02 ReplacementI am not a building architect, contractor, construction engineer, acoustical expert, or renowned and highly paid out-of-town consultant. However, I am a concerned and observant taxpaying resident who has lived in this community for more than 50 years, and I have a few concerns and historic observations that may be relevant as city engineers explore the origins of the newly detected concrete cracks in our new $40 million Segra Stadium, home of the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, a Carolina class A-Advanced minor league affiliate of the Houston Astros. Also, in a related observation, I have a few thoughts and speculations as to where the city and county should locate our long-anticipated and sorely needed performing arts center. After all, the size of this community at 300,000 plus would support such a venue and time is of the essence. With the imminent closure of the 2,400 seat Memorial Auditorium at the Crown Complex looming with a deadline of October 2022, unless a decision is made relatively soon, Fayetteville and Cumberland County could find themselves without any major facility to host local events, outside commercial entertainment venues or educational programs for thousands of Cumberland County school children.

So, you are probably wondering what the connection is between concrete cracks at Segra Stadium and the location of the proposed performing arts center. One word — railroad. It’s not hard to imagine that with dozens of trains rumbling through Fayetteville every day that building foundations of brick and concrete would be effected in some way. I’m amazed concrete can even set/harden properly with the constant vibrations and tremors caused by thundering train engines pulling thousands of tons of railway cars — all swaying back and forth on the rails — only yards away from these structures. Unfortunately, Segra Stadium is sandwiched between two sets of these tremoring railroad tracks. Hopefully, the concrete cracks detected and investigated by city engineers will be of no consequence. With plans to build two seven-story buildings on top of the new $16 million+ parking deck, I’d say an in-depth investigation by the city into the cause of the concrete cracks and the effect of heavy train traffic on this construction project is prudent and well worth the time and money.

What does this have to do with the proposed performing arts center? Everything. First of all, anyone who has attended a major celebration, event or concert at Festival Park has experienced the disappointing disruption of an otherwise wonderful performance caused by the intrusive disruption of train traffic. Initially, the trains were ignored and perceived as a minor annoyance. As a result, the proximity of the stage to the train tracks has rendered Festival Park useless as a serious entertainment venue.

When selecting the future location for a performing arts center, we should be even more sensitive to the presence of negative outside influences such as noise and turbulence, such as that created by train traffic, especially, if the facility is to be considered a serious cultural venue where plays, operas and symphony orchestras will be invited to perform. Last year, consultants hired by the city recommended East Gillespie Street. Now, Spectra Venue Management, which manages the Crown Complex, has hired professional consultants to do a similar study to possibly identify and recommend appropriate sites to locate and build a first-class performing arts center. It would be advantageous to locate the center close to downtown, adding to the pedestrian flow and its economic vitality. Unfortunately, there are few areas of downtown where you can escape the tremors, sights and sounds of Amtrak, CSX or the railway switching stations. A performing arts center will be a welcomed addition to our community and serve to expand and heighten our cultural sensitivities, but only if the project is executed properly. We will have only one opportunity to get this right. No do-overs! City and county officials would bode well to study this situation carefully, listen to the experts and set their egos and biases aside for the betterment of the entire community. Otherwise, time will run out, and our community will again be “railroaded.” Thanks for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

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