Leveling the playing field
When Shawnee County, Kan., needed to renovate one of its sports complexes, it was met with some unique challenges due to the sloping terrain of the site. The 22-acre Lake Shawnee Sports Complex is home to a total of six baseball and softball fields, all sloping down to the shore of Lake Shawnee.
As the first renovation to take place at the Lake Shawnee Sports Complex, the Pony Express field would be the benchmark for construction and renovation for the rest of the fields. The master plan for the site called for the updating of the entire complex in stages over the next year. To renovate the Pony Express baseball diamond, engineers needed to create a level field using retaining walls. The challenge was finding a retaining wall that would fit the look of the historic park area.
Lake Shawnee was created as part of a Works Progress Administration project in the 1930s and has been a vital part of the community for more than 70 years. The area surrounding the lake includes walking trails, campsites, botanical gardens, shelter houses, baseball/softball diamonds and a golf course.
“The lake started out as a quarry in 1939. Most of the restrooms, shelter houses and buildings in the park complex are made of natural stone quarried from the lake. In order to keep the same feel throughout facilities, we chose Redi-Rock because we felt it most closely fit the look we already had,” said John Kennedy, the director of Parks for the Shawnee County Department of Parks and Recreation.
Kennedy explained that Professional Engineering Consultants, a Topeka-based engineering firm, recommended Redi-Rock retaining walls for the project. Redi-Rock had been used to create the wing walls at the nearby Lake Shawnee Dam spillway renovation which was completed in 2006. The massive one-ton precast concrete retaining wall blocks are used to build structural retaining walls that have the look of natural quarried stone. Manufactured by Midwest Concrete Materials of Manhattan, Kansas, the walls were installed by Emcon Inc.
S. Earl Tast, P.E. with Professional Engineering Consultants designed the three retaining walls at the Pony Express field: one located behind the seating area, one to support the outfield fence and one at the backstop plaza. To create an elevated viewing area for fans, Tast designed a retaining wall to support a 10 ft. wide sidewalk located behind and above the outfield fence. This sidewalk is part of the 7-mile-long Lake Shawnee Trail that winds around the lake. Because the sidewalk is raised above field level by 8 to 9 ft., it provides a great viewing area where many spectators set up lawn chairs to watch games. A metal fence separates the wall from the sidewalk area.
“A lot of people told us we couldn’t make the outfield fence out of Redi-Rock. They said, ‘these kids are going to hurt themselves,’ but it’s really been a non-issue,” Kennedy said.
The project utilized Redi-Rock’s cobblestone series blocks which feature 6 sq. ft. of face each, giving the reinforced walls the look of a quarried stone wall but with the installation efficiency and engineered capabilities of a manufactured product.
The baseball complex contains more than just ball fields. It includes a large entry plaza and a building with concession stands and restrooms. The fields are used by the Topeka minor league team the Golden Knights, as well as by local high school teams.
The Shawnee County Sports Complex and Lake Shawnee spillway renovations are a perfect example of how precast concrete retaining walls can provide an aesthetic solution that blends in with historic sites. Because precast concrete can more accurately replicate the texture and colors of natural stone, it is a viable solution to many historic districts’ wall needs.
Project: Shawnee County Athletic Complex, Topeka Kan.
Project Location: Topeka, Kan.
Owner: Shawnee County Parks and Recreation
Design / Specifying Engineer: Professional Engineering Consultants, P.A.
Block Manufacturer: Midwest Concrete Materials
Wall Installer: Emcon Inc.
Year Built: 2008