Peoria’s newest community park, Pioneer Community Park, opened Sept. 21 for the first time to the general public. The city held a media day Sept. 19 to allow photographers and reporters a close-up look at all of the park’s amenities.
The Splash Park was a big hit. Park workers turned on the computers and one park employee stepped under the large paddle wheel until the wheel buckets filled and made a big splash. Other smaller water features were spraying small trinkles as well. The entire system works on a computer/timing device that responds to motion.
Several speakers talked about the features spread around the 83-acre park.
City Manager Carl Swenson said the city was very fortunate to be able to provide its citizens with community parks like Pioneer during a tough economy. But, that its focus on providing great service combined with sound financial management policies and principles have resulted in the park and Rio Vista Community Park at Thunderbird Road and the Loop 101.
Community Services Director John Sefton said there was a whole list of quality amenities. He noted studies have shown that a community that invests in parks and open space experiences economic improvement because such amenities add value and improve the quality of life. Sefton said active sports and fishing venues are not experiences that usually happen in dry urban spaces. Not only that, but trees (800) and turf add to air quality, he said.
Sports Facilities Manager Chris Calcaterra said the park, which took four years to develop, took a “huge design team effort. You can see all around you the culmination of those design efforts.”
“I’ve heard from three colleagues around in sister cities, ‘You raised the bar,’” Calcaterra said.
There’s more to parks than just trees and grass anymore. Calcaterra said operational efficiency is an important element at Pioneer, which has a computer-aided irrigation system. He said the city was attempting to create a legacy at Pioneer.
“There’s a reason for the ‘Pioneer’ name,” he said.
At the grand opening Saturday, Mayor Bob Barrett welcomed the large crowd of families and park staff, saying when he first came into office in 2001, the city had just purchased land for Rio Vista Community Park.
“It’s been said by councilmembers we give money to theaters and parks, and I said, ‘Yes, we do. It’s for quality of life for people like you.’”
Vice Mayor Tony Rivero, in whose Acacia District the new park is located, said the park would serve not only the residents of Peoria, but people in nearby communities. He said since 2011, Peoria has opened six neighborhood parks.
“We have been waiting for this park a very long time,” Rivero said.
He recognized former Acacia District Councilmember Vicki Hunt for “making this park a reality.”
Peoria Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Bill Collett said, “This is one of the few, maybe the only park, in the Valley that can offer tournament fields for 13-year-olds.”
Collett said he had already seen 30 people enjoying the dog park early Saturday morning. In addition, he said, six acres of the new park have been set aside for sand volleyball courts in the future, with the capability to set up bleachers.
Park construction was completed by Haydon Construction. Les Keeble, vice president of operations for Haydon, had 75 subcontractor personnel working at the park daily during its construction. He complimented the city for building the park during an “economically difficult time.” As a result, the city got more for its money. The park’s construction cost $26.6 million, and there were 400 construction jobs at the park during that time.
“One thing the City of Peoria has consistently brought to the table is powerful leadership,” Keeble said.
Perhaps what draws the attention of more people is the five-acre lake with a fountain in the middle. Eric Swanson, Community Fisheries Program Manager for Arizona Game and Fish Department, said Peoria had the best lake construction in the program, and called Pioneer Community Park’s lake a “model home” for fish.
The AG&FD’s motto is, “If people can’t get to the fish, we bring fish to the people.”
Swanson said, however, there will not be much to fish for until Jan. 1, when AG&FD will stock the lake with rainbow trout. When March arrives, the fish stocking will change to catfish.
“After the ecosystem grows, there will be bass,” Swanson said.
There are bluegill and grass carp in the lake right now. Carp will continue to swim throughout the lake because they eat algae. Because the lake is filled with water from the Butler Water Reclamation Plant adjacent to the park, Swanson said it is richer with nitrogen and phosphorous.
Pioneer is the 22nd lake in the urban fishing program, Swanson said.
“Peoria, in my 20 years, has the best lake construction in the program,” he said. “The lake is a ‘model home’ for the fish.”
With its aeration and filtration system, he said it was easy to fish and easy to stock.
Just beyond the lake is the dog park, which is divided into three sections: one for dogs up to 35 pounds, one for dogs 35 to 100 pounds; and one that is always closed for maintenance. Each section is rotated weekly.
Along the sidewalk a few feet away is the Heritage Court, where longtime Peoria residents Bob and Arlene Robertson’s home was situated before the land was sold to the city. Heritage Court can be rented for special occasions.
There are also eight joined ramadas with picnic tables, a sink and grill for large groups.
The grass on the four lighted multipurpose fields and six lighted dual-use baseball/softball fields is Tiff 328 turf. It is a Bermuda grass hybrid, which Sports Complex Supervisor Jake Eason said was less expensive to maintain, and does not require as much time as regular grass to recover.
Three different entrances into Pioneer Community Park means less traffic congestion. Park visitors can enter just east of 83rd Avenue off Butler Drive to access the multipurpose and softball/baseball fields. They can also enter off Olive Avenue on 79th Avenue to access the multipurpose fields. The main entrance is off 83rd Avenue between Butler and Olive, where families with children and fishermen can access the play area and lake.
To reserve a field, ramada or Heritage Court, call 623-773-7137, or visit www.peoriaaz.gov/pioneer.
For more photos of the park, please see attached gallery.