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Innovative Drainage Key to New Parking Area for Gamecock Games

Tue November 03, 2009 - Southeast Edition
Eric Olson

Tailgate parties at University of South Carolina (USC) Gamecocks football games should be more enjoyable this fall with the construction of a sparkling new parking area adjacent to the stadium.

The just-opened parking area, on the southwest side of Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, also serves visitors to the South Carolina State Fair, which will ran this year from Oct. 14 to 25.

Football fans and fair goers alike who have parked near the stadium in the past should notice the biggest difference on rainy Saturdays due to an unseen technology under their very feet.

For years, the approximately 30-acre site had been a dirt and grass parking lot for more than 4,000 vehicles. Minor flooding had proven to be a major headache at the site as it sits in a relatively low area between downtown Columbia and the nearby Congaree River basin.

Finally, fairgrounds management decided that improvements had to be made and beginning with the end of the 2008 USC football season, work got under way to build a parking area utilizing both concrete paving and Bermuda grass.

Heading Underground

The key to the project, though, was the installation of underground storage chambers designed to channel away storm water runoff.

When the work was completed in May, the fairgrounds and football stadium had a beautifully landscaped parking area ornamented with a variety of native trees. The lot also was more than equipped to handle the heavy traffic that brought Gamecocks fans to the first USC home football game Sept. 19 against Florida Atlantic.

Columbia-based U.S. Group Inc. was chosen as the $5.5 million project’s general contractor. Assisting the firm were Corbett Concrete Construction from nearby Irmo, S.C.; and C.R. Jackson Inc., another Columbia-area company. Corbett was in charge of putting in the more than 11 mi. (17.7 km) of curb and gutter work at the parking area, while C.R. Jackson did the paving.

According to U.S. Group’s Jeff Kinard, the company’s senior design engineer and project manager for the job, creating an effective solution for the parking area’s flooding problems was the biggest obstacle.

“That old lot was just a smorgasbord of dirt and grass and a little bit of a stone base,” Kinard explained. “It was a fairly sandy area, which helped when it rained, but that whole general area is only a half-mile from the river and it was prone to flooding when heavy rain hit. Plus, can you imagine trying to park 4,000 cars in a grass parking lot during a heavy rain?”

Innovative Land Saver

Kinard said that the approach that U.S. Group used was both innovative and effective.

“What we came up with was one of the largest land saver systems ever,” he added, “and no one will ever see it.”

U.S. Group installed more than 2,500 yellow storm water chambers about 5 ft. (1.5 m) underground, each of which allows rainwater to soak into the ground underneath the parking area, rather than run off into the surrounding area. A system of pipes was placed alongside the chambers and both were on top of gravel beds and filtration matting placed throughout the project. In addition, pollution filtration devices were installed to ensure that the lot was environmentally friendly.

Advanced Drainage Systems Inc., headquartered in Hilliard, Ohio, manufactured the entire system.

“Try to imagine about a three-foot tall plastic dog house that’s four feet long – that’s what these storm water chambers look like,” Kinard said. “We had to excavate out that entire area, which if you add it up is a lot of dirt. The minimum cover on them was about two feet on top and they are 30 inches below, so that would make them about five feet deep, although there were places where we went as much as eight feet deep.”

Breaking It In

Kinard said that he saw firsthand the effectiveness of the drainage system earlier this year during a thunderstorm and can attest to how well it worked.

“The underside of the chamber is open, so you have got a large area of storage there and the crushed stone that is present completely encapsulates the system and actually goes to a minimum of six inches above it,” he explained. “So whenever it rains, the water flows into those land saver units and basically soaks into the ground. I am sure that I witnessed in excess of a 10-year storm down there, yet I never saw any water come out of that system.”

Kinard also said that changes were made above ground to the original design of the parking area’s curb and gutter configuration. Initially, the pavement was going to be installed right to the edge of the grass parking lot.

“But I realized when I got there that they were going to have a heck of a problem where the grass edge and paving edge met,” he said. “Within a year or two and after it got wet, those edges were going to look bad. So we gave them several options and I said ’I believe you are going to be better off here with a ribbon curb that goes down the side of your paving and that is concrete and actually separates it from the grass area.’ It also gives the maintenance people something to edge and it looks nice. So we did that and I think it turned out great. The [fairgrounds management was] real pleased with what we did too.”

As It Gets Older, It Gets Better

Kinard said that the project was completed as quickly as possible in order to make sure that the grass had a full growing season to take root before the first USC home football game. He added that the entire parking area would be at its most beautiful in three or four years when the native trees and shrubs are fully mature. Among the trees planted at the site are Live Oaks, Red Maples, Black Gums, Crepe Myrtles and Sabal Palmettos.

Ringing the entire parking area is an irrigation system for the plantings and new electric lights and poles also have been installed.

U.S. Group used a variety of equipment on the job including Cat scrapers, rollers and motorgraders, Kinard said. His company leases and buys all of its Caterpillar equipment from Blanchard Machinery, based in Columbia. CEG

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