SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – Pioneer Park will soon become a place for evening soccer games and concerts in downtown Salt Lake City. A groundbreaking ceremony kicked off construction for a new multi-use field that will be located in the center of the park.
Community leaders said the revitalization of Pioneer Park is something they’ve been working on after crime and drug activity have plagued the area for years.
“In 2015, there was a process that kicked off where a number of architects and urban planners sat in a room and thought about, ‘How can we change the design of this park so it will be conducive to the public and we can get people down here?'” said David Garbett, Executive Director of the Pioneer Park Coalition. “One of the things we identified was a space where you could have concerts and sporting events for soccer, lacrosse, and flag football.”
The new field, called the “Great Lawn” will be located in the south central portion of the park. It will include a surrounding walkway, sports field, and sports lighting.
“The purpose of the walkways is to increase circulation through the park and get more people walking through the park. Lights are really a matter of safety, making sure people feel safe in the park,” said Kristin Riker, Director of Parks and Public Lands for Salt Lake City.
Garbett said one of the Pioneer Park Coalition’s goal is to provide a park in downtown Salt Lake City that serves as a go-to place for community activities.
“If you go to any of the major cities in the United States, they’ve all got an iconic park in their downtown area that people know. I can think of Milennium Park in Chicago, for example and right now, Pioneer Park doesn’t function that way,” said Garbett.
Riker said the design of the new project will help combat crime in the area.
“Another strategy for opening up the center of the park is to use crime prevention through environmental design. It’s called CPTED and one of the most prevalent principals of CPTED is natural surveillance so having more eyes on the park helps it feel a little bit safety,” said Riker. “Most people are not as willing to commit a crime in a wide open space as they would be if they could find shelter behind a tree or a structure, so just opening it up will reduce some of the crime.”
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski emphasized the renovation project will be inclusive of the homeless.
“That’s been my goal as a mayor all along is to make sure that we are activating this space in a way that those who are experiencing homelessness will still be welcomed,” said Mayor Biskupski. “But we also want the rest of this community to be able to access this space for the adventures they’re looking for.”
“This construction project is going to add vitality and life to this park and now is the time to make this change. With Operation Rio Grande, this park has had a lot of heavy use by a lot of folks and we want them to continue using this park,” said Riker. “We also want the general public to feel safe using this park as well.”
Riker said opposers of the project are mainly concerned about the 53 trees that will be torn down in the fenced area. But Riker said all of those trees except for four sycamore trees are not healthy. In turn, crews will plant 23 new sycamore trees in the park.
The project was made possible through donations and funding through the Pioneer Park Coalition, Salt Lake City Parks, and SLC Resource Development Agency. The total cost of the renovation is $950,000.
Garbett said the Saturday Farmer’s Market will still continue throughout the construction. The project is anticipated for completion next spring.