Athletic Facility Renovations at Riverside Park Scheduled to Begin Next Summer

| July 9, 2018 | 3 Comments

A plan to expand the athletic fields at Riverside Park is finally moving forward now that Baltimore City has completed a $300,000 purchase of the triangular-shaped piece of land located beyond the outfield fences of Hap Hall Memorial Field. The land was purchased in May from CSX.

The sale was contingent on an environmental assessment report of the industrial site which was used for train operations for many years. There are several hazardous chemicals that are commonly associated with these types of sites including organic compounds related to coal/oil/gas and arsenic. The report detailed how samples taken from the site did include these chemicals as well as one sample that included chromium. Baltimore City Recreation and Parks received a recommendation from the Maryland Department of the Environment to install a two-foot thick layer of clean soil over the entire property to ensure that the public will not come in contact with the contaminants.

A Riverside Park Master Plan was created by Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks in 2010 that outlined improvements for the 17-acre park in the Riverside Neighborhood of South Baltimore. Phase One of this plan was implemented in 2012 before the Star-Spangled Sailabration. The historical portions of the park were renovated with new pathways, lights, trash cans, and benches. The site is associated with the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812 and was known as Fort Lookout.

Phase Two, which will improve the athletic facilities at Riverside Park, was slated to begin in 2014. Baltimore City has $1.9 million in the bank for the project, but acquisition of the land for the expansion was delayed for several years. Now moving forward, Riverside Neighborhood Association (RNA) is working with Recreation and Parks during the planning.

Phase Two will include new basketball court replacing the current basketball court and an adjacent second court that has been without baskets for many years; irrigation; new lighting; ADA-accessible dugouts and bleachers; terraced seating; and stormwater management at Hap Hall Memorial Field. The stormwater plan includes some natural areas to collect runoff and stormwater. These areas could feature the addition of pollinator and butterfly-friendly plants.

The new land will allow for the short right field fence of Hap Hall Memorial Field to be extended, and allow for a wider playing field for soccer and football towards the eastern end of the field.

A new parking lot, which could accommodate 15 to 20 cars, is planned for the southwest portion of the expanded Riverside Park. “That side (west side) of the park has significant parking issues,” said Jackson Fisher who coordinates activities for the Friends of Riverside Park, a subcommittee of RNA. He noted how Riverside Park is used throughout the week by many sports leagues.

“There have been discussions as far as adding signage that would allow parking for the teams in the early evening, and allowing residents to park there overnight,” he said.

Recreation and Parks is looking into constructing a walking/cycling path from Johnson to Covington St. along the southern boundary. This addition might be a tight fit with the boundaries of the adjacent railroad lines, but RNA has stated they would like to see this happen.

Fisher said he does not believe a dog park in the expanded Riverside Park is likely. This idea has been discussed for many years.

In addition to the field renovations, there is a $200,000 budget for the renovation of the red field house, which was once a recreation center, to include functional bathrooms. Fisher is not sure whether this would include renovating the existing bathrooms, which have been closed to the public in recent years, or creating Porta Potty enclosures. The building is currently used for storage and houses the switch to turn on the field lights.

Design work and a stormwater plan is currently underway. The project will advertise for bids in March 2019, open for bidding in May 2019, be awarded in June 2019, break ground in August 2019, and have an expected grand opening in Summer 2020. The fields will be closed during renovations.

Phase Three of the Riverside Park renovations will include improvements at the pool. This will likely include a renovated pool building with colonnades and pavilions for gathering. It could also include new splash pool attached to the existing baby pool and a new fountain at the park entrance to the pool. Fisher said there is no indication that Phase Three would take place anytime soon and that the focus is on getting Phase Two completed. The pool has not yet opened this year due to repairs.

Recently completed around Riverside Park are new sidewalk bump-outs. The Baltimore City Department of Transportation designed the project for traffic calming and pedestrian safety. The bump-outs were installed along Johnson St. at Barney St., Heath St., and Randall St., and along Randall St. at Riverside Ave., Covington Ave., Jackson St., and Webster St.

Approximate dimensions of the land expansion outlined in white (screenshot courtesy of Google Maps)

Rendering courtesy of Baltimore City Recreation and Parks 

Current photos of Riverside Park 


The South Baltimore Now Podcast Latest Episodes Produced by Nathan Carper:

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.