Rooney Brothers Co.
Rooney Brothers Co.
Incorporated: 1896 as Manhattan Construction Company
Sales: $611.0 million (1997)
SICs: 1541 General Contractors, Industrial Buildings & Warehouses; 1542 General Contractors, Nonresidential Construction, Not Elsewhere Classified; 6719 Holding Companies, Not Elsewhere Classified
A privately held company, Rooney Brothers Co. was founded in 1984 in order to acquire and operate the Manhattan Construction Company, a nearly 100-year-old general contractor for industrial and commercial buildings. Manhattan has been responsible for constructing many prominent buildings in Houston, Texas, including The Amoco Center Office Building, The Harris County Jail, The Spires Condominiums, Hermann Hospital, The Bayou Bend Tower Condominiums, The Methodist Hospital, The M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, St. Luke’s Medical Tower, and The Forum at Memorial Woods, in addition to The George Bush Presidential Library Center in College Station, Texas. Other major projects have included buildings in many other Texas cities; Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Mobile, Alabama; and Washington, D.C. The company’s main operations are in the United States, with the Rooney Bros, corporate headquarters located in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Manhattan Construction operating out of Dallas, Texas. Rooney Bros, has expanded its operations to include the electronics, lumber, and building materials industries. Some of the company’s top competitors include Austin Industries, Bechtel, and The Turner Corporation.
The First Century as Manhattan Construction Company
Manhattan Construction Company was established by Laurence H. Rooney in 1896 when a small company opened its doors in what was then known as the Oklahoma Territory—now known as Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Majority ownership of the company has remained in the Rooney family throughout four generations, and in its century of existence, the company has served a wide variety of customers who have remained loyal over the decades.
In 1907, Manhattan Construction won the contract on Oklahoma’s first State Capitol Building in Guthrie, because it was the lowest bidder. The company completed the monumental structure in a mere eight months, and ended up under budget by $317. Thus, the building was ready in time for the first session of the legislature. A company legend has it that “several legislators, however, did manage to make contact with the stilldrying paint.”
The early days saw the company constructing court houses, offices, corporate headquarters, industrial plants, schools and university buildings, hospitals, and a bridge, all within the growing economy of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas. With such growth, the company was able to open up a full-service office in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1910, followed by an accounting and data processing office in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1923.
New Business Ventures In and After World War II
During the years surrounding World War II, Manhattan Construction was called upon to construct more than a billion dollars worth of military facilities, manufacturing plants, hangars, barracks, and the like for the United States under the direction of the U.S. Department of Defense. Included in these contracts were the four month, $29.4 million project of Camp Gruber near Muskogee; the Tulsa Aircraft Plant (the country’s largest enclosed structure); and the four month project of Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith, Arkansas, for which the company received The Army-Navy “E” Award for excellence. It was one of the few companies to be so honored. By this time, the company employed nearly 80,000 people.
In 1945, Manhattan began what has grown into more than a half-century partnership with American Airlines, constructing the first maintenance facility for the major air carrier in Tulsa. The company later went on to build another maintenance building at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and the Centerport complex in 1963. More offices followed throughout the years, as the company expanded to Houston (1946); Mobile, Alabama (1952); Dallas-Fort Worth (1965); and Fairfax, Virginia (1983).
The 1980s marked the company’s chance to complete the country’s first design/build/finance projects in South Texas at the beginning of the decade. The company had always tried to be an industry leader in seeking solutions to the most complex facility development challenges, and thus was able to champion the use of alternative project delivery systems to complete the task.
Rooney Brothers Emerges: 1984
In 1984, Rooney Brothers Co. was founded by L. Francis Rooney III and Timothy P. Rooney in order to purchase the Dallas-based Manhattan Construction Co. that had been founded by the two men’s ancestors almost a century earlier. Francis, who earned his juris doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center, gave up on his planned career as a legal eagle in order to join the family business, becoming the president of Rooney Brothers Co., while Timothy would hold the same position at Manhattan Construction Co.
The “new” company worked to maintain a solid customer base and track record for the rest of the decade. Then in the 1990s, it began to focus on the general building markets of corporate and commercial offices, healthcare and bio-medical research, aviation, corrections, sports facilities, institutional and academic, hospitality, and leisure and entertainment facilities. The company tried to specialize in highly complex, multi-phased, renovation and/or addition-type construction with demanding schedules and strict budget constraints.
An Abundance of Work in the 1990s
In April 1992, Manhattan completed the $90 million Fiesta Texas project, a multi-activity theme park built on a 150-acre site which was formerly a working quarry. The project was complete three weeks before the 21-month deadline, and utilized more than one million board feet of lumber in the framing for the project. USAA/Opryland USA, the operator of Fiesta Texas, rewarded the workers and their families with a special day at the park before it was opened to the public.
In October 1993, Manhattan Construction, recognized for nearly a century by the building industry as a “can-do” operation, proved it had earned its moniker when the company was contracted to rebuild Texas Stadium’s luxury boxes, called “The Crown Suites,” which were destroyed by fire three days before the Dallas Cowboys-San Francisco 49ers football game on October 17th. The company put 100 employees on the site for three days and nights, and worked around the clock to complete the $2 million job in time for kickoff. Francis Rooney and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones treated the crew to the game, which Dallas won, 26-17.
