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University of South Carolina's Gamecock Park

by Kyle Theodore, ASLA, Principal, Wood+Partners, Inc., and Linda Youst, Marketing Coordinator

Silva cells (DeepRoot) provide long-term root growth for the new oaks planted trees by the concrete walk. Pictured are two stacked rows of cell frames (48'' long, 2' wide x 16'' high). Each frame holds 10 cubic feet of lightly compacted loam soil. A comprehensive bioinfiltration storm water system captures and treats the first 1.5" of rainfall (the 95th percentile). Wells supply irrigation, and the infiltration trenches and bioretention cells nearly eliminate stormwater runoff.

The University of South Carolina's new 50-acre Gamecock Park in Columbia is located on a site previously serving as the home of the South Carolina State Farmers Market. This new park has become a green oasis and a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization and transformation in a growing sector for the city. This prominent site, acquired by the University in 2010, is located across the street from Williams-Brice Stadium on a heavily traveled business corridor. The University of South Carolina has created a facility that not only fills a much-needed demand for additional parking for Gamecock fans on game days, but also functions as an important new open space. This exciting space consists of a state-of-the-art tailgate facility, including game day parking with dedicated tent spaces and cable TV hook-ups, electrical outlets and four permanent restroom buildings. The new park provides highly sought after game day parking on low-impact stabilized turf for over 2,000 vehicles.

Paved dedicated tent zones for 'tailgating' are segregated from vehicular traffic by aluminum fencing ('Echelon' from Ameristar). These highly sought after patron parking spaces have electrical/CATV hookups and are sold and assigned each year, generating a significant income for the university ($275 to $400, depending on the lot).

Garnet Way, the primary central open space, is the facility's main organizing element. This tree-lined, grassy promenade funnels pedestrians into a vehicle free zone for a safe walking connection to the stadium. The space is also a venue for free play, and a stadium parade route for the marching band, cheerleaders and football team. Celebrated as "Gamecock Walk," players stride the Garnet Way surrounded by adoring fans as they enter the stadium on game day. The team and fans clearly enjoy this exciting new tradition.

The University of South Carolina's 50-acre Gamecock Park in Columbia has parking and tailgating for more than 2,000 vehicles for game day, concerts and other special events. The turf for the grassed parking and central pedestrian green spaces is a triangle-hulled Bermuda grass blend. Lighting for the park is metal halide lamps in Sternberg's octagonal and spiked 'Main Street' series luminaires, which have reflector shields to reduce light pollution. Lining the main promenade (called 'Garnet Way') are scarlet oaks (Quercus coccinea), known for their brilliant autumn colors.

New open spaces are provided along the street edge and accommodate additional game day events, activities, concerts and gatherings.

"In Gamecock Park, we have a facility that rivals any place in the country in tailgating," says Ray Tanner, the University of South Carolina's athletics director. "It's an area that pulls together the atmosphere of college football in a first-class manner for our fans. Whether it's Gamecock Walk, tailgating, a pregame pep rally, a concert or children playing in the open fields, Gamecock Park is representative of the fun and excitement we want our fans to experience at home football games."

The main pedestrian way is brick paving (Pine Hall Brick Co., 'Red and 'Red Flash'). The university's signature gates have brick walls ('Cokesbury' by Hanson) and brick columns with 'Wheat' colored precast column post caps and urns (Cast Stone Systems). Brick seat walls with concrete caps provide resting points along the route to the stadium.

Traffic, Transportation and Parking
The design team's traffic and transportation planning and parking solutions included roadway improvements to accommodate the thousands of vehicles entering or leaving the facility in a short time. Improvements included complete streets solutions with the provision of tree-lined streets and generous walkways to safely accommodate pedestrians; comprehensive wayfinding with easy to read signage; new turn lanes, lane striping and street lighting.

Vehicles and buses are directed to assigned parking spaces. Dedicated "tent zones" provide separation of tailgating and vehicular traffic. The highly sought after patron parking spaces are sold and assigned each year, generating a significant new source of income for the university.

It's nearing game time, and the marching band processional is leaving Gamecock Park via Garnet Way, a vehicle-free zone that funnels pedestrians for a safe walking connection to the Bluff Road crosswalk and Williams-Brice Stadium. Two large restroom buildings with standing seamed metal roofs flank the tree-lined, grassy promenade where the brick paving ends. Two more bathrooms are available further up the concrete walkways.

Monumental columns and low walls with decorative iron fencing align the street frontage, bringing campus design details to the new tailgate site. These flourishes help to reinforce the unique qualities of USC's historic campus core and sense of place. A generous number of canopy trees throughout the park bring some relief from the hot weather typical in the fall. Careful selection consideration was given to tree species that produce just the right shade of "Gamecock Garnet" fall color.

