Last night, landscape architecture firm Mahan Rykiel Associates and The Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore revealed its first concepts for a new Rash Field. In January, approximately 200 people met to offer ideas and feedback about the project and Mahan Rykiel, along with The Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, additionally commissioned an online survey about the future of Rash Field. The collective feedback received helped shape the plans which highlights beach volleyball, an anchor at Rash Field for the last 17 years, as well as with new sections of the space designed to diversify park uses.
In the plan, volleyball will get a seven-court setup, the same amount of courts currently in place, in a new section called The Sand Box on the western side of the park. The courts will be stacked with four courts closer to Key Hwy. and three courts closer to the Inner Harbor. Immediately east of The Sand Box is a large grassy area called The Lawn. With a length of 100 yards by 50 yards, The Lawn will be able to accommodate full-length soccer games and can be configured for social sports. The Rash Field operators plan to partner with local schools and sports leagues for programming at The Lawn. New soil technologies will additionally be used to improve drainage at Rash Field.
Adjacent to The Lawn to the north is The Game Allee. This will be an area for bocce ball, ping pong, and other yard activities. The existing bleachers adjacent to Key Hwy. will be broken up to add in new landscaping, as well as to create nooks called Reading Rooms for relaxing and reading. Richard Jones of Mahan Rykiel noted the bleachers will still have the same amount of stairs, which are used regularly by The November Project and patrons using the park to exercise.
Other sections include The Overlook and Wall, which will feature a small peg rock climbing wall, and the Play Lab & Cafe, which is located towards the northwestern section of the park where vendors and food trucks can potentially set up, as well as a space for a playground. Mahan Rykiel is also looking at changing up the existing pavilion for vendor use.
Update: The Plan now includes a Denmark-inpsired skatepark at the Play Lab & Café.
Throughout the park and surrounding The Lawn will be a running trail made of a gravel surface. Jones noted it will be the same style surface that is getting installed at Eager Park in East Baltimore. His team chose this surface after consulting with physicians at Johns Hopkins Hospital about the best running surfaces for a runner’s body.
The plan also includes a garden adjacent to the Rusty Scupper and garage, as well as the relocation of the Pride of Baltimore Memorial. Additionally, the facility’s bathrooms, which are often locked, will be renovated and a berm separating the park and Inner Harbor promenade will be removed and replaced with new landscaping and trees.
The plan was very well received by many in attendance but concerns were also shared in the Q & A session and during the work groups. Several in attendance, as well as all the work groups, noted the number of volleyball courts was not increased in the new plan. Baltimore Beach Volleyball estimates they have 2,500 weekly users, with a growing demand to expand. Concerns were also shared about the aging overhead lighting at the park, which is not in the plans to be replaced, though Mahan Rykiel noted that safe levels of lighting would be installed throughout the park. The users also wanted to make sure safety measures and maintenance continued at the park with the many new uses proposed. Many attendees also hoped to see a winter ice rink in the park.
Baltimore Beach Volleyball President Todd Webster told SouthBMore.com he was positive about the progress and happy to see the park get some “desperately needed attention.”
Webster has been planning a second venue, in addition to Rash Field, to meet the growing demand for volleyball. He did not disclose the location or timeline for the venue at this time.
Mahan Rykiel will take into consideration the feedback received and will present a plan to the Baltimore City Planning Department’s Urban Design & Architecture Review Panel (UDARP) in April. Feedback can also be submitted at rashfield.org.
The city has $4.5 million budgeted for the first round of improvements with an additional $4.5 million expected in upcoming years. Jones anticipated construction could take about 18 months and a groundbreaking is anticipated for the summer or fall of 2017 .
Mahan Rykiel’s work in Baltimore includes Pierce’s Park at Pier 5; East Baltimore’s Eager Park, which is now under construction; and, a master plan for Patterson Park. The firm is also currently working with the Downtown Partnership on a redevelopment of McKeldin Square adjacent to the Inner Harbor.
Also scheduled to get underway in the immediate area is the redevelopment of the Key Hwy. and Light St. intersection. The project is anticipated to start this fall and has an approximate 18-month construction timeline.
Renderings from the Mahan Rykiel Presentation