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Heldenfels Offers A Concrete Link to Cowboys

Local Heldenfels Enterprises workers completed seating at new stadium.
Ricardo “Ricky” Zapata”s efforts on behalf of his beloved Dallas Cowboys are more solid than those of any player on the roster, and should long outlast them. He spent more than seven months working on the new Cowboys stadium in Arlington last year. In January, his employer, Heldenfels Enterprises, finished installing the 3,000 pre-cast concrete pieces for the 80,000-seat stadium, scheduled to open in time for the 2009 NFL season.

The 50-year-old superintendent helped coordinate the placing of the 1,000 seating risers, 900 wall panels and stairs. Pre-cast concrete is stressed concrete with an upward bow used by stretching a cable and filling the steel mold around it with concrete. About 28,000 pounds of product was manufactured by the San Marcos-based company, which has a facility in Corpus Christi. Zapata works in the Corpus Christi office.

“I”ve been a Cowboys fan since I was 14 years old,” Zapata said. “It was great to work on the new stadium because it was like playing a role in the history of the ”Boys. There were guys on the crew, mostly from out of state, who weren”t fans. But we converted them. You can”t hear about the Cowboys all day long for months without getting addicted.”

The stadium is the largest NFL arena, with 2.3 million square feet and the flexibility to accommodate 100,000 fans for special events. It features a retractable roof, a glass exterior and the world”s largest center-hung video board.

Zapata, a 30-year employee, said he couldn”t wait to witness a game in the new stadium. It”s on his to-do list for the 2009 season. “Sitting there watching them play, knowing I helped make it happen is going to be unbelievable,” Zapata said.

Heldenfels Enterprises began shop drawings of the area in late 2006 and began production in 2007. Placement of the concrete pieces began late spring 2007 and continued through November 2008, said Fred Heldenfels IV, president of the company.

In February, they did the detailed work such as grouting. The project created 80 jobs in the company, he said.

“We definitely consider ourselves part of the Cowboys team,” said Heldenfels, a third-generation ”Boys fan. “The guys would bear the team”s star on their hard hats and others had hard hats that looked like the team”s helmets. Even the non-fans were motivated.”

Established in 1917 as Heldenfels Brothers, the company has undergone many internal changes. The company first opened its plant in Corpus Christi in 1936 under the Heldenfels Brothers name. In 1995, Fred Heldenfels IV formed Heldenfels Enterprises Inc. with his father, F.W. Heldenfels III, and bought the Corpus Christi pre-stressed plant from the Heldenfels Brothers entity.

The company since has worked on Whataburger Field and the American Bank Center, plus Minute Maid Park, Reliant Stadium and the Toyota Center in Houston; AT&T Center and SBC Center in San Antonio; and Kyle Stadium at Texas A&M University.