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Fred Beekman Park, Ohio State University

By Deborah and John Edsall, Edsall & Associates LLC








What was once 43 acres of soybeans with 40 feet of grade change, grew to be a premier university recreation complex recognized locally, regionally, statewide and at the national level.

The park grew from the university's need to have a new interchange to serve the growing southern portion of the University Medical Complex. In order to construct the interchange, which was needed to provide improved access by the public from adjoining State Route 315, several existing intramural fields in the proposed interchange area were impacted. Few undeveloped sites were available for this sizeable complex within the Columbus campus, which could accommodate multiple recreation fields/activities and be accessible to the university community, i.e., students, faculty and staff.






The site required ingenuity and creativity due to the forty-foot east/west grade change. Landscape Architects met the challenge by creating three terraced geometric sport field platforms. The three areas ("The Wheel," "The Square" and "The Rectangle") were each separated by eight to twelve-foot grade slopes.


The Ohio State University Department of Recreational Sports, under the leadership of Dr. Bruce L. Maurer, PhD., spent eight months visiting approximately 80 different park and recreation facilities within and outside of Ohio. As a result of these initial visits, the department determined it was essential to offer combined sports and recreational opportunities at one facility. The dream for the university was to create a more park-like setting which would appeal to all ages, male and female populations, as well as different ethnicities. The university determined the discipline to lead in the creation of such a facility should be a Landscape Architect. Through a statewide competitive selection process, the Columbus-based firm of Edsall & Associates LLC was selected for this major commission.






The western third of the site accommodates four softball fields combined with four flag football fields overlaid in the softball field outfield areas. The central area contains four more softball fields, which includes as an overlay in the softball outfield area; six flag football fields, two lacrosse practice fields, two rugby practice fields and two practice soccer fields.


After being selected, the Landscape Architect worked closely with the owner to fine tune the program and develop a site plan that maximized the owners construction budget and land resources. Site visits continued with the user and those that would be maintaining the facilities. Approximately $5.3 million (exclusive of loose equipment) was allocated by the university for the intramural development. The amount was not excessive for the type of development desired. Furthermore, having nearly 2,000 parking spaces nearby allowed the full $5.3 million to be allocated for recreation development.






ABOVE AND BELOW: The university expects to serve more than 300,000 users annually. The complex encourages broad-based participation for recreational athletes, sport club athletes, families and friends.









The site required ingenuity and creativity due to the forty-foot east/west grade change. The challenge was met by the Landscape Architects by creating a series of three terraces defined by the various areas. The three areas were each separated by eight to twelve foot grade slopes. The areas included:

  • The Wheel: Designed at the western third of the site, accommodates four softball fields combined with four flag football fields overlaid in the softball field outfield areas. A service building/shelter is situated in the hub of the four softball fields. The service building houses an equipment storage area, men's and women's restrooms and picnic shelter area.
  • The Square: The central area contains four more softball fields which includes as an overlay in the softball outfield area, six flag football fields, two lacrosse practice fields, two rugby practice fields and two practice soccer fields as alternating fields.
  • The Rectangle: The eastern end of the site accommodates two regulation size rugby fields with an overlay for two lacrosse fields, two soccer fields, four flag football fields and ultimate disc playing fields.






To accommodate the expansion from basic intramural playing fields to a more community-oriented project, the plan scope was broadened to include playgrounds for children, picnic areas and other recreational opportunities, such as biking and jogging trails.


Complementary facilities flanking the eastern development west and east is the park support/visitor's services building which houses a guest services room, break/classroom, concessions, shelter, club storage areas, maintenance office, maintenance garage/storage yard and men's and women's restrooms. At the southern end of the rugby fields, a pond with floating fountain was developed located at the vehicular and pedestrian entrance to the park. Other site development facilities include:

  • A sledding hill
  • Two basketball courts
  • Children's playground
  • Subgrade drainage for all fields
  • A facility-wide public address system
  • Four official sized sand volleyball courts
  • Lighting with glare control for all recreation fields, basketball and sand volleyball courts
  • A 1-mile lighted jogging, walking, cycling, skating and blading path with a fitness station
  • An irrigation system for all fields with water pumped from one newly developed pond and two adjoining ponds
  • Landscaping including 456 shade, ornamental and evergreen trees with landscape beds at the service and park support/visitor's services building
  • An entrance recognition plaza designed in recognition of student excellence in the pursuit of outdoor recreation activities by teams, players, officials and coaches with three flagpoles for the United States, Ohio State and University and Recreational Sports flags.






This entrance recognition plaza was designed to acknowledge student excellence in pursuit of outdoor recreation activities by teams, players, officials and coaches with three flagpoles - one for the United States, the university, and recreational sports.


Valuable lessons can be learned from the development of Fred Beekman Park. Every project, whether it relates to active or passive recreation programs and facilities, emerges from a need or a dream.

Dreams combined with careful and comprehensive research produce better, if not the best, programs and facilities at an optimum return on investment. Research results in knowledge and awareness of comparable projects/facilities including an assessment of what was done well and areas of potential improvements.






The area that is now Fred Beekman Park was once 43 acres of soybean fields with 40-feet of grade change. The total complex represents a $5.3 million investment in the well-being of the university community.


Good programs require well-designed multiple use physical facilities. Allow yourself, your staff and those who will maintain the facility adequate time to research your desired needs and programs. Identify premier development examples including college and university facilities, public park and recreation facilities, and selected commercial/private facilities. Determine which consultant can truly work with you, not against you, to create facilities that are within your budget. Are they willing to present alternatives and options?






For night games, lighting with glare control was installed for all recreation fields, basketball and sand volleyball courts. In addition to the sports fields, the one-mile bikeway/jogging trail around the perimeter of the park is also lighted.


Fred Beekman Park hosts a wide variety of local, state, regional, national and international competitions - large scale and highly visible tournaments. These prestigious events add to the university's already well-known intramural sports status in tournament place. The facility serves over 600,000 users annually within the university community including students, faculty, staff, their families as well as the Central Ohio community.






At the southern end of the rugby fields, a pond with a floating fountain (in addition to two adjoining ponds) serves as an irrigation system for the playing fields. Make-up water is provided by wells that feed into each pond.


In the summer of 2002, Fred Beekman Park hosted the Big League Summer Baseball League, the National Softball Association World Series of Softball and the National Youth Sports Program. The park hosts over 650,000 individual and group participants yearly. The project has received a Merit Award from the Ohio Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects. In 2001, the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) selected Fred Beekman Park as one of the top seven outdoor recreational facilities in the nation. The park is featured in the NIRSA Outstanding Sports Facilities - Volume IV book under Outstanding Outdoor Facilities 2001.






With grounds and maintenance in mind, the soil profile on the playing fields was amended with sand to improve percolation. All field areas were developed with complete subgrade drainage and underground sprinkler irrigation systems.


The project represents an extremely important benchmark to Landscape Architects across the country who are often faced with the challenges of the value of the landscape architecture profession. It is significant that Ohio State University chose to select a landscape architectural firm to design, prepare construction documents and serve as the project coordinator involving the multiple disciplines of agronomy, architecture, civil, electrical and geotechnical engineering.






Three different planes, each separated by eight to twelve-foot slopes, as seen here, function as primary zones of the facility.







The southern end of the central "square" area contains four sand volleyball courts, two basketball courts and additional picnic areas. The university plans to host a variety of local, regional, state, national and international competitions. These events will add to the university's already well-known intramural status in tournament play.




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December 6, 2019, 12:44 pm PDT

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