University releases results of West Campus sound study

Study, conducted in June, suggests changes to be made in light of noise complaints

The artificial turf field at West Campus was the subject of many noise complaints from nearby residents.
The artificial turf field at West Campus was the subject of many noise complaints from nearby residents.

Queen’s has released a noise impact assessment for the West Campus artificial turf field, conducted over the summer in connection with the University’s application for a noise bylaw exemption.

The study was conducted by Howe Gastmeier Chapnik Ltd. (HGC Engineering) on June 18, 20 and 21 to help develop mitigation strategies that can alleviate noise around the artificial turf field, which has been at the centre of residents’ complaints about excessive noise coming from West Campus.

On July 15, City Council voted unanimously to allow a temporary exemption to By-Law 2004-52 — which prohibits noise from reaching off the premises of origin — for the West Campus fields, which include Richardson Stadium.

Although Queen’s Athletics and Recreation argued during the application that without the exemption the field would be unusable for games, city councillors said the University paid little attention to how the noise levels affect residents in the area.

The artificial turf field is located at the northeast corner of West Campus, near residential property. The released study reports that there’s nothing preventing acoustics from the field from traveling to residential properties both east and north of the field.

The report was released on Oct. 16 and gives the results of the engineering firm’s assessment, along with a list of recommendations to reduce noise levels.

Director of Athletics Leslie Dal Cin told the Journal via email that HGC Engineering used Ontario Ministry of the Environment guidelines as a basis for assessment for the noise impact study, and that many of the changes proposed in the study have already been implemented.

The changes that have already been implemented include the reduction of the number of speakers used; the redirecting of speakers and implemented administrative controls, which will also be a requirement for those who rent out the field; the purchase of FOX 40 Pearl whistles, which produce a lower-tone pitch; and the adjustment of schedules so that "quieter sports" take place on the West Campus fields.

The final recommendation the University will initiate is an assessment of noise impact after these measures have been implemented, in order to verify that they’re effective in reducing noise in the area.

Dal Cin said the University has already received positive feedback from residents in the area.

"We have made several changes to our operations based on the study’s recommendations and have received positive feedback from our neighbours that these steps have reduced sound coming from the fields," she said.

The study focused on noise impact on the turf field alone, but Dal Cin said the same type of study will be done for Richardson Stadium.

"The revitalization of Richardson Stadium will include a comprehensive public consultation process as well as a sound study," she said.

Dal Cin said it was important to cooperate with the community.

"We felt it was important to be responsive to the concerns raised by some of our neighbours, and that a sound assessment conducted by experts would provide us with some valuable recommendations to mitigate sound where possible while still allowing our student-athletes and community partners to use the field,” she said.

Susan Reid, who opposed the University’s exemption to the noise bylaw earlier this year, said that despite the study and report that Queen's has reduced noise levels in the area, these actions are “insufficient”.

“Although the recent addition of amplified sound on that turf field and the poorly designed sound system at Richardson Stadium have, and continue to cause excessive noise for nearby neighbourhoods, this report ignores the other primary source of noise problems in recent years," she told the Journal via email.

According to Reid, the University has failed to develop facilities that meet the needs of students or others that live around campus, despite increased enrolment. She said the University could install physical barriers that will more effectively reduce sound in the West Campus area.

"Domed fields and absorptive sound barriers (some 4m or higher) etc. are needed to ensure that Queen’s does not create a second class residential area adjacent to West campus,” she said.

“Already there are blocks of homes where the hours of increasing acoustic noise and shouting until 11 p.m. coming from Queen’s property is already profoundly degrading people’s ability to enjoy their homes."

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