The Arlington County Board is likely to vote this weekend on providing another $140,000 to fix the Gunston sports “bubble” due to issues related to the soil beneath the structure.
Renovations started last year on the Gunston Bubble, the covered, all-season county synthetic athletic field at Gunston Park behind the middle school of the same name. The two-decade-old bubble had reached “the end of its useful lifespan,” reads a county report, and needed to “be constantly monitored and inflated.”
During the summer, the bubble would sometimes get overly hot while, in the winter, snow would build up on top. Both situations were considered hazardous enough that the bubble would have to close on numerous occasions.
Work on the bubble began last year with the renovation project calling for a new frame-supported fabric structure that would make the bubble functional in any weather. Plus, ceiling fans, vents, and LED light fixtures will make it more “more energy efficient and reliable.”
The project was initially set to cost $867,000 and be completed in the second quarter of this year.
But issues arose almost immediately after work began in January, notes a County Board agenda report, due to the soil.
“Upon commencement of the work, the Contractor encountered unsuitable soil conditions that were not known at the time of design and need to be remediated, for proper installation of the building footings. Based on recommendations from the County third-party Geotechnical Contractor, Hillis Carnes, a series of additional undercuts are required to remove the unsuitable soil and bring in new material for the base foundation. This work is critical to ensure the structural stability of the new fabric structure.”
To complete the needed work, contractors IMEC Group, LLC are requesting an additional $140,000.
At the meeting this Saturday, the County Board is likely to vote on if it will allow for an amendment to the original contract that authorizes this extra money.
County officials that if the $140,000 is approved, the Gunston Bubble renovations should be completed later this year.
“We are excited to be updating the Gunston Bubble so that it will be able to support our community year-round with a strong frame structure to keep it open in the winter, and enhanced ventilation to make it more comfortable in the summer,” a county spokesperson tells ARLnow. “We noticed issues in the soil in January and are mitigating the issues. The work will cost us a bit more than expected and will delay the project. We should have it all ready no later than early fall or sooner. When complete this will be a much better indoor experience than before.”
The bubble isn’t the only thing at Gunston Middle School that is set to being renovated. Earlier this month, the Arlington School Board approved $1.6 million in safety upgrades to the entrance of the school. The work includes moving the main school entrance and office closer to S. Lang Street. That project is expected to start in June and be complete by mid-August, right before the start of the new school year.
The proposed “Neighborhood Complete Streets” project aims to improve the existing sidewalk, curb ramps and transit stops between S. Meade Street and 26th Street S., near Gunston Middle School and the nearby community center, park and playing field space.
“The improvements seek to provide more comfortable, accessible pedestrian crossings and transit stops that will narrow the roadway and shorten the crossing distances,” according to the county.
Specifically, the county plans to install curb extensions and ramps that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act to increase access to and shorten pedestrian crossing distances. It will add pavement markings and signage to make pedestrian crossings more visible to motorists.
Folks can provide feedback on the project, still in a preliminary design phase, through this Sunday. The survey asks respondents if the proposed changes would make them feel safer walking, taking public transit, biking, scooting or driving along 28th Street S.
“This feedback will help inform a final design, prioritizing feasibility, safety and available funding,” the county survey says.
The county Neighborhood Complete Streets program, funded through the County’s Capital Improvement Plan, aims to make physical improvements that address safety and access problems on non-arterial streets. At this stage, estimated project costs aren’t known. After the public engagement period for this project ends, it will go to the Neighborhood Complete Streets Commission for approval.
Then, it will advance to the Arlington County Board for approval, kicking off a more detailed design phase.
Meanwhile, renovations to the Gunston Bubble, which houses a year-round synthetic turf field, are scheduled to be completed soon, according to the county. The county embarked on energy efficiency and reliability upgrades to the “bubble” last summer.
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(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) Arlington County has kicked off the renovation project for Gunston Park‘s “bubble.”
