Since opening in 1991, the lower levels, dugouts, and bullpens of US Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, have experienced chronic flooding issues during short intense storms. The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA) retained Gewalt Hamilton Associates, Inc. to evaluate the existing conditions both internally and externally. From that evaluation ISFA requested that Gewalt Hamilton design stormwater management and pump improvements to reduce the likelihood of flooding therefore reducing the number of impacted events, which affected White Sox players and upwards of 40,000 people per event.
This contract was bid and awarded to John Neri Construction, Inc. (JNC) and was constructed during one of the harshest winters in Chicago history. All work on this contract was to be completed during the off-season so as to not impact the White Sox schedule. In addition, Roger Bossard, head groundskeeper for the Chicago White Sox, had stringent conditions to stay off of the grass therefore reducing the project limits and operations to a 12’ wide area within the park for the majority of the improvements.
It was determined during the design phase that a new 18” diameter storm sewer would be installed near the wall from first base to home plate, to the left field corner, to center field and then under the stadium to a new StormTrap system installed in the players parking lot. This new storm sewer intercepted field drainage and directed it away from the existing internal pumps that could not keep up with the flow from the field and stands. A 30” diameter steel casing pipe was augered and jacked under the four grade beams in the center field causeway. Due to the time constraints, the Contractor was required to pour all concrete pavements within the winter months utilizing admixtures, proper winter protection, and heating. Concrete break results were in excess of 7,000 psi at 7 day cure times.
During construction, Gewalt Hamilton emphasized the importance of frequent and clear communication with the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority and Chicago White Sox staff, providing daily updates and weekly progress meetings. Undocumented utilities were encountered and incorporated successfully into the project basis on a regular basis. The US Cellular Field Stadium Drainage Improvements was an extremely high profile project that provided superior quality control and assurance that met or exceeded industry standards. Despite the demanding schedule and harsh working conditions, John Neri Construction and Gewalt Hamilton remained on the project, missing only 2 days due to weather conditions.
During the 2014 season, there were no events where flooding occurred in the lower level, bleachers or left field bullpen.