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Studies: New Columbia ballpark noise, light won’t impact neighborhood

Spirit Communications Park

Studies prepared during the planning of Spirit Communications Park, set to open in April as home of the Columbia Fireflies (Low A; Sally League), indicate a minimal impact on the surrounding neighborhood when it comes to noise and light spillage.

The issue of neighborhood noise and light impact was raised early in the ballpark design process, and the studies were completed last year but not released by the city until this past January. They fall in line with what was promised Columbia: a low-impact facility that meets city standards. From ColaDaily:

“Sound is one of those things where we put a lot of faith in the professionals that design the sound system to make sure that the speakers that were selected and the way we operate our venue is the least amount of intrusiveness to the surrounding communities,” said John Katz, president of the Columbia Fireflies. “It’s obviously critically important for us to be good neighbors.”…

Consultants from Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams Inc. measured noise levels for the baseball stadium, as well as for the Babcock and Ensor buildings. The study looked at sound for a typical baseball game but did not include fireworks and concerts the venue is likely to host.

The noise study conducted by Musco Lighting found that residents in communities to the west of the ballpark along Colonial Drive would hear noise at 50 decibels, lower than the city’s noise ordinance of 55 decibels for residential areas.

Despite the studies, residents in nearby neighborhoods were still questioning the impact of the ballpark — and specifically, the sound and light issues when it came to concerts and fireworks. These are valid concerns, of course (neighbors always worry about fireworks), but in the end the city can’t really do a whole lot, as the lease is already in place and Columbia can’t alter its fireworks and noise ordinances with only a single facility in mind. From The State:

City Council has little power to force the company that will run the new baseball stadium to limit fireworks displays or restrict game days or concert dates, the city attorney told council Tuesday.

“The simple answer to all those is, no,” Teresa Knox said publicly after a private legal briefing council had received behind closed doors. “We’re contractually obligated. We don’t have the authority to initiate those.”

The legal advice from Knox came as council grappled with a renewed wave of complaints from residents who live near the $37 million, publicly funded ballpark. Many homeowners were dissatisfied with a noise study released Monday that did not take into account sound from fireworks, concerts or crowds.

This is an area where a track record does mean something, and the teams owned and run by Hardball Capital have a record of working with neighborhoods to create great experiences. The Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low A; Midwest League), in particular, have a proven history of bring a good neighbor to both the neighboring residents and businesses, spurring a lot of development in the ballpark vicinity.

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