The Thurston County/City of Lacey Regional Athletic Center (RAC) is already regarded as one of the finest outdoor sporting venues in Washington state.
The 100-acre complex features:
• Six regulation soccer fields, including one with all-weather turf and lighting
• Four regulation softball fields with synthetic-turf infields and lighting
• One minor-league-rated baseball field with a synthetic-turf infield and lighting
• Electronic scoreboards
• Two concession buildings
• Five large picnic shelters
• Spectator seating
• Three playgrounds
• Two miles of walking and jogging paths
• A kite-flying hill
• Three basketball half-courts
• A 6-acre outdoor event and festival area.
Parking includes 500 paved spots as well as an unpaved overflow for 500 vehicles.
Nearly 20 acres of the site have been preserved to protect native oak savannahs.
The project was designed by the Tacoma landscape architecture firm Bruce Dees & Associates, and constructed by Ceccanti Inc. With its second phase reaching completion two years ago, the complex fills a major void in the recreational needs of the community.
A central element in the design was a focus on maintenance, which was accomplished by involving maintenance personnel.
The intent to “waste nothing” is the spirit of the project. Strippings from all graded areas were screened and recycled for topsoil. The tailings were then used to shape “Kite Hill”–a natural feature of the site.
To accommodate the massive earthwork, two of the six fields that lay on a naturally raised elevation were used as a dynamic soil reservoir for balancing cut-and-fill operations.
As excavation revealed buried deposits of unsuitable soil, that material was removed and used as non-structural fill to enhance the shape of “Kite Hill,” while the suitable soil from the two fields provided structural-replacement fill.
By recycling material on-site, economic and ecologic savings were realized through eliminating the need for exporting or importing soil, thus reducing fossil-fuel consumption.
Matt Johns, the RAC Park Maintenance Manager, conducted a testing regime that gathered soil samples throughout the screened topsoil areas of the site. Johns coordinated the results with the design of a fertilizing program to sustain a thriving grass/lawn area. Today, the 13 acres of recycled soil lawn are lush and green.
Pre-design geotechnical studies were used to influence the layout of activities and support facilities. Areas with high infiltration rates became locations for the athletic fields, while less intensive uses were placed on areas of lower permeability.
The majority of the 2 miles of trails are pervious asphalt, and the pervious concrete ball-field complex plaza allows infiltration directly under it. As a result, the plaza was constructed flat, and the cost of expensive storm-water facilities for collection and conveyance was avoided.
With direct infiltration of the fields and pervious paving, storm-water infiltration pond size was minimized, while active recreation space was maximized.
The maintenance staff has been diligent about keeping the voids in the pervious concrete free of debris. Park visitors admire the unique texture, which provides a visible example of Lacey’s commitment to sustainable design and low-impact development.
Maintenance is supported by a 2,100-square-foot maintenance building with a shop, storage, office, restroom, and lunch room for staff members. Equipment wash-down and material storage are contained within the 20,000-square-foot fenced yard.
The park manager and support staff are adjacent in the 1,630-square-foot events building, which includes a reception area, staff offices, and meeting rooms.
All infields and one of the soccer fields were constructed with synthetic turf to extend use throughout the year, virtually eliminating rainouts and maximizing field-rental revenue. Since no watering or mowing is required and no infield prep necessary before each ball game, daily operational costs are kept to a minimum.
Ease of maintenance of the natural-grass areas was considered as well. For grass fields and passive-use locations, the majority are accessible by gang mowers with mow strips provided adjacent to fences and structures.
Furthermore, preserving the native white oak savannahs and their understory was a key design precept that avoided needless development and maintenance.
Irrigation lines were installed with the requisite purple pipe to allow the use of reclaimed water from a planned sewage-treatment plant north of the park.
Floodlighting of all the ball fields is state-of-the-art, 1,500-watt, shielded metal-Halide luminaries with reflecting surfaces that reduce off-site light spill.
All these cost-saving features enhance the overall experience at the RAC, and the center has been recognized as one of the finest athletic complexes in Washington.
The RAC received the 2009 Washington Recreation & Park Association’s Best Sports Complex Award, the 2010 International Northwest Park and Recreation Association Design of the Year, and the Washington Concrete & Aggregates 2010 Pervious Concrete Design Award.
Adapting To Changing Trends
After more than a year of full operation since its completion in 2009, the design team and park staff gathered at the RAC to review how the park is functioning in terms of the goals set by the staff.
The original program was very specific, yet needed to be flexible to accommodate changing trends in recreation and changing needs of the community.
The design of the ball-field complex initially anticipated the demand from minor-league baseball for exclusive use of the complex during games. Restricted game-day usages, coupled with the desire to sell alcohol, were incompatible with the mission of the park.
As a consequence, minor-league baseball is not using the facility; instead, the ball field has become an outstanding and popular venue for junior-college baseball.
Meanwhile, a tremendous demand for soccer, lacrosse, and rugby on the soccer fields to the east recently revealed the need for a second synthetic-turf soccer field. Anticipating that potential in the design phase, fields were set parallel in the understanding that high-activity fields could be centralized for events such as tournaments.
This planning also allowed for shared use of floodlight poles, seating/viewing areas, and close proximity for synthetic-turf maintenance. Routing of the irrigation main provided that construction of the new synthetic field can occur without revisions to the existing irrigation system, other than eliminating irrigation on the field itself.
The synthetic field is now the home field for Saint Martin’s University soccer.
High demand has also revealed a greater need than expected for temporary storage of equipment during tournaments. For maintenance supplies and equipment, a 2,400-square-foot building has been constructed in addition to the existing maintenance and program buildings.
Maintenance access throughout the site has worked well, with the exception of a couple of gates and latch mechanisms, to be added or retrofitted for convenience.
“This is a real maintenance-friendly park,” remarks Johns. “It has received upstanding reviews.”
Believe What You See
In addition to the popularity, high use, and excellent appearance of the facility, success can also be measured by the revenue generation that has doubled what was forecast for the project.
Current revenue generation is approximately $300,000 annually and growing. The increased demand and an anticipated event called “Rampage at the RAC”–a 5K run with obstacles and other events, is expected to generate enough revenue to offset maintenance costs, reaching financial self-sufficiency.
The success of the park has been acknowledged by elected officials as well. After reading the recent article about the RAC published by Sports Turf Magazine, council member Cynthia Pratt wrote to City Manager Greg Cuoio, remarking:
“You know, Greg, when the county/city first started about the RAC way back when, I wondered if it would be viable. Now that it is functional, I have heard time after time from anyone who has used or visited the RAC just how wonderful it is! [It] provides the region with such great recreational opportunities. It shows people the wise use of time, money, and conservation that was built into this fantastic playground!”
Bruce Dees, FASLA is a principal with Bruce Dees & Associates.
Lori Flemm is the Parks & Recreation Director for the city of Lacey. For more information, visit www.bdassociates.com.