Noise, light studies on Columbia baseball stadium find limited impact on nearby neighborhoods

Results from noise and lighting studies for the Spirit Communications Park found that baseball games would have a minimal effect on nearby neighborhoods.

“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.”

John Katz, president of the Columbia Fireflies, addresses the media about results of studies. (photo by Kelly Petty)

John Katz, president of the Columbia Fireflies, addresses the media about results of studies. (photo by Kelly Petty)

Katz, along with Columbia city staff and consultants from the firms that conducted the noise and lighting studies, met Monday afternoon with residents from the Cottontown and Earlewood neighborhoods to present findings for the two studies.

Assistant City Manager Missy Gentry said the group learned residents were upset about the timing of the release of both studies.

“There’s a lot of frustration from the community,” Gentry said. “I think most of the concerns we heard so far are frustrations over the time delay and we certainly recognize that. The community [also] felt like we should have studied fireworks and concerts.”

The noise study was delivered to Columbia Fireflies President John Katz on July 17, 2015, but had not been released to the public until Jan. 25 this year, a little more than two months before Spirit Communications Park is expected to open in April. Gentry said the lighting study was conducted during the ballpark’s design process last summer.

Assistant City Manager Missy Gentry said she could not explain why the studies were released to the public so late, but she said the October floods and the subsequent holiday season kept city staff busy.

“It was not intentional,” she said. “We accept responsibility and regret that.”

Gentry also said both consulting firms that conducted the studies were part of the design team for the stadium. The challenge, she said, was for architects to use the studies to design something that minimized the impact on the community while building a stadium suited for baseball.

[stextbox id=”info” caption=”Decibel levels for different sounds” collapsing=”false” collapsed=”false” mode=”css” direction=”ltr” shadow=”true” float=”true” align=”right” width=”250″]

Average home interior: 50 to 55 decibels

Talking, 3 feet: 60 to 65 decibels

Freeway traffic: 70 to 80 decibels

Lawnmower: 85 to 95 decibels

Woodshop equipment: 95 to 105 decibels


“In order to do a study, you have to know what you’re studying” Gentry said. “We very much recognized the sensitivity of the venue in contrast to protecting the integrity of our neighborhoods. I know there’s a difference of opinion of that, but we are using the most modern technology available.”

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.

Noise expected to spread out from the stadium toward Harden Street and the Robert Mills Historic District could reach 55 decibels.

Consultants said sound would be further diminished as the rest of the Columbia Commons development is built out. Gentry said she could not give an exact date for when other buildings would be constructed, but she said the Ensor and Babcock buildings would remain on the property.

Results from the light study showed light would not emit into areas beyond 600 feet from the stadium.

Katz said he has spoken with representatives of two fireworks companies used by Columbia’s former minor league baseball team, the Capital City Bombers, and found the ballpark most likely could use smaller fireworks shells that would be less of a disruption. He also said musical performances vary based on the act and that musicians bring their own sound kits in lieu of using the venue’s system.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re bringing in the Temptations or Metallica, they’ve all got their own technical riders, they bring in different equipment,” Katz said. “Ours is set up so that everything is pointing down toward the fans and stays as close as we can within the confines of the seating bowl.”

Naomi Gilyard, a resident who lives off Hampton Street in the Robert Mills Historic District, said she often can hear the noise from festivals and parades in Five Points and downtown Columbia.

A stadium light from the 1970s (left) and a modern stadium light (right) that has a hood to target light on the field. (photo by Kelly Petty)

A stadium light from the 1970s (left) and a modern stadium light (right) that has a hood to target light on the field. (photo by Kelly Petty)

“It’s just like it’s in our backyard,” she said. “Sometimes it will wake me up.”

Columbia City Councilman Sam Davis said Monday was his first time seeing the study and that City Council would need to consider a second study to ensure sound from fireworks and concerts are addressed.

“I think they’re legitimate concerns,” Davis said. “We need to make sure we have the best data based on the latest methods and processes to analyze the kinds of sounds that the neighborhoods are concerned about.”

Gentry said City Council members could request a study to focus on the fireworks and concerts, though it would come at a cost. The light study was absorbed into the stadium’s design costs, but the noise study cost the city $7,500, according to Gentry.

Gentry said also has heard residents express concerns over parking.

City officials agreed in June to build two parking decks for the stadium as part of the ballpark and Bull Street development deal. Baseball team owner Jason Freier and developer Bob Hughes are required to provide parking in the meantime.

Gentry said a plan for parking is being worked out for the stadium, but it has not been finalized. She also said a traffic study will be released next month.

City Council will discuss the lighting and noise studies during Tuesday’s regular session at 6 p.m. in the City Hall chambers. Residents also may attend a community drop-in for more information on the study from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday at the mayor’s conference room in City Hall.

Categories: Hometown, Richland County