The day shot offers a closer look at the 'Main Street' luminaires. The elevated lawn panel directly across the street from Williams-Brice Stadium provides an informal stage for cheerleaders, bands and the university mascot, a fighting rooster named "Cocky." Night
Photo: Allen Sharpe

Low-Maintenance Materials and LID
The project employed low-maintenance materials consistent with those used elsewhere on the university's campus. There are a relatively small number of paved parking spaces. The larger balance of parking spaces are located in grassed and landscaped zones. Higher traffic areas are accessed through paved parking aisles, and lesser-traveled aisles remain grassed. Low-impact development (LID) techniques were used to accommodate stormwater runoff, including infiltration trenches and bioretention cells. The parking facility requires very little maintenance other than periodic mowing and yearly aerating. Wells provide irrigation water, reducing dependence on municipal water, and further reducing maintenance costs.

Prior to construction, the site was the South Carolina State Farmers Market, 50 acres of buildings, concrete and asphalt pavement. Existing concrete and other existing building materials were crushed for onsite reuse and/or sold for reuse offsite. Existing asphalt pavement was milled and mixed into the soil for added structural support in the grassed parking areas. There are more than 900 trees on site, the most prominent species being 1) scarlet oaks, 2) 'Autumn Brilliance' downy serviceberries and 3) southern live oaks. A comprehensive bioinfiltration storm water system captures and treats the first 1.5" of rainfall (the 95th percentile). Wells supply irrigation, and infiltration trenches and bioretention cells nearly eliminate stormwater runoff.

"Using LID allowed us to turn an aging impervious site into a destination that no longer takes away from the environment, but now recharges groundwater and improves the environment," explained Darren Holcombe, P.E., LEED AP, the design team project manager at Cox and Dinkins, Inc.

The large live oaks were retained in the paved parking areas for their grandeur, along with their shade benefits and reducing stormwater runoff. As this area is all about game time parking and tailgating, each paved parking space has an electrical/CATV hookup.

Concrete and other existing building materials were crushed for onsite reuse or sold for reuse off site. Existing asphalt pavements were milled and mixed into the soil for added structural support in grassed parking areas. A comprehensive bioinfiltration stormwater system was designed to capture and treat the first 1.5 inches of rainfall from all storms, the 95th percentile. Through the reduction of impervious surfaces and construction of the biofiltration system, postdevelopment run-off was reduced over 90 percent. The planting of over 900 trees reduced the urban heat island effect, runoff and provides valuable shade for visitors to enjoy while tailgating. In paved areas, 'Silva Cells' were incorporated to provide a healthier environment for long-term root growth. Weeping Love grass (Eragrostis curvula) was also planted in select areas, reducing the need for mowing and other ongoing maintenance. Editor's note: Weeping lovegrass, a native to southern Africa, was originally planted in the U.S. for erosion control and livestock forage, but is now also being used as an ornamental, along roadsides, in pastures and in mine reclamation or other severely disturbed landscapes.

A flexible use open space, Garnet Way hosts many activities on game days such as pickup ball, Frisbee play and inflatable kid fun.

Natural Resources and Reducing Energy
Reduction of energy and natural resource usage was also a focus of the project. Specified for the facility are light reflector shields to reduce light pollution. Some of the Gamecock Park systems are tied to the university's energy management system, monitoring and reducing energy and water use. Solar light wells for the restrooms introduce ample natural light.

"The project time constraints, along with LID techniques and state-of-the-art design elements, created a unique and challenging project. It took the entire project team working together to make it a success," said Brad Stutts, construction manager for LAD Corp., which was responsible for the project's construction.

Gamecock Park also features an elevated plaza surrounded by open space suited for concerts and rallies.

Along with the design team, LAD Corp., and the university staff were determined to complete the project on time and do so in a way that created a valuable open space that was predominantly green. The addition of this large new park space in the heart of an area that was previously covered in impervious surfaces is having a positive impact on the neighborhood. The addition of pervious, stabilized turf parking surfaces, underground storm drainage collection and filtration basins will make a significant impact on water quality benefitting the region.

The view down Garnet Way on game day shows youngsters "going out for passes." The flexible use open space serves many purposes, including hosting a hospitality tent for football recruits.

The response to Gamecock Park has been very positive. Surrounding neighbors have reinvested in their properties, and construction activity in the area is on the increase. The university continues to invest in the neighborhood with construction of new outdoor practice fields. A new indoor practice facility is currently under construction. This fall the university will unveil improvements to the grounds of Williams-Brice Stadium, underscoring their commitment to become a premier college football venue.

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October 17, 2019, 9:23 am PDT

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