By Jared Council
After last year’s 34-minute blackout at the Super Bowl in New Orleans, at least one company isn’t taking any chances relying on stadium power this year.
Verizon Communications Inc. has contracted with a Norfolk-based small business for backup.
Auxiliary Systems Inc., which mostly services the maritime industry, has built three high-power generator trucks for the telecommunications giant that will be stationed at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey for Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday, Feb. 2. The city of Norfolk announced the deal was struck in August, and ASI General Manager Ken Lange said trucks were delivered earlier this month.
“There was a blackout last year,” Lange said, “and they want to make sure their operations could exist from a blackout standpoint.”
A Verizon spokeswoman said the company doesn’t comment on vendor matters.
The trucks are about 35 feet long, 13.5 feet high and weigh about 28 tons each. An 800-kilowatt generator sits enclosed on the back of each truck. The trucks are valued at more than $1 million apiece, Lange said.
“Verizon is happy with the quality,” Lange said. “And they commented that aesthetically, these are probably the best trucks they have.”
The 28-year-old company at Church and 25th streets mainly provides generator services for shipbuilders and repairers. It had done work for Verizon in the past, but never anything at this scale.
“These happened to be the biggest generators that Verizon has ever put on the back of a truck,” Lange said.
The chassis of the trucks were manufactured by International Trucks; the generator sets were provided by Caterpillar.
ASI was responsible for the assembly, which involved electrical work, generator fueling and soundproofing. About 60 people worked on the trucks, Lange said.
ASI had never been involved in a project like this, Lange said. Eagle Machinery, another firm, had built similar trucks for Verizon in the past, and ASI began acquiring that company’s assets in March.
The acquisition helped ASI when it struck the Verizon deal last summer. For one, former Eagle Machinery owner Bill Tolbert had the technique for sound-proofing that became useful, Lange said.
ASI, however, had to design and build an 850-gallon diesel fuel tank for the jumbo generator and add an additional air intake vent.
A recent Old Dominion University engineering graduate, Zach Wissen, helped with the second objective by suggesting the louver be placed on a door.
“We just hired him in May,” Lange said. “We told him, ‘Zach, that’s a dang good idea, buddy.’”
All told, the ASI workers spent about two months planning and built the trucks in October, November and December.
Those working on the project were essentially learning on the fly, Lange said, especially when the plant manager had to take a leave for a medical issue.
ASI was originally told the trucks were going to three separate locations, but officials were informed in early fall that they would be making a stop at the Super Bowl to aid in operations that night.
“We thought it was cool,” Lange said. “It really kind of motivated everybody.”