Planning For Flexibility

Parks and recreation leaders across the country are trying to figure out how to provide a wider variety of programming options to satisfy as many sectors of a community as possible. That means cities must maximize uses at increasingly constrained and overburdened facilities, or build new parks designed to accommodate multiple uses. In the case of Arlington Heights Sports Park--a $13.7-million sports and community-lifestyle amenity located in Riverside, Calif.--the challenge of incorporating the maximum number of athletic fields in a flexible, multiuse format was met head on.

The 35-acre park delivers an innovative mix of multiuse fields that can accommodate football, soccer, baseball, softball, lacrosse and rugby. They include:

• Eight lighted multipurpose soccer/football fields

• Three lighted ball fields

• Two basketball courts.

The trend toward multiuse fields has emerged over the past decade, especially in places like Southern California, where large populations and year-round weather drive increased demand for sports facilities. To accommodate overlapping uses, sports facilities must be carefully planned and programmed to maximize resources and avoid the pitfalls of single-use facilities.

Overcoming Obstacles

Even before the design phase, it is imperative to determine programming requirements. The design and construction team can then balance the maximum uses based on available space on the site, and extend hours of play through night lighting.

One of the early challenges at the Arlington Heights Sports Park involved site grading. The slope of the site naturally flowed down and across a former citrus orchard, which may have worked well for agricultural water flow, but wouldn’t be as appreciated by competitors playing soccer or baseball. The design-build team resolved the issue through a multi-level grading plan that hadn’t been considered in previous plans.

Another consideration was how best to handle field drainage. Most fields are “crowned” in the center, making grading for multiple sports challenging due to the different field sizes and configurations. The goal was to accommodate more uses simply by grading, not preferring one use over another. For instance, when overlaying a soccer field in the baseball outfield, the grading took into account both uses, and balanced the transitions so that one didn’t dominate or interfere drastically with the other.

A similar consideration was maximizing the wear patterns. Each sport has a unique “footprint” that shows up in the turf. For soccer, the wear pattern typically results in an “hour-glass” shape, which is evident especially when heavy or overuse occurs. Multiple-field configuration options were provided for the various sports to allow turf to rest and recover.

The designs of the park also include the rich agricultural heritage of the surrounding community. Architecture reflective of an old farm house, three rows of citrus trees surrounding the park, interpretive story panels with the history of Riverside’s citrus farming community and reuse of irrigation stand pipes as bollards, along with other architectural details, are some of the elements incorporated into the park’s development. And while the athletic fields meet a community need, the multiple-group gathering areas allow such activities as a farmers’ market and a venue for concerts and other sport or wellness expos.

In addition to the athletic facilities, the park also includes:

• Two playgrounds

• A water-play feature

• Picnic facilities

• Shade structures

• Lighted parking lots

• A multipurpose recreational trail

• A restroom/concession building

• Citrus-heritage interpretive panels throughout the park

• A combination of native, local, drought-tolerant plants and succulents.

Dennis Kaiser is the senior communications manager, public relations at ValleyCrest Landscape Companies, which has designed and built numerous public parks, recreation facilities and sports stadiums across the country. Founded in 1949, the Calabasas, Calif.-based company is the nation’s largest integrated landscape-services company with annual revenue of nearly $940 million, more than 10,000 employees and operations in more than 100 locations nationwide.