The new midfield dynamo for German football team FC Schalke 04 is a massive Demag CC 2600 crawler crane, rigged with superlift. Superlift increases the crane’s maximum capacity from 500t to 800t on main boom only. Also on the pitch at Gelsenkirchen, in Germany’s Ruhrgebiet, are several medium size crawlers while smaller mobiles buzz in attendance, moving ballast and so on.

Actually the crane are not playing for FC Schalke 04 at all. They are playing for project manager Hollandsche Beton Groep (HBG) and its main contractor Wayss & Freitag which are building a new stadium for Schalke. The real football team continues to use its old ground nearby.

The cranes are lifting in a large number of tubular steel trusses which will be connected into a frame making up a lightweight roof, covering the whole stadium. A double layer of modern fabric will cover the frame later. Some 50 elements, each weighing up to 150t, must be carefully positioned at 18m centres on temporary supports until a ring beam is completed and the whole assembly is jacked onto the concrete stand columns, which have already been erected more conventionally with tower cranes.

The roof also has a square hole in the middle. Here, further steel elements will be assembled to create a sliding roof in two parts which is opened and closed by electric motors. The double sliding centre panel section, weighing 560t, will run on wheels in U-section channels.

As well as a sliding roof, the stadium even has a sliding pitch. The grass playing surface is housed in a giant concrete tray which will be kept outside in the daylight during the week and moved into the stadium for the games by hydraulic jacks. It slides through a slot under a huge steel ‘bridge’ made up from 300t steel trusses welded together. This bridge supports one of the banks of seating. Even larger steel elements spanning 86m were lifted in for this before the roof work began in March.

Some sections of seating in the 52,000 seater international stadium will be moved around for different events such as concerts. Also, for local matches 9,000 seats can be removed to make standing space for 18,000 people.