Residents voice concerns about stadium

Residents voice concerns about stadium

August 26
22:47 2009

08-27-09-stadium1

The new UNT football stadium is well on its way to starting construction. However, many Denton residents are concerned about how the finished project will affect their lives.
Many of those residents expressed unease at a town hall meeting on Tuesday night at the Gateway Center.
City officials, project leaders and university officials addressed many neighborhood concerns about the impact of the new stadium project along with convention center and hotel projects.
UNT President Gretchen Bataille opened the meeting by discussing the progress of the stadium project and voicing her support for it.
“I think it’s important to remember the stadium is not about our athletic program today, our coaches today, even our athletes today,” Bataille said. “It’s about our future, and that’s what students were thinking when the students supported a referendum that would use an athletics fee to pay for the construction of the stadium.”
08-27-09-stadium2Presenters said little about the proposed hotel and convention center at the former Radisson hotel, except to note that the project is on hold because of financial issues, and that the building will soon be demolished.
John Brooks, vice president of the HKS architectural firm, outlined the plan for the new stadium. In particular, he focused on the environmental impact of the project.
HKS wants to keep the Greenbelt Corridor and nearby duck pond in place, he said. The project team is also working to preserve as many trees in the area as possible.
The plans for landscaping around the stadium will also help reduce noise from events by absorbing sound with plenty of trees and plants, Lindsey White, a landscape architect for Caye Cook and Associates, said.
Traffic problems were the major concerns of the meeting as officials and engineers discussed event-related parking.
For a sellout football game, about 700 cars would be directed down Willowood Street to Bonnie Brae Street for parking, Tom Grant, a Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. traffic engineer said. Those roads would be passable within an hour after the game, he said.
Other options can also be considered, such as closing down or limiting access to the neighborhood during a game. Most parking lots for the games will be on the main campus, and pedestrian traffic will cross North Texas Boulevard, which would be partially closed temporarily to let walkers cross Interstate Highway 35 E.
The rest of the traffic would either be forced into cash parking or onto campus, depending on its direction, Grant said.
Many attendees also said they were concerned about special events that could be held at the stadium, such as high school graduations, concerts and fireworks shows. Some said area roads could not handle the influx of traffic.
Although the city plans to widen Bonnie Brae to four lanes from I-35 E to U.S. Highway 377, the construction isn’t expected to start until 2013, city engineer Frank Payne said.
UNT police chief Richard Deter invited residents to join a committee that will work with the university and UNT police department to address the traffic concerns. Some attendees were skeptical that the group would make any difference.
“I don’t care how many planning groups we have,” Denton resident Linnie McAdams said. “A planning group can’t make a road more than two lanes wide if that’s what it is, and that’s what we’ve got. A planning group can’t come up with any money to put in an additional lane or to get another access to I-35.”
The university should have worked more with the city and the state to get appropriate access for the stadium, she said.
With no expansion of Bonnie Brae planned until after the stadium’s opening in 2011, the university will be forced to use residential areas for traffic and parking, and will inconvenience the neighborhood, Denton resident Chris Willis said.
“This basically has ‘train wreck’ written all over it,” he said.

By Carolyn Brown
Senior Staff Writer

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