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Facility Profile - March 2007

A Ballfield With Soul

Seoul International Park in Los Angeles

By Emily Tipping


I
n the neighborhood of Koreatown around Seoul International Park in Los Angeles, kids no longer spend their days dreaming about playing baseball all year long. Now they can live their dreams and play baseball—and other sports—at any time of the year. It's all thanks to the Dodgers Dream Foundation, which partnered with other organizations like the Amateur Athletic Foundation and the city of Los Angeles to completely renovate the multi-use fields at the park.

The $1.2 million renovation of Seoul International Park—the seventh Dodgers Dream Field—included the installation of synthetic turf, which means all kinds of sports can be played all year long, though the field will get the most use from the youth baseball program. These kinds of fields are most commonly associated with collegiate and professional-level sports fields—not park district fields.

Synthetic fields are also more commonly used for sports like football and soccer than baseball, said Jim Dobmeier, president of A-Turf, which provided the fields.

"We always like doing baseball projects because the overwhelming majority of synthetic fields tend to be football and soccer fields," he said. "It's still a little unique. And certainly it's unique to be part of such a well-recognized organization with the Dodgers' involvement in the project."

The Dodgers contributed about a quarter of the funds needed to complete the project, which is just one of the latest in a series of park renovations taking place around downtown Los Angeles. The Dodgers Dream Foundation was founded nearly 10 years ago with the purpose of providing educational, athletic and recreational opportunities for kids in the Greater Los Angeles area, with a special emphasis on serving the needs of traditionally underserved youth.

The Dodgers' Dream Fields program represents a partnership between the Dodgers and city officials, including the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. In addition to the Dream Field at Seoul International Park, six other projects have been completed at Algin Sutton Recreation Center, Montecito Recreation Center, Cheviot Hills Park, Bishop Canyon Recreation Center, Wrigley Field and Evergreen Recreation Center, with an eighth field in progress at Playa Vista Little League Field.

Working with two large organizations like the Dodgers and the parks department presented some unique challenges, according to Mike Walker, director of landscape architecture for SportsOne Development Inc., which provided design services for the renovated park. But working through those challenges paid off in the end, resulting in a park that will be able to take a lot more wear and tear.

The field used to spend much of the year as a mix of clay and dirt. It had to be closed for more than two months every year for resodding. High levels of foot traffic can do a lot of damage to natural turf, and Seoul International Park was no exception.

"What warranted the project was there's a big festival every fall, and the fields got so used and kind of destroyed by that festival, so they wanted to get a surface that was a bit more durable and could sustain hundreds of thousands of people walking on it," Walker said. "Also, the field is used heavily by the people in the surrounding neighborhood for things like pick-up games and so on. There was basically no grass at the point when we started the design—it was just a dirt field."

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