The main challenge in the early stages of the project was the rock that was on site.
(Photo courtesy of Stone Building Company.)
A modern-day field of dreams is close to becoming reality in Gardendale, Ala., as construction crews work to complete a $32 million sports complex just outside Birmingham.
Bill Noble Park is being transformed into a venue that will serve young athletes in the area and beyond.
"I played Little League baseball in Gardendale back in the 60s," said Mayor Stan Hogeland. "The kids in our community were playing on the same fields that I did almost 60 years ago. They deserved a new park, and that's what they're getting."
The new complex will include synthetic turf fields for football, lacrosse and soccer, along with nine baseball fields, 10 tennis courts and 11 pickleball courts.
"There's something here for the entire family, from baseball to softball, tennis to pickleball and lots more, for every age group," said Hogeland. "Also, every playing surface is synthetic turf. It's absolutely beautiful, from one end to the other."
Creating a sense of unity is one of the benefits of the new complex, which was financed through a bond.
"In Gardendale, the boys and girls have always played in separate parks," he added. "This forced parents to have to split up on some nights when they had a son and daughter playing. Now, boys and girls will play in the same park, and that problem will be solved in most instances.
"Also, we were looking for a project that would set our community apart and use it to attract young families to our city, as well as retain those families we already had. We decided to invest in kids through recreation and education."
Hogeland said he's confident that on weekends the park will become an economic development engine, attracting new businesses and hotels as the space is marketed across the Southeast.
"Travel ball for both girls and boys has exploded across the United States. You won't find a nicer park with more amenities than ours. Combining a beautiful new park with some good old-fashioned southern hospitality is the perfect combination. New hotels are coming, followed by restaurants and retail, and the word is already getting out."
Hogeland noted that with the new facility, there will be more opportunities for recreational play.
"There is an emphasis on youth sports, but there will be many options for adults as well. My challenge to Sports Facilities Company, whom we have engaged to manage Bill Noble Park for the city, is to maximize usage while protecting the rights and expectations of the local citizens.
"We have a sense of community that's very special, and something we're all very proud of. It extends well beyond our city limits in every direction in north Jefferson County. Also, from Little League to high school, Gardendale has a long track record when it comes to competition and sports, and a commitment to be the very best we can in every area."
The previous park was named after a former mayor, who served the city for 28 years.
"I felt it was important to keep the name the same, in honor of a man who was instrumental in the foundation of the city we enjoy today," said Hogeland, adding, "It's very exciting to see construction continuing. I visit the site most every day. It's been so cool to watch it develop from demolition to where it is today, as we near completion."
According to Stone Building Company Project Manager Alex Hutcheson, work began on the project in February 2022, with mass grading, rock drill and blast, demolition and storm drainage and detention already completed. Currently, athletic turf installation and asphalt paving are taking place, along with sidewalks, CMU installation, Hardie board installation, standing seam roofing, structural steel, sports field lighting, HVAC, plumbing, utilities, protective netting installation, storefront installation, natural stone installation, landscaping, irrigation and grassing.
Remaining tasks include site furnishings, scoreboards, striping, MEP trimout, flooring, finish paint, door hardware and main entrance signage.
"The original job site was an existing park with tennis courts, baseball fields and a football field," said Hutcheson. "There were multiple restroom and concession structures that were demolished. The park was also expanded into an area that was wooded before construction."
Site work involved clearing and grubbing, rock blasting, mass excavation, cut/fill and slope stabilization.
"The main challenge in the early stages of the project was the rock that was on site. Of the 300,000 cubic yards of dirt that was excavated, approximately one-third of that quantity was rock. There was a blasting contractor on site for approximately two months that blasted rock each day for that duration. This allowed the earthwork contractor to proceed with excavation, and the rocks were broken down into manageable sizes.
"Another challenge was filling in two areas of the project that were over 50 feet deep and had to be brought up in 18-in lifts of dirt."
Regarding the old park, most of the demolition involved either structures or parking lots.
"Large excavators were used to demolish both the buildings and the asphalt," said Hutcheson. "The demolition scope of work took approximately two months, and the debris was removed to an offsite landfill. The city of Gardendale was offered the opportunity to remove and salvage any of the material that was valuable to remain for future use in the park."
Hutcheson said that the first four to five months of the project were wet, so erosion control was critical to success.
"The outline of the site was double silt fenced, and all of the inlets were protected with inlet covers, silt savers or wattles. Diversion berms were created throughout the site to help divert water to the sediment ponds until the site is stabilized with landscaping.
"We received more rain the first few months of the project than the five-year average, so the initial mass grading work was slow to get started. The wet soils slowed the process of these mass grading activities."
The project team is pushing to have all HVAC installed and trimmed out so the heat can be turned on to allow the finish activities to begin inside the buildings during the colder months.
"Also, the team is strategically coordinating when concrete is placed and monitoring the air and ground temperature prior to pouring concrete. We anticipate the need to use hot water, insulated blankets and other cold weather concreting techniques during the next month."
Because the utilities were mainly located in large rock areas, the project team decided to lay out where they would be installed prior to the utility contractor mobilizing. These utility trench areas were then drilled and blasted so that installation could proceed in an expedited time frame.
In addition, an accurate subgrade is always critical to ensure the synthetic turf system begins installation at the accurate elevations.
"We utilized laser GPS to fine grade the ballfields where we have synthetic turf. It's important to ensure that the subdrainage system is installed per design with elevation points, so that the turf system can function and drain properly. And after turf installation, the system must stay clean and free of any dirt or mud."
The most time-consuming task involved the mass excavation due to the rock and the extreme cut/fill on site. Some areas required a 55-ft. cut through mainly rock and harder soils. Mass excavation on the project took approximately six months from start to finish.
Heavy machinery used on the project has included Komatsu 390s, Komatsu 490s, Komatsu HM400 rock trucks, Komatsu D61PX dozers, Cat D6 dozers, Cat excavators and a Volvo L60E wheel loader. Two JunJin JD-900 hydraulic crawler rock drilling rigs and a Volvo EC200E excavator with Indeco rock hammer also have been required.
Hutcheson said working on a project that has such a positive impact on the local community has been extremely rewarding.
"When the opportunity arose to work alongside the city of Gardendale to redevelop Bill Noble Park, we knew we wanted to be involved. We particularly enjoy working on city parks and athletic facilities. Once completed, the park will draw in residents and non-residents to the Gardendale community to enjoy its many recreational facilities. As a company, we take a lot of pride in knowing that the work we do can transform a community."
Stone Building Company was founded in 1983 and has been in business for 40 years as a premier general contractor in the Southeast.
"During this time, we have completed significant projects in the institutional, healthcare, commercial, retail, multifamily, student housing, parks and recreation, athletic complex, civic and industrial markets," said Hutcheson. "We attribute our success to our philosophy, ‘Quality work builds lasting relationships.'"
Hogeland is equally pleased to play a part in construction of the new complex, which will serve so many.
"Our community is built on family values, and this park will create memories for decades to come." CEG
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