5 years in the making: Hiawatha Playfield plan


(“approved concept” as provided by Seattle Parks, with a note that “the installed football field grid will not be as fully marked” as shown above)

Actually, by the time construction starts next year on $3.6 million in renovations to Hiawatha Playfield, almost six years will have passed since the first public meeting on this project. Last night at neighboring Hiawatha Community Center, reps from the city Parks Department and the project’s design firm DA Hogan presented details on the big changes that are in the works:

Key points:

-Football is coming in
-So is artificial turf
-The softball field is going away
-So are 14 trees, including a big old elm on the edge of the track, roughly parallel with the southwest end of West Seattle High School

Before we get into the details, you might wonder — why six years? As is often the case with such things, it was a matter of money. When $ for the “field conversion” finally came through in the Seattle Public Schools BEX III levy last February, the project got off the back burner, and over the past few months, the plan first hatched in 2002 evolved into what was presented last night.

One major factor with which project leaders had to work is the fact that Hiawatha is a “landmark landscape,” one of the original Olmsted parks from a century ago. As noted last night, the community-center building isn’t a landmark, but the landscape around it is (read more about its history here). The original Olmsted plan was on an easel at last night’s meeting, side by side with the current plan; Eric Gold from DA Hogan talked about trying to maintain the “symmetry” of the original plan — and how the various priorities for the project made for a “very arduous task.”

The field will use what Gold called “infilled artificial turf,” to replace the current “sand/silt,” which he says was never meant to be more than a stopgap measure to get the previous cinder surface away. Later, during the public question/comment period, it was revealed that markings on the football field will be painted, rather than inset, which West Seattle High School football-program leaders are concerned about; they will be the football field’s major users — a big change from the situation now, where they have to go elsewhere to practice.

The track and field components of the project apparently also do not match all the hopes and dreams of the future school users, but they include improvements such as replacements for the worn long-jump and shot-put facilities now on the east side of the field; Gold said the track will be 400 meters with three marked lanes and a “short straightaway.” Its surface will be rubber over asphalt, probably a “light charcoal or tan color.”

But the field improvements won’t come without a price beyond the $ involved — what Gold called “the other shoe to drop on this plan” is the removal of 14 trees within the field perimeter. All but one, he said, are relatively young trees (1996 or newer) — the one that’s not is a huge century-plus-old elm that reportedly isn’t in good shape anyway, after suffering serious damage in an ice storm a couple years back.

We couldn’t stay for all the public questions and comments, as we had to get over to the other end of West Seattle for the Denny-Sealth update meeting (that report here; side note, the money for the Denny-Sealth project comes from the same levy as the Hiawatha field renovations). Besides concerns and questions from West Seattle High School athletics leaders, there also was a question about whether other parts of the park will be renovated in the project, such as the deteriorating Hiawatha wading pool in the park’s northeastern corner — the answer is, no, this is just about the field. It will get new lighting as well — described last night as the same number of poles as exist now, but more slender, “shielded,” and “aimable.”

If this project stays on its current schedule, it will go to bid in March, and construction is set for May-October next year. Lynn Sullivan, who co-led last night’s meeting, is the Parks Department project manager; her contact information is on the official Parks page for this project (find it here).

7 Replies to "5 years in the making: Hiawatha Playfield plan"

  • Jan December 13, 2007 (11:53 am)

    Thanks for the information on this meeting. I live about 1/2 block north of Hiawatha’s tennis courts, which are used a lot, but not slated for improvements in this, I guess. I’ve always wondered why WSHS football didn’t practice there…nice that they’ll have that opportunity.

  • OP December 13, 2007 (3:38 pm)

    That’s good news. It’s a terrible surface for any sport—football, soccer, baseball, softball. Held little league practice there a few times and it was bad-hop central.

  • Tim McMonigle December 13, 2007 (4:47 pm)

    This is very good news for the West Seattle sports community. I help run the West Seattle Soccer Club and we are very much looking forward to using this next year. Some of the field conditions, especially towards the end of the season, are just terrible.

    Now I hope that Delridge and High Point are next!

  • Layne December 13, 2007 (5:12 pm)

    I’ll get to watch this unfold if I’m still perched in my apartment across the street! Hopefully the high school won’t have late-night marching band practice there soon… :)

  • Jiggers December 13, 2007 (9:39 pm)

    WOW!! What you guys get one helicopter to get around into unreal WSB..

  • JumboJim December 14, 2007 (2:05 pm)

    I think your fingers got a little excited there Jiggers… Were you checking to see if WSB got a chopper?? ;-)

  • Kerrie December 18, 2007 (7:06 am)

    Wondering about the need to remove so many trees. It’s a park for crying out loud. This city is just fixated on removing as many trees as possible.

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