New Bernal Park sports fields, Oak Woodland open with flourish

Lighted sports fields, meandering trails part of $16 million complex

The latest Bernal Community Park expansion, a 54-acre, $16.5 million project that adds new lighted sports fields and a grand meadow and Oak Woodland, opened Saturday with hundreds at a colorful ceremony at the newly-named Stanford field.

This second phase of the 318-acre tract of city-owned land that was given to the city of Pleasanton in 2000 by Greenbriar Homes includes three lighted multipurpose all-weather synthetic sports fields, small grass areas, group picnic areas, an area for children's play equipment and drinking fountains.

These fields are an extension of the two lighted baseball fields built several years ago and include playing areas and bleachers for soccer, rugby, lacrosse, youth football and more baseball fields.

Greenbriar Homes with its partners paid $126 million to acquire the 510-acre Bernal property from the city of San Francisco, which had owned the acreage since the 1930s. At that time, Greenbriar and KB Home received approvals to build 530 homes and apartments on Bernal, which have been completed and are now occupied.

Subsequently, Pleasanton voters approved the Bernal park master plan leading to the phased development of the gifted 318-acre parcel.

The Oak Woodland area includes asphalt and decomposed granite walkways, benches and a boardwalk with trees and foliage that will eventually make it a dense forest-like park for strollers, relaxing and family get-togethers. All the new landscape is being irrigated with recycled water.

A split rail fence, already installed, replaces the chain-link fence at the end of the park along Bernal Avenue and along Oak Vista Way, the park's border with homes built on the Bernal site more than 10 years ago.

Motorists on both Bernal and Valley avenues can see green native grasses germinating from hydro seeding, helped by the recent rains. Tall field lights, installed last summer, are a dominant feature of the new park, which, when turned on, are visible from I-680 and hillside homes south and west of downtown Pleasanton.

At the grand-opening ceremony, tributes were paid to Patelco Credit Union and Stanford Children's Health, financial sponsors of the newly named Patelco Sports Complex and the Stanford Children's Health Stadium Field.

"We're thrilled with the opening of the second phase of this park," said Nelson Fialho, Pleasanton city manager. "It has something for everyone, from the Oak Woodland with its native plants and meandering walking trails, to the state-of-the-art, synthetic multipurpose sports fields as part of the Patelco Sports Complex."

The Pleasanton City Council initiated planning for the Bernal Community Park in 2000. Since that time, significant planning and resources have gone into the park. Last year, nine local sports groups created Play Bernal to raise $2 million to accelerate the development of the sports complex, and with the sponsorships of Patelco and Stanford, in addition to individual donations, the group has successfully raised more than $1 million to date.

The sports complex will feature stadium lighting for extended hours of play and three lighted synthetic-turf sports fields available for year-round play. It will also provide additional space for youth sports practices and games.

"Patelco is committed to enriching lives in the communities we serve, and we believe keeping kids healthy is a fundamental part of a family's overall well-being," said Erin Mendez, Patelco Credit Union's president and CEO. "That's why we're incredibly happy and proud to see the Patelco Sports Complex at Bernal Community Park come to life. This new, state-of-the-art facility will offer kids and their families a place to play and thrive together year-round."

Added Christopher G. Dawes, president and CEO of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and Stanford Children's Health, whose Pleasanton orthopedics clinic hosts a full-service sports medicine program, "We are thrilled to be involved in supporting youth sports, beyond our clinic walls here in Pleasanton."

"It's our privilege to serve Pleasanton's young athletes through our team of Stanford pediatric sports medicine experts, and we look forward to a continued presence in the local community," he added.

Jon Asmussen, chair of the Play Bernal Campaign, thanked those who have supported youth sports in the first phases of development of the Bernal Community Park.

"On behalf of the field sports groups of Pleasanton, we are thrilled for our kids to begin play at this amazing new sports complex. We especially want to thank Patelco Credit Union, our primary naming rights sponsor, and Stanford Children's Health, our sponsor for the stadium field," Asmussen added.

