Baseball — it’s America’s national pastime. An outing to the ballpark is steeped in traditions encompassing everything from food and drink — peanuts and Crackerjack, hot dogs, and of course beer — to singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the 7th Inning Stretch. The game can conjure up memories of simpler times or just provide a fun way to pass a few hours on a warm summer night.
Annual baseball operations run from approximately March through November, but the stadium also hosts other events. For example, in early 2016 the field was covered for a while by a skating rink to host outdoor college and professional hockey games.
Although attending a baseball game may teleport you back to simpler times, many aspects of stadiums’ physical structures have advanced significantly in recent years — often hidden behind the scenes, and even underground.
Take Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. The stadium began operations in March 1995 after two-and-a-half years of construction, and is home to the Colorado Rockies MLB franchise. Built in the “retro-classic” architectural style popular at the time, the red brick and green painted exposed steel of Coors Field engender a feeling of the “good old days” of baseball. The structure was designed to blend in seamlessly with other buildings in the area, many of which are historic red brick industrial structures that have been renovated and turned into lofts, shops and restaurants. The field itself was burrowed in 21-feet below street level, allowing the stadium’s façade to be kept at a low-profile so not to overwhelm the surrounding buildings.
The generally nostalgic feeling of the structure belies the fact that it was constructed with some of the most progressive technology available at the time. In fact, until recently Coors Field was considered one of the most technically advanced ballparks in the country. For example, it was the first ballpark to feature a heated field. When Denver is experiencing one of its famous temperature swings, the field is kept warm by 45 miles of heating cables installed at the root zone of the turf. The technology is now common for ballparks in cities with variable weather, but Coors Field was the first to be climate-controlled.
Another innovative feature of the ballpark is its drainage system. The infrastructure was
created to handle a 100-year-flood because of the field’s close proximity to the South Platte River. Potential flooding aside, operations at Coors Field require massive amounts of water.
Regardless of the type of entertainment, after each event the entire stadium is washed down using large, high-powered hoses and up to 200,000 gallons of water. Crews first walk the stands picking up most of the large trash, but inevitably some things are missed or may just fall into the drains during a game — peanut shells, straws, cups, and other trash.
In addition to water used for cleaning, the system collects runoff from the field during watering and whatever flows off the stands and field during wet weather. And that can be a lot.
Whatever the source, all that water has to go somewhere, and at Coors Field it’s collected in a huge vault under the parking lot at the rear of the stadium. It’s estimated the vault could hold up to 1 million gallons.
In part because of its location, Coors Field was designed and constructed under the direction of a statutory Special District and so is subject to the Phase II rules of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System — part of the Clean Water Act. These rules require Coors Field to obtain and adhere to a General Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Discharge Permit that is administered by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
During baseball season, the water and any trash and debris collected with it is pumped up and out of the vault and into the storm sewer system. In the off season, a much smaller amount of collected water is pumped out and diverted to any of several small detention ponds to evaporate.
The pumps that do the heavy lifting of moving all the collected water out of the vault were replaced in May 2015. The original pumps were chopper pumps installed in 1998. Although they were showing signs of wear — moisture was getting in the motors — they weren’t replaced.
When it became evident that the old pumps needed to be replaced, Young and James Leflar an engineer and member of the HVAC team at Coors Field, reached out to Phoenix Sullivan, their contact at Denver Industrial Pumps.
Sullivan recommended the old chopper pumps be replaced with two BJM SK55C Shredder Pumps and the associated electric submersible sump pump package. An integral part of the new solution was a variable frequency drive (VFD) control panel that was customized by BJM to be compatible with Coors Field’s existing alarm panels in the security room.
“The customer needed a pump that could handle debris getting into the vault/sump and not clogging the pump,” Sullivan said. “The BJM shedder pump has a cutting tool that cuts and shreds the debris . . . allowing it to pass without clogging the pump.”
In addition to their ability to handle debris, a number of other technological improvements made the BJM shredder pumps a good solution. For one thing, the original pumps operated on a highly specialized and outdated air bubbler system, whereas the SK55C pumps use a simple float system to turn them on and off.
The two pumps sit in a sump that’s approximately 16 feet deep. In addition to the two 7.5 HP pumps, this BJM sump package included two cast-iron slide rail assemblies, four stainless steel intermediate guide rail brackets, and 100 feet of 1.5 inch stainless steel pipe rails.
The newer pumps’ also take full advantage of advances in metallurgy and materials that allow all of the pump’s parts and components to be self-contained. The only parts that may experience wear are the cutting bars, bearings, and seals. Those components aside, it would be realistic to expect these pumps to last 20 years.
“They’ve made a better product that lasts longer,” Sullivan said.
BJM was willing to go the extra mile to create the ability for the ballpark to tie into its
existing alarms in the security room. To do this, BJM fabricated a custom VFD control panel. The Custom Duplex Control Panel has auxiliary contacts allowing them to link into their existing system, and includes seal minders, elapsed time meters, and dedicated auxiliary contacts for seal fail 1, seal fail 2, overload 1, overload 2 and high level.
As a new baseball season draws near, the HVAC team at Coors Field feels confident that with the newly installed pumps they’ll be ready to handle any curveballs that may come at them.
“It does exactly what it’s supposed to do. It was a good install and we haven’t had any issues with them,” said Leflar. “They’ve done what we asked them to do and they met our criteria.”