Construction on Riverside Park Athletic Facility Expected to Begin Next Year

| June 24, 2021 | 0 Comments

Baltimore City Department of Recreation & Parks’ (BCRP) renovation of the athletic facilities at Riverside Park is now expected to begin in early 2022. This project has been delayed several times and was originally supposed to start in 2014. Construction starting dates were also targeted in 2019 and 2020. Environmental assessments began on this project in early 2020.

“We’re on track to advertise for construction in August,” said BCRP Chief of Capital Development Adam Boarman in an email. “Once awarded, the project is expected to take 12 months for construction.  Thus, I anticipate the site to be under construction in early 2022 with an opening in spring 2023.”

This project was made possible by BCRP purchasing a triangular-shaped piece of land located beyond the outfield fences of Hap Hall Memorial Field from CSX for $300,000 in May 2018.

A Riverside Park Master Plan was created by BCRP 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 will improve the athletic facilities at Riverside Park. BCRP has $900,000 to renovate the red field house and $1.9 million to renovate the fields and courts.

The 868 sq. ft., one-story red field house was once a recreation center that used to host dances for youth in the community. The building has been used in recent years for storage. Its bathrooms in the rear of the building are not functional.

The field house has a new roof, but the rest of the building will be gutted and reconfigured with new HVAC, plumbing, and electric. Two unisex bathrooms will be moved to the front of the building facing the path, and a 428 sq. ft. concessions room will be added with a window facing the front of the building. The field house will have a mechanical room, two storage rooms in the concession area, and two storage rooms accessible from the exterior of the building.

The patio in front of the field house will be improved and will include a seating area overlooking the fields. There will be table seating, a seating wall along the sides of the building, bike racks, and a shade structure. The concession room will not have a full kitchen and it will be used for mostly for fundraisers.

BCRP will use the new land acquired from CSX to expand Hap Hall Memorial Field, which is used for baseball and softball, and to create a wider playing field for soccer and football towards the eastern end of the field.

The fields will be surrounded in new fencing and there will continue to be a right field fence for Hap Hall Memorial Field, but not a left field fence. Concrete bleachers will be built into the hill facing the fields, a new stairway will be added, a dog water fountain will be installed, and a ramp will be constructed for ADA access.

A new full-size basketball court will also be built as well as a pickle ball court. The pickle ball court was added to the plan in the past year. These courts will replace the current non-full-size basketball court and an adjacent second court that has been without baskets for many years and has been used for skateboarding and pickle ball in recent years.

Just south of the basketball court will be a bio-retention area. Another bio-retention area will be built in the southeast corner of the park below a Baltimore City garage.

A new path system will be constructed so visitors can walk around the athletic facilities. This will include an extension of the sidewalk along Johnson St. until it hits E. Wells St. and a new path that connects E. Wells St. to Covington St.

A parking lot, which would hold about 20 spots, is planned for the southwest corner of the park in the land acquired by CSX. This would be an expansion of 2 East Wells’ visitor parking lot.

Jackson Fisher, who coordinates activities for the Friends of Riverside Park, a subcommittee of Riverside Neighborhood Association, said that due to regulations placed on dog parks, they were unable to find a location in the park for one. Dog parks have to be a certain distance from residences, which is a challenge as the park is surrounded on three sides by homes. Dog parks must also be placed on a flat surface to avoid contaminated run-off.

Phase Three of the Riverside Park renovations will include improvements to the pool facilities. This will likely include a renovated pool building with colonnades and pavilions for gathering. It could also include a new splash pool attached to the existing baby pool and a new fountain at the park entrance to the pool. There is no timetable at this point for Phase Three.

Some cosmetic improvements were made to Riverside Park Pool in 2019 thanks to a $49,500 grant from the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership (SBGP) and a volunteer effort from Riverside Neighborhood Association and residents in the South Baltimore community.

In 2018, sidewalk bump-outs were completed around Riverside Park. 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.

Two exercise equipment areas were added to Riverside Park in 2019.

BCRP’s Sports Turf Management renovated and moved into the the service building and maintenance yard in the southeast corner of the park in 2020.

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

Renderings courtesy of Baltimore City Department of Recreation & Parks (click to enlarge). The pickle ball court added since this rendering was created.

Photos of Riverside Park from 2018

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, 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 [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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