“ATM BED” - NEW MAIN DRIVE
At the west end of New Main Drive, the “ATM Bed” has welcomed both visitors and regular attendees to Texas A&M University, by letting them know EXACTLY where they were, . . . aTm! This landscape bed, at the end of the main entrance into campus, has been a focal point for drivers since, . . . well, we’re not sure. Since at least the early eighties, according to some “old timers.”
The planting bed consisted of a retaining wall made from creosote treated railroad ties, set vertically, side by side to define and elevate the back side of the planting. The slope was intended to pitch the front of the bed toward New Main Drive, and better expose the letters (ATM) to the travelers. Over the years, the letters have been laid out in seasonal color (annual flowers), usually maroon and white, and more recently in evergreen shrubs surrounded by seasonal color. The wall has remained unchanged over all these years, except for the gradual replacement of railroad ties, as older ones rotted out. Due to restrictions on creosote, the railroad ties have more recently been replaced with treated timbers. This has created inconsistency in the wall materials. Drainage issues, originating further west on the front lawn, have also added to the degradation of the wall structure. These factors initiated the move to rebuild the ATM Bed.
Initially, a larger, complete rebuild of the entire front area was planned as part of a Deferred Maintenance 21 (DM 21) project. This project was to involve drastic grade changes, by lowering the grade in front of the bed and creating an even more dramatic slope to display the letters. In addition to dramatic grade changes, the new ATM Bed wall was proposed to be constructed of brick masonry units, and include the addition of a substantial drainage system. Just before this project was set to begin, TAMU Facilities and Dining Administration (FDA) pulled the project, stating that they were hoping for an even larger project involving the ENTIRE front lawn of JK Williams, AND the ATM Bed. Given the current condition of the wall at the ATM Bed, SSC Grounds went to FDA with a proposal to request funding to at least replace the wall. FDA approved the proposal, and SSC Grounds was tasked with completing construction before the first Aggie football game on September 4th.
In order to pull this off, SSC Ground Project Management Team (PMT) acquired the assistance of a local landscape contractor (TGC Landscapes) to demolish the existing wall, and construct the new one. Due to current supply chain issues, delivery of materials for the wall were delayed, greatly pushing back the construction date, and tightening up the deadline. Once the materials arrived, the domino’s started to fall and construction was in full motion.
There were many levels of collaboration involved in completing this project. SSC Corporate had decided that the ATM Bed needed to make an even larger statement than before, and approved the enlargement of the bed. One of the issues with the original layout, was the fact that the bed was only twelve feet (12’) wide (deep), causing the letters to be compressed and “squatty.” PMT design team decided that the bed could be enlarged to 24’ wide (deep) allowing the letters to be a little more proportional to the ATM logo. This enlargement meant that a new concrete mow edge needed to be installed, and irrigation would have to be adjusted, or actually renovated to even work, again. Since the effort was going to be made to “go big,” it was decided that a subterranean drainage system should be installed, as well. TGC agreed to install the drainage system along with the wall construction.
Following the wall and drainage construction, the SSC LCON Irrigation team began working on the irrigation renovation and installation. Much collaboration with the SSC Irrigation Maintenance department was necessary, and between the two, the bugs were worked out and a complete irrigation overhaul was completed.
With the completion of the irrigation system, new bedding soil was brought in. Dozens of truckloads of Sandy Loam Topsoil: Yellow Sand: Compost mix were brought in by SSC LCON teams, to create the slope and a favorable planting mix for the shrubs and flowers. A clay sub-grade was used to direct subterranean water into the drainage system, which discharges into the storm water system. SSC HEQ teams were in charge of laying out, and constructing the new concrete mow edges. They also had to pour back two of the existing concrete sidewalks that were taken out for the installation of the drain system. HEQ stayed around to help with some of the dirt work for final grading, too.
Due to the extensive and invasive construction work, the PMT Design Team decided it would be best to plan on a full turf renovation in front of the ATM Bed. This would include removing approximately four inches (4”) of soil, and coming back in with a four inch (4”) sand cap, for improved turf health. It was also decided to install an improved variety of sand based (grown) “Latitude” Bermudagrass, which was put out in large rolls. SSC LCON teams worked extra hours prepping and placing the area for sod, and LCON Irrigation ensured the irrigation system was ready to go for installation.
Once the infrastructure was in place, it was time for SSC Special Projects team to come in and lay out the letters. Trying to beat the impending deadline, the Special Projects Team came in on Saturday to complete the task. Much time and effort went into the tedious task of getting the letters perfectly sized and placed. String lines and tape measures criss-crossed the beds ensuring things were right. The letters are laid out with evergreen Dwarf Yaupon Holly shrubs, which will soon grow together to form the solid “ATM” backbone of the bed. Seasonal maroon and white flowers will be changed out to highlight the letters and complete the focal point of the New Main entry.
The deadline was met with little time to spare, but just in time for the influx of football fans and students back to class. It took many entities, and much coordination to pull it off, but the effort was worth it. The “ATM Bed” is back, bigger and better, and ready to be the welcoming beacon at the Main Entrance to the Texas A&M campus.
submitted by Mike Teal, PLA | Grounds Manager HEQ/LCON