May 17, 2017, 3:00pm EDT
The $238 million KFC Yum Center has become a fixture in downtown Louisville, and it also stands prominent in the mind of one of the people behind the construction of the 721,000-square-foot home to University of Louisville basketball, concerts and other events.
John Hinshaw was the was senior project manager for M. A. Mortenson Co., the general contractor for the Yum Center, when the arena was built about a decade ago.
Hinshaw says it is his favorite project, beating out other major sports arenas he helped oversee.
Despite the pressures of building a huge and intricate structure with a fixed deadline, Hinshaw wouldn’t do anything else, fueled by his sports fandom and love for creating.
“I just think building buildings is fun,” Hinshaw said in an interview.
Now, Hinshaw is the president of Louisville-based Calhoun Construction Services Inc.
He joined the company in September 2013 as the operations manager under then-president Kevin Harpring. Hinshaw became the president of the company in January 2016.
An Indianapolis native and big Indiana Pacers fan, Hinshaw jumped at the opportunity to work for Hunt Construction Group in 1997 to help build the Pacers’ then-new arena, Conseco Fieldhouse (now Bankers Life Fieldhouse). He’d graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering with an emphasis in structures and a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering and management.
That appears to have set a precedent for Hinshaw’s early career and time with Hunt Construction.
He would go on to work on the building of Great American Ball Park for the Cincinnati Reds as a project engineer from fall 1999 to spring 2003.
He then went to work on the construction of the then-named Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., for the Charlotte Bobcats as a project manager.
He was lured away from Hunt Construction to Louisville by developer Steve Poe to work for Poe Cos. LLC in January 2006.
In 2008, Hinshaw was let go.
It was the height of the Great Recession of 2008 and construction companies were hit particularly hard by the economic downturn.
But Hinshaw had hope despite losing his job.
The Yum Center project broke ground in 2006, but news of the big project had broken much earlier.
With his background in building sports facilities, Hinshaw wanted to be a part of the project when he first heard about the new arena coming to Louisville. It was an obvious opportunity.
To add to the desire to get on-board with the local project, Hinshaw had gotten married to a Louisville native while at working at Poe.
Hinshaw said he knew that he needed a job that would keep him here.
“Louisville had become my adopted hometown,” he said.
As luck would have it, Hinshaw was hired by Minneapolis-based M.A. Mortenson and joined as senior project manager for the Yum Center in 2008.
While all the major projects Hinshaw has worked on have been unique, he said there were some special factors involved with Yum Center.
He said the people he worked with on the project were very talented and that they stuck together in the years since the Yum Center opened in October 2010.
“We had a great team of people on the (Yum Center) project … and a lot of the same people are here at Calhoun,” Hinshaw said.
After the Yum Center work, Hinshaw was approached by Wilhelm Construction Co. Inc. with the prospect of opening and managing a business in Louisville.
Wilhelm had been the concrete contractor on several of the arena projects he had helped to manage. He joined and helped to start Calhoun Construction — which has an office off Poplar Level Road just south of the Watterson Expressway — in 2013.
Of his work on arenas, Hinshaw said, “There is always a tight timeline with an opening event scheduled. That always makes it a pressure situation from start to finish.”
A delay in work on a multimillion dollar project that’s received a great deal of media attention could be catastrophic.
“You set up a project, design a schedule that will allow you to hit the construction milestone and have intermittent milestones to help you know if you are going to make your end goal on time and on budget,” he said.
For fun, Hinshaw takes a hiking trip with his friends from college once a year, every year.
This is no day trip with a picnic. These excursions are often six- to eight-day adventures in the back country that cover anywhere from 40 to 60 miles of wilderness.
This year, Hinshaw and his friends are planning a hike in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
He said that approaching a quest of this magnitude takes the same kind of disciplined planning and goal setting that a multimillion dollar project does.
“You break it down into smaller pieces that you can get your head around and manage it,” Hinshaw said. “A lot of times (while hiking), you have to get from A to B because there is water at B, and no water in between.
“It’s always a huge sense of accomplishment when you’re done. That first beer (after the trip) is very satisfying.”
Even as a parent, Hinshaw takes a similar approach and recognizes that every day presents its own challenges, but that identifying and reaching key milestones helps life make sense and helps establish the pace of where things stand. John and his wife Susan have three children under the age of 10.
“It’s a part of life everyone should experience,” Hinshaw said of being a parent. “It’s your chance to create, to be part of the next generations and hopefully influence people to be good people and be contributing members of the next generation.”
He took some time to answer a few more of our questions:
What is your favorite place for lunch?
Frank’s Meat & Produce on Preston Highway
What advice would you give young or new business leaders?
Pick a field and try to learn every aspect of the field.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
What is your go-to outdoor spot?
Parklands of Floyds Fork
Is there any one project that you would consider yourself most proud of?
The KFC Yum Center
Biggest pet peeve?
Hearing someone say, “That is not my job.”
What do you listen to while in the car?
Talk radio or the Lithium station on satellite radio.
How do you decompress at the end of the work day?
Walk in my house, and my three kids attack me with all of their energy.
President, Calhoun Construction Services Inc.
Resides: East Middletown
Career history: President, Calhoun Construction Services Inc., 2016-present and operations manager, 2013-16; senior project manager, M. A. Mortenson Co., 2008-13; Poe Cos. LLC, 2008-08; Hunt Construction Group, 1997-2006.
Education: Bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering with an emphasis in structures and a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering and management from Purdue University, graduated 1997
Family: Susan Hinshaw, wife of 10 years; an 8-year-old boy, a 7-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy.
Hobbies: Back-country hiking
Tags: Butler Reserve, Calhoun Construction, Churchill Downs, HopCat Louisville, John Hinshaw, KFC Yum Center, Lexington Kentucky, Louisville Construction Management, Louisville Kentucky, Poe Companies, White Lodging