By Ashley Murdie
Baseball is back! It’s Opening Day of the 2017 season and just knowing that makes today, a Monday, not half bad. The opening of baseball season is like spring itself. It ushers in a new beginning for the ever-hopeful baseball fans. EPA Region 7’s Brownfields team is in Springfield, Mo., today, where they’ve been working for a couple of decades on projects with the city to revitalize downtown, including Hammons Field, home of the Double-A Springfield Cardinals, a farm club for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The EPA Region 7 team is in Springfield for a graduation ceremony with the city’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program, which represents just the latest new beginning created from this long partnership.
The EPA team has been working since 1999 with city officials and members of the Citizens Advisory Council on the Jordan Valley Corridor, an underused, 300-acre downtown industrial area that served as the starting point for redevelopment of the entire industrial corridor. Previously, the Hammons Field property was the site of warehouses, but that changed when the city of Springfield decided to include it as part of this revitalization project.
Over the years, the city leveraged $7 million in EPA Brownfields Program assistance funds that drew in more than $460 million in other public and private investments.
The project began when Springfield received a $200,000 Brownfields Assessment Pilot grant from EPA in 1999. This grant provided the initial push by funding assessments on six of the 28 properties acquired for the first phase of the Jordan Valley Park redevelopment project. The city brought in additional funds for the project from the Federal Highway Administration, Economic Development Administration, and from many private contributors.
Benjamin Alexander, project manager for the park, stressed the importance of EPA’s Brownfields Program. “We had a vision and a plan, but I don’t think we would have been as successful as quickly without the Brownfields program.”
The assessments revealed less contamination than expected, allowing for demolition of current buildings and redevelopment to start.
Construction began on the stadium in July 2002 and just two years later, the first pitch at Hammons field was thrown April 2, Opening Day of the 2004 season.
Since Springfield began its local Brownfields program, the city has applied for and received 17 separate EPA Brownfields grants, totaling $6.3 million, along with non-cash technical assistance valued at more than $800,000, for a total of $7.1 million in support from the agency. This brownfield funding has led to more than 260 environmental property assessments conducted on projects large and small.
As a result, the city has leveraged an amazing $460 million in public and private investments toward the revitalization of former brownfields, with more projects underway.
In baseball terms, that’s like a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth in a tied game seven of the World Series!
About the Author: Ashley Murdie is a public affairs specialist with the EPA Region 7 Office of Public Affairs.