Aurora Sports Park
Simply put, the City of Aurora, Colo., needed more room to play.
With a population of 280,000, the swelling suburb of Denver had a tough time scheduling time and space for all its many outdoor sports leagues and activities, especially soccer, softball and baseball.
So recreational growing pains spurred the creation of a 212-acre sports park, designed with the hopes of becoming a top destination for national and state tournaments as well as home to numerous sports and activities for both kids and adults.
"We needed to take pressure off of neighborhood parks," says Project Manager Tom Barrett. "It truly is a regional park. We thought it was far enough away from neighborhoods yet accessible. It also has something for everyone."
The sports park does double duty, fulfilling both active-use and passive-use recreational roles, from a wide array of sports to picnics, trails and cycling.
The project was funded through a "No New Tax" Bond Issue, and the citizens of Aurora benefit economically from revenue and taxes generated by events at the park, with the tournaments attracted to the park expected to generate $4 million per year in sales revenue for area businesses.
One of the main goals of the park's design was to preserve existing trees while minimizing the disruption of wildlife. For example, an existing shady Cottonwood grove was spared that runs through the central passive recreation area, also doubling as a large drainage corridor.
"We were very ecologically sensitive in dealing with the site the best way we could," Barrett says. In fact, the property was formerly an automobile salvage yard with scrap materials scattered everywhere. Major cleanup was in order, but planners were also intent on putting that trash to better use.
"We very deliberately and very carefully conserved these items," Barrett says. The scrap metal was sold off, and about 5,000 tires were recycled. Some old concrete was even reused onsite.
Design-wise, the "festival" park architecture and elements (including climbable public art installations) are meant to highlight the playfulness and celebration of sport. Grading and earthworks have been designed to allow for stadium-style spectator viewing. Roads and parking were integrated to lessen both their visual and environmental impacts, while improving direct access to the playing fields.
Other goals of flexibility and maintenance were also addressed with the design. For example, the soccer (multipurpose) turf pads were laid out in three groups of six fields and one group of four fields, which can be rotated 90 degrees each season to limit turf damage to fields. To avoid conflicts during tournaments, the softball/baseball complexes are linked with a service road and an interconnecting series of gates to allow full access of service vehicles, while not crossing main pedestrian patterns.
From a groundskeeping point of view, the athletic turf was specifically designed using a prescription root-zone system allowing high-intensity usage.
Constructed for tertiary reuse (gray) water, the irrigation system was designed with isolated zones created to assist turf recuperation and regrowth for the most-worn areas.
"One of the great things about this site is that it's irrigated with recycled water," Barrett says. Colorado, like many western states is in a drought. To have irrigated playing fields is a sheer luxury.
"This creates another wow effect," he says. "Not only are people amazed at the size and volume of the activities but the great quality turf as well."
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