Seattle Parks and Recreation Jesús Aguirre, Superintendent
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Warren G. Magnuson

Warren G. Magnuson Park
Sports Fields Projects

Warren G. Magnuson Park Information: (206)684-4946
Park Address: 7400 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115 > directions
Administrative office visiting address: 6310 NE 74th St, bldg 30 southeast offices
Administrative office mail: 6310 NE 74th St., Suite 109E, Seattle, WA 98115

Pro Parks Project Update

The Pro Parks Levy provides funding for the design and construction of four athletic fields and the improvement and mitigation of habitat and wetland areas associated with the development project.
 » Project Update

History of the Sports Field Project

Of the City's 15 regional/major parks, only Jefferson, Lincoln, Warren G. Magnuson, and Woodland currently have sports fields. Carkeek, Discovery, Lincoln and Seward parks are recognized as having predominantly natural landscapes. All of these parks, except Discovery and Warren G. Magnuson were created in the early 1900s as open spaces outside the rapidly growing city of Seattle. Due to when they were created, each one had major portions preserved more or less as natural areas with significant native trees, vegetation and habitats. The lands comprising both Discovery and Warren G. Magnuson Parks were originally purchased and given to the federal government to develop military bases. Only in the last 30 years were these bases decommissioned and returned to the City for recreation purposes.

This project, along with others currently underway, will continue the transformation of Warren G. Magnuson Park from naval station to great, mixed-use urban park. Unlike the relatively untouched ecosystem that existed in the early 1900s, the ecology and hydrology of the Sand Point peninsula was radically changed by 60 years of military use and adjacent residential development. Before and during the closure of Naval Station Puget Sound, the peninsula was in effect an industrial brownfield. As a result, habitat diversity on the peninsula is vastly limited and includes many invasive animal and plant species (meaning that they crowd out native species). After the final Navy properties were transferred to the City in 1995, the Magnuson Environmental Stewardship Alliance and the Seattle Audubon Society reviewed the potential for urban habitat in the park. Their study, the Magnuson Park Habitats Project, acknowledged that extensive earthmoving left a legacy of disturbed soils which in turn meant that vegetation consists mostly of non-native, invasive plant species. In 2000, the Seattle Urban Nature Project surveyed the coverage of five invasive plant species on the peninsula (Himalayan blackberry, holly, ivy, reed canarygrass, and Scot's broom). More than 75 acres of the park (the entire park is almost 290 acres) is infested with one or more of these species, at concentrations ranging from 25 to 100 percent of the total vegetation coverage. These characteristics make landscapes on the peninsula far from "wilderness" quality and more in line with a disturbed, regenerating urban habitat.

Naval Air Station 1953
Naval Air Station, Seattle; May 1953. Source:
National Archives and Records Administration

In the 1970s, initial plans for the park identified the inclusion of varied recreation elements - from an outdoor amphitheater and sports fields to motorized boating. Plans for the entire park have always included an amount of sportsfields to support regional needs. As early as 1993, the citizen's group, Sand Point Community Liaison Committee (SPCLC), called for the inclusion of sports fields, "all kinds, some potentially with lighting, some all weather". An early example for such a grouping of fields is found in "A Vision of Magnuson Park", published in late 1994 by the SPCLC. This plan included an "organized sports zone" which included five soccer and nine baseball fields, and it proposed that "this consolidation removes athletic activities from the nature zone, enhancing the user's opportunity to experience undisturbed "wild" nature.". The work of Parks staff and many citizens has resulted in the proposal we see today, which carries a much better synergy between recreation and natural habitat.

Project Site Plan Map
project plan map over
aerial site photo

In March 2001, the City Council recommended a sportsfields configuration that included 14 fields. Ten fields would be located on and nearby the existing Sand Point Fields, and four fields would be located on the existing Magnuson Fields, also known as the Sports Meadow. The Sand Point fields would have lighting and a synthetic turf surface, while the Magnuson Fields would be unlighted with natural grass.
 » project plan map (PDF)
 » project plan showing site amenities (PDF)
 » project plan initial phases 1-2 (PDF)

The Sand Point watershed is much larger than the peninsula and extends to neighborhoods to the south and west. When residential neighborhoods were built, native springs and creeks that drained into the peninsula were diverted into underground stormwater pipes. This limited year-round sources of groundwater for wet areas on Sand Point. In the 1970s and 80s after the first part of the station was transferred to the City, almost 120 acres of existing runways, tarmac and taxiways was demolished. Even with demolition of these concrete and asphalt areas, most of the underlying soils were heavily compacted. The diversion of off-site stormwater and the presence of compacted soils created poor conditions for supporting year-round wildlife habitat. First, very little water drains onto the peninsula; and second, much of it drains quickly away. The wetlands/sportsfields project will create better functioning wet areas by reconditioning compacted soils, removing an additional 15 acres of the original hardscape, and by detaining on-site stormwater for year-round habitat use.

Prior to preparing an environmental impact statement, several focus groups were formed to evaluate the feasibility for reconstructing wetlands and former Mud Lake. The information gleaned from the groups was used in a Wetlands Forum Workshop, held in late May 2001. Some 75 environmental professionals, neighborhood representatives, and members of the design team came together to develop three different concept plans for a wetlands complex adjacent to the sportsfields.

The consulting team led by The Berger Partnership, used the ideas from these concept plans to develop a schematic design which would be analyzed in an environmental impact statement. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was issued in January 2002. A public hearing was also held to solicit input on community concerns and other potential issues to be analyzed. As a result, additional noise analysis was completed. A Final Environmental Impact Statement was issued in July 2002. Following a review by the Seattle Office of the Hearing Examiner, a Supplemental EIS was issued in May 2003.

Within, "Chapter 2: Alternatives Including the Proposed Action", you will find more detail about the sports fields in section 2.2.2, and the wetland/habitat complex in section 2.2.5.
 » Read the EIS

In December 2002, Seattle Parks staff worked with the Low Income Housing Institute to develop a configuration of the sports fields and operating guidelines to reduce potential noise and lighting impacts. This revised configuration transferred field for youth play closer to the transitional housing areas. The rationale was that games played on these fields would end earlier in the evening, thus limiting sound and light transmissions. The proposed field lighting guidelines prescribed that no more than five fields would be lit until 11 p.m. lighting on all other fields would be shut off at 10 p.m.; and security lighting would be minimal.

Project Site Plan Map
graphic of the revised plan

On June 14, 2004 the City Council approved a revised sports field plan (Ordinance 121502). This plan includes nine synthetic turf fields of which seven fields would be lit. Monday through Saturday, the all field lights will be turned off no later than 10 p.m.; and no fields will be lit on Sundays.

Providing diverse recreational, educational and cultural opportunities is a challenge for urbanized communities within metropolitan Seattle. City agencies must balance the needs of the entire city relative to health and social goals, anticipated population growth, and those of individual neighborhoods. Outdoor recreational facilities, whether private or publicly funded, provide places to engage in healthy activity, and to interact with friends and other citizens.

 » Project Update

Updated October 13, 2015
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