Also in 1993, the $62 million Harris County Detention Center in Houston was completed, as was the $80 million Delta Air Lines expansion and renovation at DFW Airport, and the $30 million John Zink International Headquarters in Tulsa.
In April 1994, Manhattan finished construction on the highly publicized “Ballpark at Arlington,” home of The Texas Rangers professional baseball team. As was typical of the company, the job was completed on schedule, and just in time for the team’s season opener game. The 48,000-seat, $90 million stadium project included 180,000 square feet of below-grade, back-of-house facility development; an incorporated four-level office building; two levels of suites; an adjacent 115-space parking garage; and vehicular tunnels and media bays, made up of 70,000 cubic yards of concrete and 7,200 tons of structural steel. Also in 1994, the company completed the $75 million Sisters of Charity Hospital in Texarkana.
In July 1995, Manhattan Construction and Bethesda, Maryland-based George Hyman Construction Co. completed work on The Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. The $230 million hospital facility, with 1.5 million square feet of space to serve 1 million outpatients a year, featured a state-of-the-art burn care institute. The facility was finished nearly eight months before the projected date, by more than 100 subcontractors and 1,200 workers. The U.S. Department of Labor awarded Hyman and Manhattan with its Exemplary Volunteer Efforts Award for the project. Additionally, the project was nominated for a national safety award from The Army Corps of Engineers, and was commended for safety compliance from The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
By 1996, annual sales for the company had reached $500 million. The company then started 1997 with a bang, being awarded numerous projects in January of that year. The first project the company received was a $12 million deal with American Airlines on the campus south of the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. The project—named the American Airlines STIN (Sabre Travel Information Network) Remodeling Project—began that month and was completed early in 1998. The project was a continuation of the long and successful relationship between American Airlines and Manhattan that had been established in 1945, including the construction of the original high security Sabre Underground Reservations Center. The STIN Project consisted of site landscaping; weir, roof, terrace, window and wall refurbishment and repair; interior finish; audio visual; life safety; electrical power and lighting refurbishment; and mechanical upgrades.
The mission of Manhattan is to provide quality construction services that exceed our clients’ expectations and to be the contractor of choice in our markets.
The second project of 1996 saw the Houston division of the company joining designer PGAL (Pierce Goodwin Alexander & Linville) Architects of Houston in being awarded the construction of the new $70 million Harris County Criminal Justice Center. The project, which encompassed 800,000 square feet over 21 floors, began that month and was scheduled for completion in July 1999. The project included a basement with a 47-car parking area and a tunnel tying into the existing tunnel system, and 41 new courtrooms to be added to the existing facility.
A third project was negotiated in early 1996 with Methodist Retirement Communities of The Woodlands, Texas, to construct a new $9 million Moody House Independent Living Center in Galveston. The 110,000 square foot structure would provide 92 living units in a six story building. The project began construction in March 1996 and was completed in May 1998.
Yet another project during the same time frame found the company teamed with local joint-venture partner Gibbs Construction and architect Arthur Q. Davis and Partners of New Orleans (lead designer of The Louisiana Superdome). The company was awarded a $72 million contract for The New Orleans Sports Arena. The arena was scheduled to be used for basketball, hockey, and various other multi-purpose civic and cultural events, and would encompass approximately 665,000 square feet with a seating capacity of 20,000.
The Turn of the Century and Beyond
In January 1997 the company negotiated with Southwest Airlines for the fourth time in its history. Previously, the company had produced a six-bay flight simulator building, and the addition of an AFFF Fire Suppression System to the fleet maintenance hangars for Southwest. This time, the airline wanted Manhattan to construct the air carrier’s General Office Expansion to the existing headquarters. The $30 million expansion program was completed quickly, by December 1997. With total revenue for 1997 topping off at $611.0 million, the company was named to the Forbes “Private 500” list for the year.
In January 1998, the company was honored by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)—a national construction association representing 19,500 construction and construction-related firms in 80 chapters across the United States—at ABC’s annual convention held in Phoenix. The honor was given based on Manhattan’s work in building the George Bush Presidential Library Complex, and equated to a first place award in the “Institutional, Over $25 Million” category in ABC’s Excellence in Construction Awards program. The award program was designed to publicly recognize the quality and innovation of merit (open) shop construction, and to honor all the members of the construction team responsible for the project, including the contractor, the owner, and the design team. Judges included members of The American Institute of Architects, The Business Roundtable, and The American Institute of Constructors.
Manhattan Construction had helped to immortalize former President George Bush when it took on the role of project manager, overseeing the construction of three buildings located at Texas A&M University. The company also hired A&M students to help install memorabilia from The Gulf War, a World War II aircraft, and pieces of the Berlin Wall. The George Bush Presidential Library, School of Government & Public Services, and Presidential Conference Center were inducted by Bush, along with Presidents Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton, in 1997.
As the company entered the last few years of the twentieth century, it had multiple projects in the works. With enough work to keep it busy for a long while, and to also maintain the level of income that the company had become accustomed to, the company was positioned to enter the upcoming century as a continued powerhouse in the construction industry.
Manhattan Construction Co.
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—Daryl F. Mallett