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January/February 2000: Environmental Technology


A unique brownfield redevelopment project has transformed a contaminated, abandoned railroad yard into a 92-acre stadium site for the University of Louisville in Louisville, KY. What once contained a witches brew of contaminants is now an environmentally safe site that is not only producing millions of dollars in annual revenues for the University, but has attracted substantial development and enhanced property values in the area.


Drive by the area today and you would never suspect that the new stadium of the Louisville Cardinals, known as Papa John's University of Louisville Cardinal Stadium (which opened Sept. 5, 1998), was a railroad yard. Since 1905 the site was continuously used by the railroad industry, housing facilities to build and repair railcars of any type, locomotives and passenger cars. Activities included motor cleaning, painting, degreasing, oil reclamation, use of solvents, varnishes, hydraulic oil, plating solutions, lead lubricants and battery maintenance.

Over a 90-year period, hundreds of industrial chemicals were used with at least 47 different constituents released into the environment. More than 1.1 million gallons of diesel fuel remained in the ground with a thickness exceeding eight feet. Asbestos was found in 20 acres of the existing structures. Lead contamination was greater than 18,000 ppm in one area of the site. There were high levels of arsenic and chromium. One hundred cubic yards of PCB exceeding 100 ppm were found. The characterization study of the site stacked vertically would be at eye level of most National Basketball Association centers.


There were numerous legislative, engineering, environmental and financial obstacles to surmount. When the project got underway during the summer of 1996, Kentucky didn't have a legislatively endorsed brownfield program or a recognized voluntary cleanup program in effect. Louisville Mayor Dave Armstrong has since initiated brownfield legislation that will be introduced at the next general assembly that convenes in January 2000 (the legislative body meets every two years).

Funding the project was a major challenge. Raising the funds was a model demonstration in how the public and private sector worked together to benefit the community. Total project costs were $68 million; construction costs were $63 million. Because innovative brownfield techniques were used, the environmental remediation costs were reduced from the seller's original $40 million estimate to $6.8 million (due diligence, $2.1 million; remediation, $2.65 million; demolition and asbestos containment, $1.6 million; other costs, e.g., procuring an environmental impairment liability policy and hiring a fulltime site Environmental Health & Safety Officer were $450,000).

Louisville and Jefferson County contributed $1.5 million from the General Fund. Revenue bonds issued by Jefferson County that mature in 2018 brought in $18.5 million. Another $3 million came from an innovative land deal. CSX Transportation, which owned the 92-acre stadium site, deeded the property to the state. In return, the state deeded to CSX 118 acres worth $3 million off Hurstbourne Parkway, north of Shelbyville Road in eastern Jefferson County. CSX sold the land to a developer for various office, residential and retail development projects.

The majority of the funds came from private donations -- $27 million from corporate contributions; $15 million from the sale of 4,000 permanent seat licenses to Cardinals home football games. Licenses ranged in price depending upon seat location but choice seats averaged about $6,000. The largest corporate contributor was Papa John's, which donated $5 million and was granted the right to use its corporate name for the new stadium. Papa John's also maintains six concession stands in the stadium. Other major contributors included Bank One, Bell South, BP Oil, Brown & Williamson, Budweiser, Pepsi and UPS.

The environmental and engineering challenges were also considerable. Numerous environmental documents were developed which impacted design and construction decisions. Some of these included an environmental site characterization plan, environmental risk assessment, remedial action plan, environmental health and safety plan, and oil recovery plan.

Because there were 47 different contaminants present at the site, construction workers had to take certain precautions to guard against dermal contact with diesel oil and incidental ingestion and inhalation of lead- or arsenic-contaminated soil or dust.

OSHA Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Training (HAZWOPER) training was given to workers who handled hazardous materials. About 50 employees received either 24-hour or 40-hour safety procedural training sessions, which covered a wide range of topics such as respiratory protection and personal protection equipment. A site-specific awareness training video, commissioned by CSX, was shown to over 1,200 workers, visitors, emergency and security personnel and delivery truck drivers.

