An engineering consultant that does work worldwide is proposed to be hired by North Little Rock to study the recurring sinkholes at the Dickey-Stephens Park baseball stadium.
The City Council is to consider a resolution at its meeting Monday to authorize an $89,000 contract with Black & Veatch, Inc., based in Overland Park, Kan., to provide “professional services” for a Phase 1 evaluation of the ballpark’s field problems.
Dickey-Stephens Park, which opened in 2007 near the downtown riverfront, is home to the Arkansas Travelers, a Class AA minor league baseball team. Through the independent North Little Rock Public Building Authority, the city owns the $40.4 million ballpark.
During near-record flooding of the Arkansas River in May and June, four sinkholes appeared during a game May 31, delaying play for 23 minutes while the holes were filled by the team’s grounds crew. Another delay of 45 minutes occurred shortly before the next game started the next day when sinkholes again opened.
“We wanted to get fresh eyes on it,” Chief City Engineer Chris Wilbourn said Tuesday of the ballpark’s issues. “Black & Veatch is a well-known national firm. One of the main reasons we’re hiring them is their experience with groundwater modeling.”
The consulting work is to begin Aug. 23 and be completed in three months, Wilbourn said. The Travelers’ final home series this season is Aug. 20-25.
Small sinkholes first appeared during the 2008 and 2015 baseball seasons. When large sinkholes opened on the field near the outfield walls after severe river flooding in late December 2015, North Little Rock spent about $450,000 to repair the sinkholes and to replace underground drainage pipes. Another $52,000 later went to replace a waterline and make additional drainage improvements.
But sinkholes reappeared during the most recent flooding. The river crested at 29.71 feet June 5, the highest level recorded in the Little Rock area since 1945. The ballpark’s playing surface was built 12 feet below street level, a design Mayor Joe Smith recently called “a mistake” to go “down that low that close to the river.”
“We’ve had several different groups try to fix this issue,” Smith said Tuesday. “It’s obvious that with any flooding event, it’s going to affect the ballpark.
“We have too much invested in this ballpark and we love our Travelers,” he said. “We want to continue for that ballpark to be one of the best in the country.”
Black & Veatch is an “engineering, procurement, consulting and construction company,” according to the company’s website, bv.com. Its selection was made by a city-formed Architect and Engineering Committee for a “Phase 1 Evaluation of Geotechnical Issues” affecting the ballpark, the legislation reads.
The engineering company’s work is to conduct “a preliminary study” to develop recommendations, according to a scope of services description included with the legislation. The Phase 1 assessment is being done with the intention of a Phase 2 to follow. Phase 2 will “likely be a refinement of the concepts as a design development step that would then lead into a design,” the document says.
“Phase 2 would be if they have some recommendations and we go into a design process,” Wilbourn said. “The first part is a study to see what we can do to help that.
“This is more about getting a fresh look at it from somebody different,” Wilbourn said of hiring a consultant. “It is a unique problem.”
Metro on 08/07/2019
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