The Raleigh City Council unanimously voted to approve a special use permit for St. Augustine’s College Tuesday, which allows them to build a 2,500-seat stadium on campus.
The vote came after nearly three hours of testimony by engineers, sound experts, lawyers, St. Augustine alumni and neighbors during the evidentiary hearing.
“I’m so excited that I’ll be able to go on campus for a game,” said Charlotte Turpin, a Raleigh resident and St. Augustine alumna. “We will be good neighbors.”
The on-campus stadium will be built to house spectators for football and track and field events, as well as other school functions, like graduation ceremonies.
In 2004, the city council approved going forward with a 2,500-seat stadium on school property, but the project did not begin for a number of reasons including securing financing and site analysis of the original location.
Attorney Clyde Holt, representing the school, said that the college is resubmitting the same application with some changes in the location, which is now several hundred feet further onto the campus property. Since the original permit was site-specific, the college needed to resubmit its application.
The college stipulated in its application that the stadium would house no more than 15 events per year comprising of six football games, six track and field events and three others. The stadium will not host concerts.
College officials said the stadium was necessary to keep competitive with other Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) division II schools. While the college has a football field and a track, the college does not have a stadium for spectators. Home games are often held at local high schools that already have stadiums of similar size.
The students, said St. Aug President Diane Boardley Suber, “Have the right and opportunity to enjoy competition with the home field advantage.”
With traffic, sound and lighting being the major points of contention between the college and neighborhood residents, the college said that it would install or replace all sidewalks around the campus for safe pedestrian access, include parking fees in ticket prices, have parking for almost 1,200 cars and use a sound system that uses smaller speakers positioned closer to the audience.
Councilor Thomas Crowder expressed concerns with the buffer areas between the school and the neighborhood, adding that he did not think what was listed in the code would be sufficient. The buffer will consist of trees and shrubs to block the light and view of the stadium.
Crowder also said he wanted to hold the vote until the next city council meeting so he had an opportunity to view the site and become familiar with it.
“I do think that if the council had an opportunity to walk around and see what the impacts are then we’d have a better feel,” said Crowder.
Councilor Russ Stephenson also had concerns with the lack of sound level and traffic management standards in the application. But, due to the closure of the hearing, he was unable to request that those standards be included in the application without the process being started again.
“I think seven years has been long enough and we need to decide on it today,” said Councilor Eugene Weeks.
Residents who testified against the stadium said that while they supported the school, they felt that the stadium would cause increased noise and traffic to their quiet neighborhood.
After years of high-crime and the establishment of a neighborhood watch program, residents said that the community is finally offering them the peace and quiet they longed for.
“Well, I’m disappointed,” said neighbor Heidi Miller after the vote. She said she spent months researching the project and its impact. “I do believe that it’s an inappropriate development for a historic neighborhood, but I understand the decision.”