Friday, March 09, 2001

Ballpark passes wind test

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] To study the effects of wind on fans inside the new Great American Ball Park, engineers built a scale model of the stadium and put it in a wind tunnel.
(Rowan Williams Davies & Irwin Inc. photo)
| ZOOM |
        A tiny Great American Ball Park passed the test against a fan blowing into a wind tunnel. Construction managers say that means the real stadium will pass the test with real Reds fans when it opens in 2003.

        That's the conclusion in a draft report of a wind study in which scale models of the ballpark and all surrounding buildings were placed in a wind tunnel. The study found all but a handful of areas inside the ballpark to be well-insulated.

        Even the spots where fans may be a bit uncomfortable on windy days in April or May don't necessarily need more protection, the report says.

        “We've done a lot of ballparks, and this one holds up quite well in comparison,” said Bob Summers, who works for the Ontario, Canada, firm of Rowan Williams Davies & Irwin Inc. and is the wind study's project manager.

        “That's especially true considering it's in an exposed area and is an open-air facility with an open end,” he said.

        Four potential trouble spots were identified in the study, but only two — various seats in the upper deck and the upper deck concourse along the third base line — could cause architects to add additional wind screens or landscaping to cut down the breeze.

        Sandy Eeds, associate principal for architect HOK Sport, said that probably won't be necessary.

        “We don't see anything serious that would cause us concern,” Mr. Eeds said. “A little wind in certain locations is normal, especially in an open stadium.

        “At some point — and we did this recently in San Francisco — we may come back and fine-tune by adding a little more screening to slow the wind down in spots. But we're not going to do anything right away.”

        To conduct the study, engineers gathered 50 years worth of wind statistics from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport for April through October. They then built the model, which incorporates surrounding buildings and topography in a 1,600-foot radius surrounding the ballpark site.

        Then they turned on the fans from 36 different directions and let hundreds of sensors measure wind speeds throughout the ballpark.

        Mike Sieving, Hamilton County construction executive, said, “There are some pretty nice openings for wind to go through. That's a pretty nice problem to have in the summer, I would think.”

        The firm also is working on a study that will show how the wind affects the baseball's flight in the ballpark. That study won't be ready for a few more weeks, Mr. Summers said.

        “That study helps the team develop a hitting strategy,” Mr. Summers said.

        The contract with Rowan Williams Davies & Irwin is $110,000.


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