Neighbors, including Seattle Seahawk player Sean Locklear, and softball players came out to Newport Hills Park early Saturday morning to celebrate the new artificial turf fields and other improvements.
The new turf will allow sports teams to use the soccer pitch and baseball diamonds all-year round, a prospect that is exciting to local soccer players, said John Virden, president of the Eastside Youth Soccer Association.
"It was a grass field three months of the year. The rest of the year, it was a mud pit," Virden said.
The year-round association, with 1,000 players in Newport Hills alone, and 8,000 players throughout the Eastside, had to rent fields in order to keep playing in the winter, he said, which cost the players' families money and was very inconvenient.
The improvements are "long overdue," he said.
The field, which was purchased in the 1970s, saw $1.5 million in improvements, including: lighting improvements, the creation of a pedestrian connection along the east edge of the park; ballfield fencing and backstop replacements; restroom upgrades; and relocation of the baseball infield to improve traffic and pedestrian flow.
Newport Hills Community Club president Lisa Viereck said that the city worked with neighbors to address concerns such as lighting. The field's new lighting improves the old lighting because the fixtures focus light on the field and avoid spilling light into neighbors' backyards.
She said while some neighbors were concerned about the loss of natural grass, she said the city took the opportunity to purchase some land for a park across the street from the Newport Hills Park. That property still has natural grass, she said.
The new artificial turf baseball diamond will prevent rain-outs, said Scott Vander Hyden, the park's project manager with the city of Bellevue.
He said that while the city still needs to maintain the turf --- the turf needs to be brushed to maintain its looks and hosed to remove seeds, gum and other dirt -- there are a few maintenance benefits to turf.
"We no longer have to mow, we no longer have to fertilize, so those chemicals won't seep into the ground," Vander Hyden said.
The $1.5 million project was funded by the 2008 Parks & Natural Areas Levy, which included $3 million for synthetic turf installation at Wilburton Hill Park and Newport Hills Park, according to the city of Bellevue.