The first dirt has been moved at Naranja Park, jumpstarting a $2.3 million improvement project scheduled for completion by the beginning of 2015.
On Jan. 27, Oro Valley town staff and council hosted a public groundbreaking ceremony, the first of many steps to come en route to the installment of two multi-sport athletic fields, 1.1-acre dog park, 180-space parking lot, and necessary utilities.
Grading is currently under way on the 24.6-acre site, located near the park’s south end. According to Communications Administrator Misti Nowak, utilities will be in place by springtime, fields will be sod by early summer, and overseeding will take place by fall.
The project is coming to fruition after overwhelming support from town residents and a unanimous council vote in early November.
The land has an extensive history as pointed out by Town Manager Greg Caton. First utilized in the 1950s as cattle grazing land, the area was used for an asphalt mixing plant in the 1980s, and in 1996, the town took ownership of the land for $7.65 million.
An adopted site plan was established in 2002, but those plans waited until 2008, when voters rejected a $48.6 million bond that would have moved the park plan into the development stage.
Despite the rejected bond, community interest continued for additional parks and recreational opportunities until the Naranja Park plan’s eventual approval was pushed through by popular council vote late last year.
“It’s because of council’s bold vision for the future that we stand here today,” said Caton at the ceremony.
Mayor Satish Hiremath, who was at the groundbreaking along with the rest of council, acknowledged that some of the original plans adopted in 2002 have changed based on community feedback or projects that have since been completed elsewhere in the community.
The archery range was one of the park additions not originally planned but executed due to resident demand. A skate park has been mentioned as a possible addition in the future.
“That’s a good testament to Greg’s leadership and this council’s ability to move with immense amount of flexibility, and move very, very quickly,” said Hiremath.
Hiremath added that the park prove beneficial to the town’s ever-changing demographic.
“Seventy five percent of the Town of Oro Valley residents are under retirement age,” he said. “It’s a phenomenal number. You’re talking about young parents with young families who have to… travel elsewhere throughout the region to find fields.”
In addition to better serving the immediate community, staff and council expect the park to attract families and sporting organizations from throughout the region, which could mean additional sales and bed tax revenues for the town.