School announces plans for River Park

School announces plans for River Park

WALK IN THE PARK: The school unveiled plans to turn Weddington Golf & Tennis into River Park in a realistic computer generated design. In the proposed plan, the new facilities will include an athletic center, multiple fields and eco-friendly green spaces.

After a year-long design process, the school has released draft site plans for its River Park campus, which will offer athletic and recreational facilities to both the Harvard-Westlake and Studio City communities.

The new project will not only help improve student life, but will also significantly benefit the neighbors and the environment, President Rick Commons said.

The school intends to develop River Park from what is currently Weddington Golf & Tennis.

The 16-acre property is located between Whitsett Avenue and the Los Angeles River, less than one mile from the Upper School.
The proposed facilities will include two fields, one track, one gymnasium, a 50-meter swimming pool and eight tennis courts.

These new spaces will supplement the existing Ted Slavin Field, Taper Gym and Hamilton Gym, enabling more teams to train at the same time, Head of Upper School Laura Ross said.

“How awesome would it be that girls’ and boys’ basketball [could] practice at the same time, just in two different gyms?” Ross said. “I just think, for us, it will make such a huge difference.”

Currently, it is common for two or three teams to share one practice field. However, the increased number of athletic spaces will allow multiple squads to train in their own areas at the same time, Head of Athletics Terry Barnum said.

“[River Park] is going to give our athletes an opportunity to get home sooner,” Barnum said. “Having additional athletic facilities will allow them to not have to stay late for practice as often as they do now. They will have more space when they are practicing, since right now they have to share spaces.”

Concluding training sessions earlier will also allow students to achieve healthier lifestyles, Commons said.

“Students who participate in sports regularly aren’t getting to sleep,” Commons said. “We know from personal experience, and we know from science that getting more sleep is better for our pursuit of excellence and for our relationships with family and friends and our general well-being. It’s really important that we do not lose sight of what we hope to accomplish at [River Park]—field space, gym space [and] facility space that will enable students to have more balance in their lives. That needs to be front and center for what we’re trying to do for Harvard-Westlake.”
Members of the community will be permitted to use the tennis courts and fields when students are not practicing. In general, the facilities will be open to the public between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m, as well as on weekends.

For recreation, River Park will also include a jogging trail, multiple plazas, wooded areas, ponds and a six-acre park. These areas will be fully accessible for neighbors during the campus’s operational hours, Commons said.

The school also plans to construct parking spaces and an underground garage for visitors to use.  Students and faculty will not park in this structure and will take shuttle buses from the Upper School to River Park.  
 
The project will also feature one of the largest privately-funded water reclamation systems in Los Angeles, Ross  said. After rain runoff is captured and treated, it will be used for landscaping purposes or released to the Los Angeles Ruver if storage capacity is reached.
 
River Park is still in preliminary stages of development.  Currently, the school is working with members of the Studio City community to identify and resolve their concerns.
 
“We’re in the process of communicating with our neighbors, and their attitudes range from grateful and really excited to supportive and hopeful that it will work out to neutral to some who are opposed,” Commons said.  “And there are some who are concerned because they simply don’t want the facility, as it stands, to change at all.”
 
The school will continue to welcome feedback from neighbors through public meetings this coming fall.  After its plans fully develop, the school will file environmental impact and traffic studies reports, which impartial professionals will evaluate, Commons said. 
 
Subsequently, plans will become publicly available, and a local commission must then approve them.  Finally, the school must attain approval from the city council, a process that can take approximately 18 months.  Commons said the school hopes to start construction in two years and begin using River Park in four.

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