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Commercial Foundations Case Studies: The FSU Flying High Circus – Tallahassee, FL


Florida State University currently has the only tented collegiate circus in the world. The FSU Flying High Circus has been operating for 60+ years and were in need of an updated Circus tent. The new tent would present tension loads throughout for the entire facility. The soils on site consisted of loose fill at varying depths, which made installing tent stakes or other conventional options obsolete.

Location: Tallahassee, FL
Alpha Solution:

Due to the varying layers of loose fill, Melvin Consulting Engineers decided the most practical solution was the use of helical anchors. Helical piles were selected because of their ability because of their ability to provide loading data for each pile based on installation torque. A helical pile configuration consisting of a solid 1-1/2” inch round corner square shaft with a 10”, 12” double-helix lead section was used or the pole tension wires, and a single 12” helix lead section was used for the perimeter cable straps.

Ardaman and Associates Geotechnical Engineers chose to perform 2 load tests on the helical anchors with the least amount of torque resistance. Even the anchors with the least resistance came up well above the required capacities. The piles were installed with a Pengo drive head attached to a Bobcat E35 and were installed to a minimum of 1,000 foot/pounds of torque. Each helical pile was advanced to depths ranging from 7– 14’ of embedment. The piles were attached to either a new construction plate or a shackle for a connection to either a ratchet strap or footing. The ultimate capacity of the production piles was monitored during installation with differential PSI gauges. The installation of 154 helical piles and 2 load tests took only 3 days.