A walk-through of the 13 acres of ball fields, bleachers, playgrounds, parking lots and landscaped surroundings last week showed how the first phase of Pleasanton's newest sports park looks.
"This may not be the largest complex of baseball fields among cities, but it has to be among the best," said Mike Fulford, city landscaper, who with Parks and Community Services Director Susan Andrade-Wax and her predecessor Jim Wolfe, has been in charge of planning, designing and engineering the new Bernal fields.
Although the fields look ready for play, it will take another few months for the turf to mature, Andrade-Wax said. She is planning a public dedication of the park in the early evening of Saturday, Sept. 12, when the lights will be turned on for the two main baseball fields.
The public also will have a chance to see the baseball complex up close in July when the city dedicates the Marilyn Kane Memorial Trail that skirts the fields as it winds its way through much of the 318-acre Bernal park.
Until then, the fields are still off limits to the public as ValleyCrest, the general contractor, completes its final 90 days of testing and checking the baseball diamonds and the many amenities it installed. These include parking for about 100 cars, an analemmatic sundial, which gives the date as well as time, fully automated rest rooms for men, women and families and a weather station that keeps track of wind, rainfall and even humidity.
"It 'talks' to the irrigation controllers that are in place to take care of the baseball fields," Fulford explained. "If it's too windy, the sprinklers don't go on because all that water would blow away. Obviously, it senses rain so it keeps the sprinklers off, too. Depending on the humidity, it will automatically dial the irrigation back 10 or 20 percent if it's a humid day or boost it up from the base program if it's a very dry day. So it's a real water saver."
Unlike Pleasanton's main Sports Park off Hopyard Road that caters to a variety of sports each year, the new complex on the Bernal property will have single-use fields for baseball, with plans for at least one more lighted baseball diamond and also lighted fields for soccer, football, lacrosse and rugby. At least one of those fields will include bleachers for tournament play.
"Our maintenance crews really like them because the fields will rest between heavy uses," Fulford said. "The crews can go in and aerate and fertilize. That's something we have real trouble doing at the Sports Park."
Unlike most park projects which have received partial or total funding from developers as homes were built nearby, the new sports fields, roadways, parking lots and water and sewer lines have been the city's responsibility, which account for the $8 million in costs. As the baseball diamonds were the first of three phases in the overall sports park development, ValleyCrest installed all of the utilities needed to support the entire build-out of the project. That made the first phase more expensive than future phases are likely to be.
A new road leading to the baseball complex off south Valley Avenue is Pleasanton Avenue, which eventually will be extended to join Pleasanton Avenue at Bernal when the rest of the new sports park is completed.
The baseball fields are the first development on the Bernal property, which was given to the city free of charge by Greenbriar Homes in 2000. It was part of the 510-acre Bernal property that Greenbriar and associates purchased nine years ago for $126 million from the property's longtime owner, the city of San Francisco.
As part of the same agreement that Pleasanton approved, the developers were allowed to build 581 homes and apartments on the Bernal site on both sides of Interstate 680. The city also approved a 37-acre, eight-building, four-story office park along I-680 which the owner, South Bay Construction, is now planning to develop with only seven office structures, but would add a new Safeway "Lifestyle" supermarket at the corner of Valley and Bernal.
The new baseball fields are the pride and joy of Andrade-Wax, who has been responsible for seeing them completed after succeeding Wolfe as parks and community services director earlier this year. She expects they'll be much in demand, not only because they'll be the first regulation lighted baseball fields in Pleasanton, but also because they look like hardball fields.
"These are designed for baseball, not softball," Andrade-Wax said. "They have dirt infields, not grass."
The dirt fields also are a mixture of compressed volcanic cinders, sand and clay with a firm base underneath that allows for quick water runoff during a rainstorm.
"They're very porous with a firm base that in a heavy rain sheds water like an umbrella so that teams can play right after a heavy rainstorm," said Stan Gibson, park maintenance supervisor.
Fulford said both lighted fields have "mobile" baselines that can be arranged from 50 feet to 80 feet on one field and 40 to 60 feet on the other. Little League play requires 80-foot baselines; in the senior leagues that play at the adult fields, the baselines are 90 feet. New baseball fields planned for the next phase of the sports park will have 90-foot baselines.
The fields also can be converted for softball play during tournaments.
Another advantage of the Bernal fields is that the lights are at least 800 feet away from the nearest homes. When they were turned on for the first time several weeks ago, there were no complaints. In addition, the open space between the sports park and the homes that is now being farmed for hay will eventually be 50 acres of meadows and woodland, with oaks, sycamores and native California plants. Trails will thread there way through the parkland with foliage eventually screening the sports park from its residential neighbors.
Each of the two lighted baseball fields include bleachers to accommodate 250-300 spectators with extra wide walking room between each row of seats, large backstops to protect spectators and spacious dugouts for home and visiting teams with bat racks and space for up to 20 players.
Although the new fields will be open to anyone during the off-seasons, it's expected there will be heavy demand by the club sports for game times. The spring schedule for Little League and girls' softball teams fills early in late winter months, although a cutback in PONY league baseball provided some scheduling relief this year.
Gibson, who's in charge of all park maintenance in Pleasanton, said his crews work the sports fields during the week, but leave the responsibility for cleanup to the leagues and teams on the weekends.
Although there's a large scoreboard outside the outfield fence lines in the two lighted fields, there's no speaker system, Gibson added.
As the city landscaper, Fulford also takes pride in "the non-irrigated, very friendly California native hydroseed mix" that has been spread around the edge of the baseball complex and close to the parking areas.
"We put this in as a demonstration garden so that people can see what a real California landscape looks like," Fulford said. "We should all try to be much better about water conservation and these plantings show how we can do it."