According to Jeannie Greenwood, Visalia’s Parks and Recreation Director, Riverway Sports Park is 95% complete and the final phase of construction is coming in ahead of schedule and $33,000 under budget.
Greenwood gave a presentation to the Visalia City Council on Riverway’s progress at its October 21 work session. The sports park’s master plan was approved in 2002 as a girls’ and boys’ soccer, baseball and softball venue. The sports park is located on Dinuba Avenue and Shannon Parkway and has become one of the jewels of Visalia.
The girls’ softball complex was the last phase to be built.
Phase V consists of the remaining 17 acres of the 83-acre park and includes four 300’ radius softball fields with sports lighting, a concessions/restroom facility, parking lot, irrigation pumping station, electric service connection, site furnishings, sidewalks, landscaping and irrigation.
Greenwood said part of the Phase V construction contract was to revamp the electrical system. Now the lighting system is easily programmed to illuminate the fields whenever the players need, which had previously been an issue.
Visalia Vice Mayor Steve Nelsen said, “We now have a facility that we can all be proud of.”
Council member Brian Poochigian pointed out that now the girls have the same quality facilities as the boys and that not a lot of places in California can say that.
Riverway hosted the Cal Ripkin World Series in 2011 and in 2019. With Phase V done the sports park can now host girls’ softball tournaments. Visalia has two girls’ softball leagues, Visalia Youth Softball Association and Kaweah Softball.
Kaweah Softball is the younger of the two leagues, and Poochigian said that the league’s membership had been stagnant but that the new facility will be a boon to the organization.
Because the two girls’ leagues will only use the complex for 12 weeks out of the year, February through June, Council member Greg Collins inquired about opening up the complex to adult softball leagues in the offseason. Poochigian pointed out that Tulare recently built an adult softball complex that will siphon off most of the adult tournaments. Also, there are no alcohol sales at Riverway and that will deter adult softball leagues.
Nelsen added that the priority goes to the girls’ softball and if that means adults can’t play out there then “so be it.”
Cal Ripkin and AYSO have been responsible for the maintenance of the baseball complex and both of the girls leagues are expected to contribute to the maintenance of the complex. Because the leagues are not year-round, and the fact the complex will have multiple users, the amount they will contribute is still being negotiated.
Phase I of Riverway Sports Park opened on August 25, 2007, and included 48 acres of development with 10 regulation-sized soccer fields, three large group picnic areas, two restroom/concession facilities; two playgrounds and a water feature.
Phase II of the sports park opened on June 5, 2010, and included roughly 12 acres of development with a lighted four-field youth baseball complex, concession stand & restroom facility, and the lighting of two more soccer fields and a BMX facility.
Phases III and IV opened on November 9, 2013.The 6-acre development featured a new special events promenade with a large open grass area, a large covered arbor, additional landscaping, a third playground, re-purposed the BMX park into the Saputo Sports Field, and added a restroom facility. The project also included the extension of Giddings Avenue north to the western entry point into the sports park.
Greenwood said that Phase V will have a grand opening in March of 2020.
Greenwood added in an email, “The City has purchased some additional property across Riverway (north of the park, east of the overflow parking area) and we will be working with a consultant to determine the future use of that site. Although it will connect to Riverway, it was not part of the original park plan.”
A last exciting addition to Visalia’s recreation resources Greenwood wanted to reveal is the completion of the St. Johns River Trail that runs along the top of the sports park.
“We are also finishing up a project on the property on the north-west corner of Riverway & Dinuba/Hwy 63 – this site completes St John’s Trail and will serve as a trailhead as the St Johns comes under the road and onto the corner lot. This is very exciting as the completion of this last bit of trail and the trailhead creates a full connection of Class 1 Trail from Riverway Sports Park to Cutler Park. We anticipate a ‘grand opening’ celebration in early December,” said Greenwood.