Hundreds of construction workers, joined by a small contingent of Devon Energy Corp. executives, celebrated the topping out of the company's new 50-story headquarters Wednesday with the traditional placement of an evergreen tree at its highest point.
The ceremony captured the attention of the city as television news helicopters hovered above and a handful of window washers stopped to gawk from their platform outside the nearby Oklahoma Tower. It was a celebration that included a free lunch catered by Earl's Rib Palace for the more than 1,000 construction workers who also received shirts commemorating the event.
Before watching the tree lifted through the air with an attached American flag waving in the breeze, Devon Executive Chairman Larry Nichols thanked the hundreds of construction workers gathered atop the company's new 10-story garage. He noted the cool breeze and the shade provided by the adjoining skyscraper.
“It's a typical Oklahoma day, just like every other day you've enjoyed this summer,” Nichols joked, referring to the brutal heat wave endured by the city the past three months.
The tree itself was selected as a sapling before construction began, and was still pretty small when it was planted in a nearby pocket park when ground was broken in 2009.
“It's gone up so fast, we can hardly believe it,” Nichols said. “This is not just a building for Devon. You are transforming the landscape of a city, and I'm sure you know that. You're doing a great job, and we cannot thank you enough for that.”
Those listening to Nichols included Colorado native Mark Maska, who, like about 25 percent of those on the job with Flintco/Holder Construction, were from out of state. Maska, a job superintendent on the adjoining Garden Wing of the Devon Energy Center, said the highest building he had worked on previously was six stories tall.
“It's been good,” Maska said. “The weather has been a bit tricky on some days. But the people are great, and Devon has been a great company to work for.”
John Wood, project coordinator with Hines, the building developer, said the work and safety record maintained by crews during the summer heat did not go unnoticed. He said Nichols himself inquired about the heat and workers' well-being as temperatures routinely climbed to around 110 degrees.
The tree, Wood said, represents the pride of the company and community in the work performed by the construction crews. Many of those working with the steel, concrete and glass will be replaced in the next few months by landscaping crews before the tower is fully occupied next summer.
“We're literally standing the shadow of this large structure,” Wood said. “It's easy to lose sight of the fact every part of that building, every piece of steel, every bit of concrete, every piece of glass, was put in by you all.”