The Bexley Planning Commission hosted a full house at its June 3 meeting as residents gathered to comment on a proposal that would add lighting and upgrade the sound system at Capital's Bernlohr stadium.
Since a plan to add four 110-foot-tall light poles and six new speakers to the 2,500-seat stadium was introduced at an April 22 commission meeting, residents have been voicing concerns to Capital University officials about the increased noise, light and traffic that could be associated with the project.
Throughout the entire process, "We've followed a policy where we are a good neighbor and we're minimizing disruption in the community," said Capital Athletic Director Steve Bruning, who took to the podium June 3 to address the questions he's received.
Although there are concerns about the noise level from the new speakers, project leaders from the architecture firm Moody-Nolan Inc. told the commission that studies in and around the stadium have shown outside noise would decrease an average of 20 decibels once installation is completed.
As opposed to the current speakers that are situated at the top of the stadium, pointing straight out, the new speakers would be installed at an angle and concentrated toward the field. The proposed placement of the speakers explains how the noise levels could decrease after the upgrade, representatives said.
During his presentation, Bruning played the Capital University fight song at 60 decibels to demonstrate what a typical game day could sound like, but residents at the meeting made it known that they believe the noise level is actually much higher.
Residents should expect to hear music an hour prior to games, but under Capital's policy, teams practicing in the stadium would not be permitted to use the speakers, Bruning said.
The project's engineer explained the proposed light poles would affect the surrounding light level as well, but no more than they do for those living near the Bexley High School stadium, which also was completed by Moody-Nolan. Residents in the direct vicinity of the stadium on game nights could see an increase of light that is equivalent to a street lamp, according to the company.
Bruning said Capital's policy would require all 55 lights mounted on the four poles to be shut off by 10:30 p.m. on game nights and 10:15 p.m. on practice nights.
Many teams already have scheduled morning practices for upcoming seasons, Bruning said, and although game times have not yet been finalized, he expects no more than 21 games to be played under the lights this year: two football, six men's and women's lacrosse and 13 men's and women's soccer for 2013-14.
The $650,000 plan to install lights and upgrade the sound system is the final phase of a three-part project to improve the 12-year-old stadium that abuts the Euclaire Avenue alley, East Mound Street and the Bexley Public Library. In the first phase, new turf and track and field event spaces were added. Last year, Capital constructed a new scoreboard and an additional access gate as part of the second phase.
Aside from Ohio Northern University, Capital is the only college or university in the Ohio Athletic Conference lacking stadium lighting.
Commissioners read a letter from Euclaire Avenue resident Jessica Keith that shared some of the university's neighbors' concerns.
"I'm opposed to the project due to the increased noise and light pollution it could cause," Keith wrote in the letter addressed to the mayor. "There are many small children residing in this neighborhood -- an attribute that attracted us to this area of town -- and I believe this project would detract from the quality of life."
Residents who spoke at the meeting offered suggestions for the commission to consider, including placing a limit on the number of night games played each year, eliminating the hour of music that would be played prior to games, and turning Euclaire Alley into a dead-end street to discourage traffic and promote privacy.
Capital officials are meeting at 7 p.m. June 19 with homeowners whose properties fall within a 250-foot radius of the stadium. Of the 67 parcels of land within those boundaries, 31 are single-family homes and 32 are buildings owned by the university.
Residents can learn more about the project as well as address the commission at its next meeting, set for 6 p.m. Monday, June 24, in City Council chambers, 2242 E. Main St.