Stormwater and the new Braves Stadium
If you’re a baseball fan or just happen to own a television, you probably know about the Atlanta Braves’ decision to leave Downtown for a new stadium in suburban Cobb County to the north of the city.
I’m not a sports fan, and I really don’t have anything invested in where the stadium is located. So my concerns related to the new stadium revolve around stormwater management.
Stormwater is rainfall (or snowmelt) that hits the ground but doesn’t soak in. Instead, it travels across impervious surfaces such as parking lots (new stadium, I’m looking at you), driveways, paved roads, etc., picking up whatever trash, animal wastes, chemicals or oils might be present and transporting them elsewhere. When these pollutants end up in rivers and streams, as they often do, they are classified as non-point-source pollution, the number one source of water pollution in the U.S.
The Braves’ current home, Fulton County Stadium, is surrounded by parking lots great and small. Baseball fans may have thought they were spending a small fortune to park in some of them, but residents of Peoplestown, Mechanicsville, and Summerhill have paid a far higher price in terms of flooded yards and basements and sewer back-ups related to stormwater run-off from so many paved surfaces. The City of Atlanta has initiated both grey (sewer separation projects via the City’s Consent Decrees and installment of a 5MG vault) and green infrastructure initiatives to mitigate flooding and related issues in the so-called Stadium neighborhoods.
Now, with the Braves’ farewell tour almost a done deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says the City will demolish Turner Field in 2017 and redevelop the area – likely as some sort of mixed-use development. Whatever the City builds on the site will have to meet the requirements of Atlanta’s recently revised Post-Development Stormwater Management Ordinance (www.atlantawatershed.org/greeninfrastructure), which requires both commercial and residential developments to capture and manage the first one-inch of stormwater on-site via green infrastructure best management practices (BMPs) such as rain gardens, vegetated swales, dry wells, cisterns, and pervious pavement. Although the current Fulton County Stadium contains a lot of non-pervious pavement (i.e. asphalt parking lots), the redevelopment plans must include green infrastructure that “holds” rainwater on site, allowing it to infiltrate slowly into the ground. These measures will be a welcome relief to nearby residents.
(BTW, in case you were wondering, the new Atlanta Falcons Stadium will have to meet the requirements of this Ordinance, as well.)
Which brings me back to my original concern re: the new stadium in Cobb County. What stormwater management practices will be required when the Braves’ organization breaks ground? The planned location is a 60-acre wooded site. How much of that will be devoted to parking lots, and will those parking lots contain pervious or impervious pavement? What of the water bodies nearby? What about sewer and/or storm sewer capacity in the area? The Sierra Club, which has teamed with the Tea Party to question the efficacy of the Braves’ move to Cobb, has already listed pollution and runoff as major concerns.
Sierra Club response to proposed Braves Stadium in Cobb:
“Open space and active recreation facilities are severely lacking in the Cumberland area. The proposed stadium site, which is currently a 60-acre wooded parcel, would be an ideal location for a new park with playing fields. Clear cutting most of the existing forested 60-acre parcel and replacing it with buildings will negatively affect the watershed with more pollution and runoff. Rottenwood Creek is especially important to our Centennial Group, who have been testing water quality just south of the proposed stadium site as part of the Adopt-a-Stream program for over a decade.” (http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/political-insider/2013/nov/25/final-arguments-braves-cobb-debate/)
I also wonder if the new stadium will be water and energy efficient. A LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) building would be both a wise use of resources and would promise lower electricity and water/sewer bills over the course of its use – which should be less than 20 years if Turner Field and the Georgia Dome are indicative of local stadium lifespans. I really hope the Cobb County Commission is considering how this huge development will affect nearby streams, air quality, neighborhoods, and residents.