Arlington Heights Sports Park, a new 35-acre (14-ha) public venue for sports and a community amenity in the Arlington Heights Greenbelt community of Riverside, California, shows how innovative and collaborative approaches to project delivery can yield positive results. 

Public leaders across the United States are being called on to provide a wider array of programming options to meet the growing needs of as many sectors of their communities as possible. That means cities must maximize uses at increasingly constrained and overburdened facilities or build new parks designed to accommodate many activities. Arlington Heights Sports Park adds value to the community with new recreational amenities, including eight lighted multipurpose soccer/football fields, three lighted ball fields, two basketball courts, two playgrounds, and a water play feature.

ValleyCrest Landscape Companies, a ULI member firm that designed and built the $13.7 million public project, guided Riverside through a design/build process that shaved nine months off the time required for completion, convincing city officials who initially had been skeptical of the approach. 

“Initially, I thought the design/build approach may not work for a park project. I was concerned that the quality of materials would be value engineered to below our standards,” says Randy McDaniel, project manager for Riverside. “Since Arlington Heights would be the first such sports park using this project delivery method, it had to be right. When it was all said and done, we are confident that our expectations about quantity and quality were exceeded. It worked well enough that the city is considering adopting the design/build process on other projects going forward.” He also noted that the Arlington Heights Sports Park project was completed in 21 months whereas a similar, and lower-quality, project took 30 months.

Design elements at Arlington Heights Sports Park evoke the agricultural heritage of the surrounding Riverside community. Architecture reflective of a farmhouse, three rows of citrus trees surrounding the park, interpretive story panels with the history of Riverside’s citrus farming community, and reuse of irrigation standpipes as bollards are among the elements infused in the park design. Athletic fields satisfy a community need, and multiple group gathering areas allow such activities as a farmers market and provide a venue for concerts, sports, wellness expos, and other events.

“In many markets across the country, we are seeing a trend toward the design and construction of larger sports complexes that serve numerous groups and community interests,” says ValleyCrest’s Bill Ropp, who managed the design/build process. “Obviously, since space is at a premium in most cities and demand is increasing for new facilities, the sports parks we’re designing and building today must include a wide variety of uses, and it is required that we incorporate multiuse fields into the layout.”

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An aerial view of the completed 35-acre
sports park shows the formal layout and
the connection to the surrounding
agricultural community of Riverside. 

The design/build team, seeing an opportunity to expand the park design to encompass elements for community gathering and interaction so it would become a destination and hub for residents, focused on place making rather than simply designing and building a park with ball fields. Efforts by city leaders to elevate the quality and purpose of a much-needed public facility were validated by the California Parks & Recreation Society, which honored Arlington Heights Sports Park with the 2010 Award of Excellence for Facility Design: Sports Fields/Complexes. 

In addition to athletic facilities and play areas, Arlington Heights Sports Park has picnic facilities, shade structures, lighted parking lots, a multipurpose recreation trail, a restroom/concession building, and citrus heritage interpretive panels—all surrounded by a new orange orchard.

The trend toward including multi-use fields has emerged over the past decade, especially in southern California communities where large populations and pleasant year-round weather drive increased demand for facilities. In order to accommodate multiple, overlapping uses, these facilities must be carefully planned and programmed to maximize resources and avoid the pitfalls of single-use facilities. 

At Arlington Heights, multilevel site grading was carried out so as not to favor one use over another. For instance, to overlay a soccer field in the outfield of the baseball field, the grading took into account both uses and balanced the transitions so that neither dominates or interferes drastically with the other.

Another consideration in building a multiuse field is configuring it to maximize the wear patterns. Each sport has a unique footprint that shows up in the turf. For soccer, the wear pattern typically results in an hourglass shape, which becomes evident especially with heavy use or overuse. Therefore, it is important to provide many options for field configurations so those responsible for parks and recreation programming can allow turf to rest and recover.