Leslie Knope dreams: Mission Valley stadium may be a giant park!
New river park renderings accompany a refined site plan that calls for a wealth of amenities for people of all ages
San Diego State University is putting the finishing touches on its design for an expansive — and expensive — river park it plans to build once it takes over the city’s Mission Valley stadium site.
This week, the school, which expects to spend around $54 million on 58 acres of recreation and open space, has released new renderings to accompany a refined site plan that calls for a wealth of amenities for people of all ages. Publicly accessible perks include hike and bike paths, six multi-purpose fields, basketball courts, two restrooms, adult fitness equipment, kids’ play areas, pingpong tables, an off-leash dog park, a hillside amphitheater and a skate park under the existing trolley station.
Perhaps more importantly, SDSU, with the help of its landscape architect Schmidt Design Group, hopes to engineer ties to the oft-overlooked San Diego River, which runs behind the Mission Valley property currently home to SDCCU Stadium. Although park-goers won’t be able to access the river — a landscaped buffer will be used to keep people away from the natural habitat — they should get a river-like feel from the park. Those elements include water quality basins with overlook platforms and an intermittent creek, which will be used to treat and convey water to the river during rainy seasons.
“We found the opportunity to educate people about the river, and educate people about the site and the importance of this place,” said Glen Schmidt, whose firm Schmidt Design Group is also responsible for Civita Park and Waterfront Park. “That’s what really makes a difference, your connection to the San Diego River.”
All told, San Diego State plans to spend $30 million on a city-owned portion of the river park (34 acres), and another $1 million per acre on about 24 acres of recreation and open space elsewhere on the property. The latter portion encompasses the eastern portion of the park, a trolley plaza, and parts of the west and central park north of the city’s property line.
The updated design comes two weeks before the institution is anticipated to ask its board, the California State University of Board of Trustees, to OK its major land purchase and certify an environmental analysis of its broader Mission Valley campus plan. SDSU has offered to pay the city around $87.7 million for 135 acres, set aside 10 percent of the 4,600 planned apartments for low-income residents and spend $5 million on additional traffic improvements. Additional commitments in the offer include building, paying for and maintaining the city’s portion of the river park.
The latest park vision is being applauded by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who previewed the design last week.
“Bringing a river park to Mission Valley is going to radically transform the region for the better,” Faulconer said. “This has been a longtime priority of mine and together with SDSU we will transform a parking lot into San Diego’s next great public space with sculpture gardens, skate parks and much more. This design is the community’s vision, and I can’t wait to see it brought to life.”
Also of note are San Diego State’s efforts to address concerns from environmentalists who objected to a road running alongside the eastern boundary of the site because of its proximity to Murphy Canyon Creek and the wildlife that live there. In response, the university has decided to do away with the east-running road, opting for a pedestrian- and cyclist-only natural path. In the road’s place, SDSU will add a new street that curves south from the Rancho Mission Road entrance to the park area.
The university, which aims to complete the Mission Valley land transaction with the city by March, anticipates that the western portion of the river park will open alongside its future football stadium in August 2022. The entire park should be completed by the following August.
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