Stadium In A Park

Utilizing extra construction materials and a Styrofoam-like block material called GeoFoam, V3 Consultants — a civil engineering, construction and real estate firm based in Chicago — built up the landscaping in and around the park. The GeoFoam material was primarily used on top of the parking garage to help sculpt the landforms, an idea brought into the mix by PLSLA. It was covered by top soil, then sod.

V3′s director of land development, Patrick Kennedy, says that prior to the redevelopment, about 63 of the existing 84 acres were paved. Once the project was complete, that 63 acres of paving had been reduced to about 48 acres.

“From a planning standpoint, water quality was very important, as were the long term benefits to the community, like the sledding hill and more parking,” says Kennedy.

“If you’re doing a redevelopment and converting existing urban land into park space, you’ll improve the water quality by adding green space and decreasing the total runoff. Since it’s a redevelopment you’re not necessarily trying to meet standards, but you’re trying to improve the overall situation. The question we always ask is — How can I improve the water quality without tearing the whole thing out and starting all over again?”

In the past, Kennedy says the initial storm flush, which carries the majority of pollutants into the water system, would go to the lake. Now, thanks in large part to the natural water infiltration, the filtering of the additional topography, and a new storm sewer system, that first flush is diverted westward to the city’s sanitary system where that water is treated and released. Only the overflow, which benefits from the topographical filtering, makes it to the lake.

Kennedy relates that the project was not without its share of surprises, as the site’s past produced archeological obstacles, such as an old concrete structure from the 1893 World’s Fair, and underlying soils which consisted of debris from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (a cow and its owner were implicated in that one, by the way) and the Chicago Freight Tunnel excavation.

“We ran into all kinds of things underground that no one knew were there, in addition to the types of soils we ran into. It’s important to find as much documentation on previous land use as possible to avoid construction cost issues later in the game. In this case they were managed well, because the contractor put allowances in for the unknown, so the site work came in at budget,” says Kennedy.

Finishing Touch

The Chicago Fire also finds its way back into the picture, but not exactly how you’d imagine. The Fire, in this case, is Chicago’s pro soccer team.

The soccer team’s appearance in the story of the new Soldier Field speaks to the park district’s need to collaborate in such a way with the stadium’s main tenant — the Bears — so as to build a true multi-use stadium.

Apparently, this has been accomplished, as Daly says the new stadium is much more fan- and organizer-friendly for special events, such as concerts, and is easily reconfigured for other sporting events, such as a Chicago Fire home game.

“We pushed for certain things in the design stage that were incorporated into the redevelopment. For instance, we hold concerts here, and needed much more access to the field level than we had before, so that semis could actually get to the field to set up for a concert. Now we have the infrastructure to accommodate a concert and the ability to fairly easily bring in the vehicles to the edge of the playing field. That was a huge win for the park district,” says Daly.

“In this case, it wasn’t the park district as the technical owner of the facility turning it all over to the private sector and seeing what we got after it was built. It was definitely us at the table bringing the needs of the park district to light.”

The stadium also has war memorials, including a veteran’s water wall — a 300-foot granite wall with a continuous flow of water coming from the top down to a trough at the base — with an orchard and a free-standing bronze relief behind it.

“There was so much about the stadium project in the press, and though we promoted the park development, it fell second to the stadium development. You can tell by talking to park goers that many of them didn’t realize it was more than the stadium,” says Daly.

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