It will be another year before the Lancaster Barnstormers baseball team plays its home games on artificial turf.
Plans to replace the natural grass at Clipper Magazine Stadium with an artificial playing surface during the 2022-23 off-season have been postponed due to the need to obtain a state environmental permit, according to the team and the stadium’s owner, the Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority.
The document required is known as an NPDES permit, short for “National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.” Contractors are required to obtain them whenever a construction project involves disturbing 1 acre or more of ground.
Construction and land development can result in erosion and the discharge of sediment and other pollution into nearby waterways via stormwater runoff. The NPDES permit process allows regulators to ensure that contractors are taking the appropriate measures to prevent or mitigate those negative effects.
Baseball fields are around 4.5 acres, well over the 1-acre minimum. But the earth disturbances governed by the NPDES process typically involve bulldozers and the like, not the rolling up and laying down of sod within an existing structure.
“It’s crazy to enforce it on a stadium,” said Ed Fisher, president of the redevelopment authority board. Fisher is vice president at Light-Heigl, a civil engineering firm.
The artificial turf project is budgeted at $1.5 million. The NPDES requirement will add another $160,000 on top of that, redevelopment authority Executive Director Justin Eby said: $60,000 for the permit and the work associated with it, plus about $100,000 in maintenance costs to prepare the natural grass field and irrigation system for use this year, work that would not be necessary were the artificial turf being installed now.
Michael Reynolds is the president of the Barnstormers baseball team, which leases the stadium from the redevelopment authority.
“It’s obviously not the ideal situation,” he said. Still, the team has done fine with natural grass up to now, and it can continue for one more year.
“We will continue to be patient,” he said.
‘Earth disturbance activity’
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a construction project must involve building, replacing or demolishing a structure to trigger the NPDES requirement. However, states are free to implement the rules more stringently, if they wish.
In Pennsylvania, the Department of Environmental Protection’s erosion and sediment control regulations apply to any and all “earth disturbance activity” that meets the 1-acre minimum, DEP spokesman John Repetz confirmed.
Clipper Magazine Stadium dates to 2005. Before the 2014 season, its field was replaced in its entirety. Officials could not immediately say whether an NPDES permit was obtained. (Update: Repetz said Thursday that neither DEP nor the Lancaster County Conservation District has a record of a permit being issued for that project.)
County conservation districts receive and review the permits. Lancaster city officials required the authority to contact Lancaster County’s district, City Hall spokeswoman Amber Strazzo said.
The city also wants to make sure the new field meets its standards for stormwater management. Artificial turf is considered an impervious surface: As such, the redevelopment authority must demonstrate that the new field will not exceed the city’s limits for stormwater volume and flow rate, Strazzo said.
The durability of artificial turf expected to give the Barnstormers more flexibility in hosting third-party events such as festivals or expositions. Those events can take place with natural grass, Reynolds, the Barnstormers’ president, said — the team just has to be cautious with scheduling, so groundskeepers have enough time to remedy any resulting wear and tear before the next game.
The field replacement is among an assortment of capital projects being undertaken at the stadium with funding from the City Revitalization & Improvement Zone program or CRIZ. The CRIZ uses taxes from city businesses that would normally go to the state to fund various public and private development projects.
At the end of last year, the board that oversees the CRIZ allocated the redevelopment authority the $1.5 million needed for the artificial turf project. Last week, the CRIZ authorized the authority to reallocate a portion of that amount to get the grass field in shape for 2023.
Sod is being replaced only where necessary and the work involves less than 1 acre of ground disturbance, Eby said.
The authority will use another $209,000 in CRIZ money to replace the stadium’s sound system. Other CRIZ-funded work to date includes installation of the stadium’s modern digital video scoreboard, replacement of backstop netting behind home plate, and repair and replacement of roofs, various HVAC components and kitchen equipment.
Under CRIZ regulations, the Barnstormers must invest $1 in capital improvements at the stadium for every $5 in CRIZ funding.