Millions of gallons of wastewater generated during construction activities had to be properly disposed. The wastewater was composed of rainwater in excavation sites and groundwater possibly contaminated with the same pollutants found in the site assessment. The University and LAWGIBB worked with the Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) to develop a discharge strategy that would both comply with MSD wastewater discharge regulations and keep construction on schedule

A specially designed pump collected the wastewater and transported it into a187,000-gallon cistern. Floating oil-absorbing booms and pads placed around the suction hose prevented oil from being picked up and discharged. Every time the cistern was filled, a sample was taken. When the test results met state and federal requirements, the cistern was emptied. Alltold, more than 6.5 million gallons was discharged over a two-year period without violating any MSD regulations and with no adverse effects to the sewer system.

Other environmental engineering duties included:

  • Designing and conducting pilot studies.
  • Designing a vapor collection system installed underneath the stadium and other buildings - ticket booths, athletic building offices, training facilities and the Johnny Unitas Museum.
  • Conducting geotechnical test borings and site evaluations.
  • Reviewing health and safety and risk assessment plans.
  • Creating and implementing an operation and maintenance program.

The unique brownfield techniques utilized comprised two arenas - administrative and implementation; and construction. Key administrative and implementation tools included an Environmental Health & Safety implementation checklist; a 'Stadium Advisory Notice' form for timely delivery and easy recognition of imperative environmental findings and/or required actions; use of color-coded stickers on worker and visitor hardhats to immediately identify that person's environmental training level and site access clearance; use of signage and 'snow fencing' to designate environmentally sensitive areas; and simulating construction activities and collecting air samples to check the effectiveness of worker personal protection equipment.

Construction techniques included using auger-cast piles to rock to prevent contamination from migrating vertically; building a horseshoe shaped soil berm with onsite materials, and pre-loading prior to the foundation construction - this allowed workers to build the lower portion of the stadium; crushing and re-using previous structures concrete slabs (covering more than 20 acres); breaking existing concrete systems into maximum four-foot horizontal sections using truck-mounted pavement breakers; and using stump grinders to remove the top portion of old timber pile foundations while simultaneously not impacting various layers of clay.


The transition from a brownfield to a football field has had an enormous economic and social impact on Louisville. The University has even received national recognition - it was awarded, along with LAWGIBB, the 1999 Grand Prize Phoenix Award for the nation's best brownfield redevelopment project (the national industry award is presented yearly for the project using the most innovative brownfield techniques).

Home football game revenues have increased substantially. Papa John's implemented a concession stands program that provides employment opportunities for city youth who receive a percentage of concession sales at each home football game.

Numerous community events are now held. A recent concert headlining George Strait and the Dixie Chicks drew 51,000 fans. The U.S. Women's National Soccer team played their last World Cup Victory Tour game at the stadium. The 15,000 square-foot Brown & Williamson Clubhouse regularly hosts corporate and business gatherings - a mint jubilee formal dance the night before the Kentucky Derby, Breeders' Cup receptions, weddings, and more.

The project has created an 'economic multiplier' effect. Part of the project involved extending Central Avenue, which now connects the stadium with Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. This has resulted in a mini-entertainment district. Churchill Downs is developing a four-star hotel on its property that will cater to Derby-going guests as well as other visitors year-round. A developer has acquired 22 acres adjacent to the stadium site and is creating a development plan now being considered by the Louisville Development Authority. It would comprise offices, hotels and restaurants. A Ramada Inn was recently built nearby on Crittenden Drive.

Future plans also call for building a field house adjoining the athletic building that would be used for indoor practice facilities for football, baseball, physical education and general recreation facilities.


Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) summed up best what the project has meant to the community.

"It has provided jobs; a home for football administration and practice; easy access for students, faculty and staff; and a source of pride for the University. It is widely acclaimed as a state-of-the-art facility, meeting the needs of the athletic program, fans-including the handicapped- and a wide variety of other users. The project is exemplary of a commitment to cure a nearly overwhelmingly environmental problem and turn it into a regional asset of the greatest significance."

Return to: 2000 Feature Stories