Upper Arlington officials say they hope a 2020 study will guide them in how best to address athletics fields and tennis courts at Northam Park, as well as how to support the facilities' maintenance and user-friendliness.

MSA Sport, a division of Cincinnati-based MSA Design, will take a closer look at Northam Park to see how it can be tweaked for better functionality.

The $81,500 schematic design study isn't expected to usher in great change at the park, which city officials call a "community hub." The park hosts youth athletics leagues and the Upper Arlington Civic Association's annual July Fourth Party in the Park.

"The intent is to study and develop a long-term plan for the improvement and renovation of existing athletic and civic facilities already contained within the park," said Jeff Anderson, Upper Arlington parks planning and development manager. "This project will be for the schematic design of infrastructure improvements to the athletic fields and tennis court complex."

Anderson said the study would examine potential improvements to open field space south of Northam's tennis complex for use as "athletic and community event space."

"Potential improvements may include regrading, stormwater improvements, installation of underdrains, irrigation, etc.," he said.

Upper Arlington City Council unanimously approved the MSA Sport contract at its Dec. 9 meeting.

In a staff report to council, Anderson said the study would look at:

* Improving grading and drainage for the tennis complex and surrounding park space.

* Renovating 12 clay tennis courts to improve drainage and provide underground irrigation. Renovations would also include related features such as fencing, nets, posts, etc.

* Renovating the tennis complex central plaza space to improve conditions and provide an accessible route to the tennis courts and other site amenities.

* Renovating or replacing the tennis office and the Northam Park service building, including a new main entry on the south side of the tennis complex.

"It is anticipated that the program of the renovated Northam Park service building may include locker rooms, restrooms, small office and check-in space, all to serve the tennis complex," Anderson said. "Additionally, a storage area, year-round restrooms and a covered shelter area accessible to general park users may be included, as well."

The study comes after a 2018 comprehensive review of the city's parks system and programming suggested that officials determine the appropriate renovations needed at the Northam tennis complex. That plan also said consideration should be given to adding a park shelter and year-round restrooms, as well as ways to maximize athletics field space at the park.

City Manager Steve Schoeny said he views the study as an "infrastructure design project."

"We're looking at what is the infrastructure that park needs to operate as a fields-sports, events and tennis facility," he said. "It really is just a contract to look at how do we fix the drainage and other issues with the fields. What buildings are needed to support the fields and the tennis facility? Then what do we need to do to keep the courts viable for the next, however-many years?"

Schoeny said he doesn't anticipate the recommendations from the study to yield anything like the roughly $7.25 million in upgrades the city put into Northam in 2017.

Those included the construction of a new playground, a plaza, the reconstruction of Tremont Pool, a pool drop-off area and a reading garden outside the Upper Arlington Public Library's main branch.

"Nothing major, but really looking at it and saying, 'OK. This is what this park is going to be,' " Schoeny said. "What buildings are needed to support these functions?'

"My anticipation isn't that we're going to put up a big, new rentable shelter or a permanent bandstand," he said. "We're not going to do anything like that. It's more focusing on the functionality rather than anything else."

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