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Design-Build Elevates Arlington Heights Sports Park to New Pinnacle

By Dennis Kaiser, ValleyCrest Landscape Companies

Projects that need to be fast-tracked, require special or long-lead materials, are slated for LEED certification, or have integrated or overlapping systems are all good candidates for design-build,'' says ValleyCrest's Bill Ropp. ''The process helps everyone understand project goals and costs early on, expediting the program and delivering great design.'' Images courtesy of ValleyCrest Landscape Companies

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Arlington Heights Sports Park, a new venue for sports and a community lifestyle amenity located in a historic section of Riverside, California, provides ample evidence that an innovative delivery approach when combined with an acute focus by a fully engaged client can yield positive results.

Said Randy McDaniel, the project manager for the City of Riverside, ''Since Arlington Heights would be the first such sports park using the design-build 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.''

More than 2,000 residents, city officials and project team members gathered for the grand opening festivities of this 35-acre facility that included a concert, softball games, a barbeque, as well as fun activities for kids at a water play area.

ValleyCrest Landscape Companies, the integrated design and prime contractor on this $13.7-million public project, guided the City of Riverside through the design-build process that shaved at least 6 months off the time required to complete the sports park. Along the way, the design-build firm earned recognition and respect from city officials, some of whom initially weren't fully convinced design-build was the best method. ''Initially, I thought the design-build approach may not work for a park project,'' said Randy McDaniel, the project manager for the City of Riverside.

McDaniel says what worked so well was that the city got a higher quality design and construction team than it typically received on previous projects - and that resulted in a better end product. The process was driven by the experience and skill the design-build firm brought to the table and was further enhanced by its pride of ownership in not letting anything slide. That, says McDaniel, guaranteed a higher quality of design and construction. He notes that the Arlington Heights Sports Park design-build was completed in 21 months when a similar project - though not of equal quality - took 30 months.

One of the challenges that emerged early involved site grading. The slope of the site naturally flowed down and across the former citrus orchard. That grade change worked well for 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 for the site.

Arlington Heights Sports Park truly adds value to the community via the newly dedicated recreational amenities including eight lighted multipurpose soccer/football fields, three lighted ball fields, two basketball courts, two playgrounds and a water play feature.

Amidst the backdrop of children running, swinging, sliding and splashing through various areas of the park, there is a pleasant realization that the speed and efficiency of what was accomplished may actually be outweighed by the superior end result.

Nearby Arlington Heights Sports Park sits California Citrus State Historic Park, a living historical museum that showcases the region's citrus industry heritage, and helped serve as a guidepost for the new sports park's themed elements. The athletic fields meet a community need and multiple group gathering areas allow such activities as a farmers market and a venue to hold concerts and other sport and wellness expos. According to ValleyCrest's Bill Ropp, ''In a greater sense, the park can become a destination or hub for residents because attention was paid to placemaking versus simply designing and building a park that had ball fields.''

What went into building Arlington Heights Sports Park?

  • Soil moved on balanced site 118,000 cubic yards
  • Turf 850,000 square feet
  • Concrete paving 82,000 square feet
  • AC Paving 141,000 square feet
  • Irrigation Main Line 14,000 linear feet
  • Irrigation Lateral Line 92,000 linear feet
  • Sprinklers 3,900
  • 3,000 linear feet of chain link fencing
  • 3,100 linear feet of wood and steel fencing
  • 865 linear feet of post and panel sound wall (8-ft. high)
  • 670 linear feet of tube steel fencing

The heightened sense of aesthetic quality is evident in design elements that evoke the rich agricultural heritage of the surrounding Riverside 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, reuse of irrigation stand pipes as bollards, along with other architectural details are some of the elements infused into the development of the park.

The park also includes a children's play area, picnic facilities, shade structures, lighted parking lots, a multi-purpose recreational trail, a restroom/concession building, multiple group gathering areas that allow such activities as a farmers market and a venue to hold concerts and citrus heritage interpretive panels throughout the park-all surrounded by a new Orange Orchard.

Why Design-build?

The City of Riverside isn't the only public entity taking notice of the value design-build delivers. In fact, the design-build practice for realizing landscape projects is gaining speed on the traditional design-bid-build scenario. Its documented success is due to a class of clients that appreciate the benefits of a team approach to building projects.

A collaborative project delivery model streamlines landscape architecture programs from pre-construction through installation (and, optimally, on to maintenance). Short- and long-term benefits include: efficient ongoing design, material, and method evaluation; earlier budget troubleshooting; minimized change orders; faster time to market; clearer accountability; and reduced administrative load. The multi-disciplinary process also builds consensus among a project team unified toward shared aesthetic and fiscal goals.

All design and construction work was accomplished well within the 549 days stipulated by the city contract, which placed a premium on speed, flexibility and pliability by the design-build team. ''Their approach and team of experts allowed us to collaboratively work through each of our needs, goals and objectives, and then consider alternatives and solutions on the spot,'' says McDaniel.

''Clearly, Arlington Heights Sports Park serves a greater community benefit beyond sports and recreation fields. While certainly welcome additions to the City, the design-build team saw an opportunity to expand the design to encompass elements for community gathering and interaction,'' said ValleyCrest's Bill Ropp, who managed the design-build process at Arlington Heights Sports Park.

An agricultural theme is evident throughout the park, such as farm-style buildings and a replica of the old-fashioned roadside fruit stand greets visitors at the Arlington Heights Sports Park's entrance. This sets the tone for experiences in the Sunkist Center, featuring exhibits and telling the story of the citrus industry.

Typically when something goes awry in the design-bid-build scenario, there's plenty of finger pointing between the contractor and the architect, with the client ultimately on the hook for the increased costs and time delays. With design-build, the designer, architect and contractor are contractually one in the same team, so finger pointing doesn't work. Ultimately, this solution proved to be an ah-ha moment, in which the value of an integrated team approach shined by providing a realistic, constructible, yet aesthetically pleasing project.

The designers of Arlington Heights Sports Park included a tribute to the Gage Canal, one of the historic lifeblood's of the citrus industry. The walkways in Arlington Heights Sports Park's play area symbolize the route of the Gage Canal. Twenty miles away, the Santa Ana River flowed past present-day Loma Linda. Gage's vision for a canal soon became reality. As carried out at project sites such as this one, design-build for landscape can be a seamless flow of sophisticated design, efficient roll-out, sustainable end product, and maximized value that makes the city's vision for their park a reality as well.

In the case of Arlington Heights Sports Park, the children playing there likely won't ever notice or care how this place came to fruition. For landscape industry experts it is easy to see how the effective use of this innovative project delivery method, an experienced design-build team and involved public entity collaboratively made a wise choice that will benefit the City of Riverside for decades to come.

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October 15, 2019, 10:19 pm PDT

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