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Home > Articles > CIS Football > So much noise about noise at the stadium

So much noise about noise at the stadium

Posted: July 11th, 2014 @ 10:12am

Some might find it a tad ironic that so much noise is being generated in the debate about whether to permit noise at the west-campus athletic fields of Queen's University. Indeed, there's enough disingenuous palaver to float a battleship.

In this corner, we have the university, seeking a seven-day-a-week exemption from the city's anti-noise bylaw for the three west-campus fields and Richardson Stadium, daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. In that corner are the residents of the adjoining neighbourhoods, who claim granting such licence would destroy their tranquility, lower their property values and maybe even cause gingivitis.

To dismiss so glibly the citizens' concerns is perhaps a little unfair, though it's often hard when the soapboxes come out to distinguish a crusade from a jihad; sincerity from self-righteousness. It's difficult to feel a lot of sympathy for people who move next to the airport or railroad tracks and complain about the sound of airplane engines and train whistles. Who or what was there first? And should we feel a great deal of empathy for people who were oblivious to the potential nuisance?

Should we be more sympathetic for people who have moved close to Richardson Stadium in the 43 years since it was built, who today suddenly express outrage that noise comes from a crowd of upwards of 10,000 people attending a football game?

Granted, the recently installed upper field near the corner of Johnson Street and Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard - would you believe one former publicist tried to call it the West Turf Field? Abbreviate that one for a moment - has caused more activity at the west-campus hub. There's not a lot of evidence, however, that varsity football and soccer practices or intramural games generate anywhere near the kind of noise Saturday afternoon football games do, games that, by the way, have been given a pass from the neighbourhood residents for 40 years.

What's driving this bus is fear: Among residents who believe that giving Queen's the carte blanche it seeks in a blanket exemption will lead to nonstop white noise; by Queen's that it might not be able to rent these facilities to community groups in the spring and summer free of worry that they'll find a bylaw officer with a summons on their doorstep every morning. Applying for individual exemptions for every specific event that might need one would be a giant pain in the ass.

As a result, both sides have entrenched themselves like Haig and von Below at the Somme, each making outrageous claims about the other, and cloaking themselves in motherhood arguments designed to engage people who otherwise wouldn't care. The residents are claiming an idyllic, peaceful existence that hasn't existed since Johnson Street became one way and Sir John A. was built. The university is trying to hand us a bushel of manure that contains the notion that denying this exemption would doom one of the most storied football programs in the land. Each side is portraying the other as a malevolent bunch of selfish brats.


It's doubtful the residents are really targeting the football team, which, in its very best year, will play seven times on Saturday afternoons in the fall, mostly on days when people are indoors with the windows closed, anyway. It's disingenuous for the university to trot that suggestion into the conversation, and it's similarly deceptive for the citizens to pretend that loud music permeates the neighbourhood at 9 o'clock each night. It simply isn't true.

The residents need to remember that things aren't even as bad as they once were. Once the stadium became unsuitable for holding track and field meets, there were five or six, some years as many as a dozen, fewer events there each year with all-day public address announcements.

The university also needs to understand there are simple things it could do to mitigate the situation. In recent years, for instance, the athletics department has laboured under the misguided belief that every moment between plays at a football game has to be filled with rock music played far too loudly. Promising to get rid of that would be a simple step toward calming the neighbourhood waters - and it might even lure some of the fans who were driven away by it back to the games. It could be the first step to a compromise that so badly needs to be found.

What we really need from the cacophony of this debate is an exemption all right; we should all be exempt from is the kind of civic posturing that has elevated this matter to a divisive toxic engagement that is way out of proportion to the issue at its core.

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