Parking lots to accommodate the sports fields and woodlands visitors are completed, although they offer only limited parking.

During the morning, games and interactive activities were offered on the three new sports fields. City staff and the sports leagues had information tables set up in the plaza area.

After the ribbon-cutting, games began at 2 p.m. with Ballistic United and Pleasanton Rage soccer clubs beginning play on the Bernal Park East and West fields. At 2:30 p.m. the Pleasanton Junior Football League took the field at the Stanford stadium.

Even though Pleasanton has the reputation of having excellent facilities, Bernal Community Park is filling a huge void.

"It's going to be great," said Kevin Crow, executive director of the Ballistic United Soccer Club (BUSC). "We have a year-round program but have been dealing with part-time facilities."

The lack of an all-weather facility, combined with limited hours of daylight during the winter months, created some issues for BUSC. Being forced to rent field space at Las Positas College (Livermore) or Fallon Sports Park (Dublin) drew complaints from soccer clubs based in those cities.

"Clubs were complaining that we were using fields in their cities and that was against league rules," said Crow, who emphasized his league paid to use those fields. "We actually got in trouble from the league for using fields in other cities."

It was the Livermore Fusion Soccer Club that filed the complaint with the NorCal Premier League, and the league in turn sanctioned BUSC.

Thanks to the new facility, that won't be an issue any longer.

"We have been having to deal with this for years," Crow said. "But when (Bernal Community Park) opens, we can even go during the week at night."

The Pleasanton Rage girls' soccer club echoed Crow's thoughts.

"This will be huge, especially at certain times of the year," Asmussen said. "During the winter months, it gets tough when it gets dark so early, and when it rains, everything shuts down. We will be able to play all year."

Lacrosse has been stuck at just two spots: Hart Middle School for the boys and Harvest Park Middle School for the girls. They are two separate clubs, but both faced the same problem not having an all-weather practice site that is lighted.

"It does a lot for us," said Jeff Sensiba, vice president of the boys' Pleasanton Lacrosse Club. "We will have reliable fields that allow us to have more practice time and some games. We will even be able to have some tournaments."

As the leagues have grown in popularity, the field space did not, and it made for some uncomfortable times. The drought forced the school districts to cut back on already-sparse maintenance of the fields at the schools, turning them at times into glorified cow pastures.

It got so bad with the number of gopher holes and other maintenance issues that the situation bordered on embarrassing, not to mention unsafe.

"There was a comment last year from a parent on a visiting team that said, 'Oh gosh, we have to play here? I hope no one gets hurt,'" Sensiba said. "Last year, we had a referee blow his knee out doing a game at Hart."

Voters approved the Bernal park master plan two years ago.

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Like this comment
Posted by Patriot
a resident of Birdland
on Oct 29, 2016 at 9:14 pm

Great addition for Pleasanton! Didn't notice picnic area: tables BBQ? Also snack bars for snack foods? Will that come later?

Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Oct 31, 2016 at 9:42 am

Curious to know if the parking was adequate.

Like this comment
Posted by Tom Judd
a resident of Valley View Elementary School
on Oct 31, 2016 at 9:59 am

I don't remember the vote on the Bernal Park Master Plan being on the ballot. (I guess I was sick that day.)

2 people like this
Posted by History of Bernal
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Oct 31, 2016 at 12:06 pm

Article is wrong on the voting of the master plan. That vote was in 2006. There have been four elections on this parcel of land:

1) 2000 - Bond Measure to purchase the land from the SF Water District. SF Water District wanted to build 3,500 homes there. This bond measure did not pass (narrowly).

After hard negotiation, the City Council negotiated a deal with Greenbriar and South Bay Development where they would build 571 residential units and 750,000 square feet of commercial/office space The remaining 318 acres were dedicated to the City for a park.

