr, head fabricator at the small manufacturer, said mastering the new techniques offered a unique challenge – one that he was happy to meet head on.
“It’s our passion so it makes it worth it,” he said. “(And) because we have experience, we have gotten into other projects and people have to be trained to process it and we have precautions in place for other projects.”
For David Leny, who helped to build the lazy river, it’s these types of difficult engineering challenges that get him out of bed in the morning.
“For me every day is unique and it’s a different challenge every time,” he said. “It makes work a lot more interesting.”