Overhead Shots and Updates on the Riverside Park Athletic Fields Renovation

| August 22, 2023 | 0 Comments

The renovation of the athletic facilities at Riverside Park is in process and is expected to be completed sometime next year. The City’s contractor McDonnell Landscape, LLC is undertaking the $2,360,000 project.

This project, which has been delayed several times, was originally slated to start in 2014. Construction starting dates were also targeted in 2019 and 2020. Environmental assessments began on this project in early 2020.

This project was made possible by Baltimore City Recreation & Parks (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.

The current Phase Two is improving the athletic facilities at Riverside Park. BCRP has $900,000 to renovate the red field house.

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 is using the 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 have been built into the hill facing the fields, a new stairway has been added, a dog water fountain will be installed, and a ramp was constructed for ADA access.

A new full-size basketball court is also being built as well as a flat court for pickle ball. The pickle ball court was added to the plan in 2020. These courts replace a recently-demolished, non-full-size basketball court and an adjacent second court that was without baskets for many years. This area was used for skateboarding and pickle ball in recent years.

Just south of the basketball court is an under-construction bio-retention area. Another bio-retention area is being built in the southeast corner of the park below a Baltimore City garage.

A new path system is being constructed so visitors can walk around the athletic facilities. This includes 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.

Jackson Fisher, who coordinates activities for the Friends of Riverside Park, a subcommittee of Riverside Neighborhood Association, provided an updated to SouthBMore.com. From the update:

Update on Riverside Park

The field improvements at Riverside Park are progressing as expected.

-Currently, on the east side of the field, the subsurface irrigation lines have been installed.   Crews are actively installing a series of equally spaced channel drains.  The next step in this area is to cover with topsoil, finish surface irrigation installation, and seed the playing field area.

-Planting:  Trees have been planted adjacent to the walkways across the site.  Ornamental grasses were planted along the walkway from the path to the dugouts.  Wildflowers were planted on the slope at the southern edge of the project.

-Courts:  Subsurface preparation for the basketball and pickleball courts are nearing completion.  Final installation of courts will be scheduled closer to the opening of the site.

-Electrical Upgrade:  A new electrical transformer will be placed near the red field house.  The underground conduit has been positioned.  The next step is the set the concrete pad and move the transformer into position.  Electric service has been positioned at the locations for the field lighting system.

-Fencing;  Fence and backstop posts are in place.

-Stormwater retention areas are installed and have been seeded with groundcover.  There are plans to plant these areas by the Friends of Riverside Park at the project’s conclusion.

-Red fieldhouse – BCRP is finalizing plans to start work on the red field house.  The work on the field house is expected to be conducted fall of 2023 into spring of 2024.

Overall, the active construction portion of the field project is nearing completion.  Once the topsoil goes on and the field is seeded, there will be a 6-9 month dormant timeframe for the field area to allow the grass to establish.  During the dormant period, renovation on the red fieldhouse will be performed.  Since the area will continue to be an active construction site and field activities need to be minimized, the current exclusion fencing will remain in place.  We are very excited by the progress and look forward to fully renovated and fully open field area in mid-late 2024.

Phase Three will address the additional three-acre area south of the softball field on the old CSX property. Jackson said Phase Three has not yet been funded and ideas for it are being discussed. A parking lot was proposed for this area in recent plans, but Fisher noted there are currently underutilized public guest parking spaces at the eastern end of the 2 East Wells lot. Fisher said the idea of another flat court has been discussed for this area that could be used by skateboarders.

Fisher also noted a renovation of the pool could precede Phase Three. The State of Maryland has already allocated design funds for this project.

Due to regulations placed on dog parks, Fisher said 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.

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)

Overhead drone shots courtesy of Sean Monahan 

SouthBMore.com photos below

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

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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 Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.