Officials have started the design phase of the Gunston Bubble Renovation Project, with the goal of eventually having a more “energy efficient and reliable” facility. The project is expected to start construction in the second quarter of 2020 and be completed by the third quarter, in time for next winter season.
The bubble is an all-weather, heated and covered athletic field that Arlington County describes as “a unique indoor turf facility available to rent for sports training and parties.”
“A lot has changed in building technology since the old bubble was completed,” said project architect Aaron Wohler. “The existing bubble structure is air-supported and needs to be constantly monitored and inflated. It gets hot during the summer, so much so that we limit summer hours.”
The new structure will be frame-supported, according to Wohler, with LED lighting and ceiling fans, windows, vents, and doors available to keep it cool during the hotter months.
Funding for the $1.3 million project was included in the county’s most recent Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). About $1 million will come from bonds.
The county will host an open house at the Gunston Community Center for community members to learn more about the project on Thursday, December 17 at 6:30 p.m.
The new baseball diamond in Gunston Park will open this weekend with a game and food-filled celebration.
Officials from the Department of Parks and Recreation will open the sports field at 1401 28th Street S. this Saturday, September 14 at 11 a.m. and are inviting families to attend the free event.
“Youth baseball games will be held before and after the ribbon cutting,” officials wrote in a press release about the event. “Food trucks will be on site selling delicious tacos and ice cream!”
The old natural turf field were replaced by a controversial, artificial turf that officials hope will allows players to use the field later in the winter season and be more accessible for all players.
The overhaul cost $370,000, split between a $180,000 grant from the private nonprofit Arlington Sports Foundation and $190,000 from the county’s sports commission’s Diamond Field Fund after years of discussions.
The costs were in addition to the $1.4 million approved by the Arlington County Board in 2014 to make several other changes, including: replacing the dugout and batting cage, and adding stormwater drainage as well as ADA-compliant paths to the diamond.
Images 1, 2 via Arlington County
The diamond athletic field at Gunston Park will be converted from natural grass to synthetic turf after the Arlington County Board approved a $370,000 plan Tuesday night.
The nonprofit Arlington Sports Foundation offered a grant of $180,000 to convert the field, and the county sports commission’s Diamond Field Fund will pay the additional $190,000. The project is on top of a previously-approved $1.4 million maintenance and improvement plan at the park.
It is estimated the new field will add nearly 880 new possible playing hours per year, at a time when there is high demand for athletic fields in the county.
“Both the number of people playing sports in Arlington, and the hours our fields are in use continue to grow. We need creative solutions to meet the demand,” said County Board chair Jay Fisette. “Kudos to the Arlington Sports Foundation and the sports community for helping fund the conversion of Gunston’s field and expand its community use without increasing taxpayer support.”
Before the board’s unanimous approval of the project, there had been questions raised about the safety of the synthetic turf, which will be made from EPDM rubber. Local resident Kelly Alexis asked that a natural ingredient like coconut husks be used instead, and cited previous concerns about the health risks of playing on turf, especially that made up of crumb rubber.
Board vice chair Katie Cristol and others said the health of children is something Arlington takes “incredibly seriously,” and asserted that the health risks of EPDM are minimal.
Several members of the county’s sports community testified in favor of the conversion. Arlington Little League president Adam Balutis said the new turf means more games can be played and not be canceled or postponed due to the weather.
“Everybody would love to have natural, beautiful green fields that we could upkeep all year round and play and play and play, but it’s not possible in Arlington County because we don’t have enough space,” said Daniel Lopez, vice president of the board of the Arlington Soccer Association. “So the next best thing is we try to turf these fields so everybody can use them and everybody can enjoy them.”
Board members said that the funding model for the new turf field is something that could be repeated elsewhere, especially if community members are willing to help fundraise.
“We know in today’s tight funding times that the government is not going to be able to do it all and will rely increasingly on the generosity of the folks in our community,” said John Vihstadt.
“I think we’ve maybe got a new model,” said Board member Libby Garvey.