A group of people, including our now Mayor Thorne, wanted more housing (on the parkland). There were talks of 5-20 acres of housing but the group that wanted the housing there did not want any limits on housing.

2) 2002 - An initiative went before the voters to not allow housing on the city-owned park land. Thorne campaigned hard against this initiative. The initiative passed with over 60% approval for no houses on the parkland. (Web Link)

3) 2004 - Measure X locked in the approved uses of the Bernal Property Parkland to that a future City Council could not just change the uses without another vote of the people. (passed with almost 90% Yes) (Web Link)

After the initiative passed, the council had a Design Competition on the master planning of the Bernal Park. The Council adopted the master plan of the winner of the Design Competition.

4) 2006 - The Master Plan from the Design Competition went before the community for ratification. It passed overwhelmingly (82% of the vote) (Web Link)

Like this comment
Posted by Mitch
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2016 at 6:10 pm

Typical. Shows up after the fact. Complains about not being consulted.

5 people like this
Posted by Linda
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 2, 2016 at 9:35 am

And the 2006 Master Plan did not include the vast City Hall, police dept, library complex now proposed for a substantial part of the land. There was supposed to be an cultural arts center and amphitheater.
Go see the model in the library

1 person likes this
Posted by Las
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2016 at 10:19 am

My son had soccer practice at the new park last night. It looks a great facility. Unfortunately the parking lot leaves a lot to be desired. Its not close to having enough parking spaces in my opinion and also badly designed, as everyone parked has to back out into the only route in and out of the small lot.

4 people like this
Posted by res1
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Nov 2, 2016 at 4:04 pm

Linda, I think the City would be required to put an initiative on the ballot to allow the City Hall as an allowed use since the allowed uses were approved by the voters and can only be changed by the voters. My guess is they will do that once they are further along in the process. This brings up the issue of what they plan to do with the old city hall facility. I have heard they want pack and stack housing there. I think that would be a non-starter for many in the community. Personally, I think the city hall and police department are fine where they are at. I would be in favor of an improved library but I see no issue on moving the library to the Bernal property and keep the rest of city hall where it is at. There is a building right on Main St (157 Main St?) which is the old post office, and that building and site could be sold for a better use on Main St. I believe that building is so old that the city cannot put things upstairs there since the building's structure will not support much weight. I would like to see:
1) Larger library on Bernal Property
2) Keep City Hall where it is at and use the old library for city needs
3) Sell 157 Main St and use that money to help finance the new library.

The current City Hall, sans the library, meets the needs of our residents.

6 people like this
Posted by Flightops
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 4, 2016 at 11:57 am

Flightops is a registered user.

@res1. Good plan. I like your thinking but the powers that be are chomping at the bit to bulldoze everything at the end of main st. And my money is on them putting in stack and pack housing!! Keep an eye on this one it's going to slip right by us citizens!

Like this comment
Posted by Water features or mosquito habitat?
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Nov 7, 2016 at 12:06 pm

I noted a number of "water features" in the new sports park. While tranquil and visually interesting, what plans does the city have to ensure they don't become mosquito breeding grounds, especially in light of Zika spreading throughout the US?

Like this comment
Posted by Grateful
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 8, 2016 at 1:10 am

Grateful is a registered user.

that the sum total of these blog posts seem of the selfish, what's in it for me ilk that it leads me to conclude that if these first world problems are the most challenging issues we have to complain about, well then maybe our life here is probably pretty good and maybe we should start focusing on the positive instead only the negative.

Like this comment
Posted by Emily
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Sep 22, 2017 at 11:40 pm

Are dogs allowed at the turf soccer fields?

6 people like this
Posted by Use your dog park
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 23, 2017 at 3:03 am

@Emily, no, no, no! Keep your dogs off the soccer field and use one of the two doggie parks that you now have. There is absolutely no excuse for dog poop being on every possible square of lawn in this town, use the dog parks and let the rest of us have some grass without poop everywhere.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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