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.