The soccer field at the Ray and Joan Kroc Center in Rolando will be on the roof of a new parking garage, with plans for the 23,000-square-foot project in the final approval stages. The Eastern Area Planning Committee gave the project its approval on January 10th.
Right now, the soccer field is at ground level, with level as a relative term, project architect Ken Smith said. “It’s five feet higher at one end than the other, so when you ask how high we’re building, it depends on where you’re standing,” he said in an interview on January 15th.
The plan is to build a new 130-space parking garage and then put the field on top. The project will take eight months to a year to complete, and construction is not expected to start until 2019.
Once it’s done, the center plans to ask for permission to have games later and remain open until 9 p.m.; the current closure time is 7 p.m.
6845 University Avenue, Rolando
The soccer field is part of the 12.4-acre Kroc Center at 68th and University Avenue, tucked between the administration building and the gymnasium, which houses a fitness area. There’s an indoor ice-skating rink, a theater, and meeting rooms where the Salvation Army — which runs the facility — conducts religious activities. There are hundreds of classes ranging from parenting skills to day-camps, as well as counseling and emergency social services.
The center, funded by Joan Kroc in 1998, was built on the former site of a large grocery store and opened in 2002, one of the first new amenities in the relatively poor neighborhood.
The $90 million center was such a success that Mrs. Kroc, whose husband founded McDonald’s, donated $1.5 billion to fund for similar centers to be built in other poor urban neighborhoods across the country. There are now 26 such centers in cities including Atlanta, Boston, Omaha, and Guayama, Puerto Rico.
“Most people don’t know that there are centers in other cities,” Smith said.
The field is heavily used by the center’s soccer leagues for kids between the ages of 4 and 14, for practices and games. At the west end is a brightly colored jungle gym and play center for smaller kids.
The plan is to have the field 12 feet above the parking surface, and it will require grading at the south end of the lot. The roof will be concrete, with a drainage layer, a padding layer, and then artificial turf. There will be bleachers in one area.
The need for more parking is obvious in the morning and late afternoon to early evening, neighbors acknowledge.
“Around 5:30 or 6 [p.m.], you have to park far away and walk,” a resident said.
The parking garage with the rooftop soccer field was part of the original plans, he noted, so the city does not require a new environmental impact report. From the ground looking south, the back of the field rises abruptly more than 30 feet, with homes backing up on the bluff above it.
“We did have to do a traffic study and they concluded there was no impact,” Smith said. One driveway onto the property will be moved.
Planning-group members asked about the elevated playing field’s impact on neighbors in terms of noise and light pollution. The fitness center shields the noise, Smith said. The field will be about 33 feet farther north of the neighbors than it is now, according to the Salvation Army’s Rick Peacock.
“You don’t build nighttime facilities and not use them,” said planning-group chair Tom Silva.
Concerns about the potential for a growing roster of nighttime events focused on noise and light bothering the neighbors, and Peacock promised to work with residents who have concerns. But one resident said he wasn’t worried.
“I live right next door to the Kroc athletic field and with the directional lighting, there’s almost no impact on the neighborhood,” Gawain Tomlinson said. “They’ve done a good job of being considerate of neighbors.”