Mike Miller has lived a block away from Memorial Stadium on South Holly Street in the Rosewood neighborhood of Columbia for years.
He’s gotten used to the bands playing at halftime of Friday night high school football games, the roar of the crowd, the blare of the public address system, the traffic.
But in recent years, the activities at the stadium have increased: soccer games, Wednesday and Thursday night junior varsity games, band competitions.
“Having a marching band bang away outside your living room window for four straight hours one night a week is one thing, but when it starts happening two or three nights a week, well, that’s tough,” said Miller, president of the Rosewood Neighborhood Association. “Add soccer season and the loud music pounding from the PA before games, and you get the picture.”
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But now Richland County School District 1 is spending $6.7 million to replace the 60-year-old facility, which is used by several high schools, including Dreher and A.C. Flora. Miller said residents fear the configuration of the new sound system will bring the noise even louder.
“It hasn’t been overbearingly loud,” Miller said. “But now it will face the neighborhood. And there are a dozen homes right there” in front of it.
He added that the “new high-tech sound system” is capable of “blowing the roofs off houses all the way to Rosewood Drive.”
In a written response to questions from The State newspaper, Raymond Perkins, the district’s facility service director, said the district “has made plans for the speakers to be directed such that it will not be a full frontal address in the direction of the neighborhood.”
The district also will control the volume of the speakers, he said.
The stadium upgrades are part of nearly $40 million in athletics projects that the school district has undertaken since 2015. The projects include building a stadium at Keenan High School and upgrading Bolden Stadium and one at Lower Richland High School. The upgrades ensure all of the stadiums have similar features, including 5,000-seat capacity, artificial turf, video scoreboards and updated restrooms, press boxes and fencing.
Memorial Stadium is slated to open in a couple of weeks, although there still appears to be lots of work to be done, including installing the turf and building the press and coaches’ boxes.
Miller said the neighborhood association wasn’t consulted in the planning and design process. It was approved by City Council, but Rosewood’s representative Moe Baddourah on City Council has been suspended after allegations of criminal domestic abuse surfaced.
Adding to the concern is traffic.
Miller noted that a traffic study conducted in 2003 when the district last renovated the stadium concluded that there would be “considerable congestion at several intersections before major events.”
“Nothing was done to address that concern 15 years ago, and now a multimillion-dollar renovation of Memorial Stadium is underway that promises more traffic,” he said.
Perkins said the increase in traffic would be minimal.
“It should be noted that there is less than a 150-seat increase for the renovated stadium,” he said. “There will not be a substantial increase in the traffic at the stadium. The district will work to manage the traffic in the area around the stadium.”