Play in the Land of Possibilities
25 Sep, 2017By: Peter Francesconi
The domain name of “www.playportlandtexas.com” pretty much says it all. “We want people to ‘Play Portland’ because we have so much to offer,” says Mona Gandy, the director of marketing and communications for the City of Portland, “and this is a wonderful place to be.”
Portland, a city of about 20,000 residents on the Gulf of Mexico just a short drive across the bay from Corpus Christi, backs up its slogan, too, with two new sports venues that should be fully completed this fall.
“These will be the premier sports facilities along the Texas coast,” Gandy notes. “We broke ground in December for both of these complexes and built them concurrently over the past nine months.”
The new facilities, Municipal Park and the Sports Complex, have lighted artificial turf fields suitable for all types of sports and activities. The 21-acre Municipal Park includes five baseball fields, which also will be suitable for softball and soccer as well as other field sports, a covered playground with splash pad, a covered basketball court, a walking/jogging track and covered fitness station, concession areas and shade structures. The fields have dugouts, covered spectator seating, dual-lane batting cages and scoreboards. There also are family bathrooms and picnic areas with grills.
The 38-acre Sports Complex has four softball fields that are also suitable for baseball, soccer and other field sports; a youth football field, which can double as a UIL (University Interscholastic League) soccer field; a multi-purpose turf field; concession areas; covered pavilion; a playground with splash pad; shade structures and a picnic area with grills. The artificial turf fields also feature sports lighting, covered spectator seating, scoreboards and dual-lane batting cages and dugouts on the softball fields.
Safe Play for Athletes
To create the new sports venues, which cost nearly $18 million, city officials and engineers spent a lot of time on the details. “These parks represent a sizable investment from our citizens, and we want to protect that investment,” Gandy says. “The new facilities not only look to the future in terms of maintenance and upkeep, but they also are designed to help keep young athletes safe and avoid injury.”
For instance, the builder, Hellas Construction of Austin (the same company that worked on AT&T Stadium in Arlington, home of the Dallas Cowboys), used lime to stabilize the foundation for the fields. That means the surface won’t shift — which makes them safer for athletes to play on and will result in a longer lifespan for the fields themselves.
The turf itself is called Helical Twist — every blade is twisted, increasing surface area, which helps with irrigation. But maybe more important, the twisted strands provide more stability, which also means greater safety and fewer injuries for players.
On the baseball diamonds, around each base, the turf shifts from standard 40-ounce to denser 80-ounce, which not only aids in longevity of the fields themselves, but adds cushioning for players sliding into base. The fences are all vinyl-coated, making them softer and longer-lasting than plain metal fence fabric. In addition, every field has netting to catch foul balls, protecting players, fans and cars.
The designers also instituted a solid plan for drainage. “We put in 12-inch to 18-inch drainage,” Gandy says. “Since these facilities were completed, we’ve had some pretty good storms come through here. When the rain stops, the fields are dry almost immediately because the water basically gets pulled off them as soon as it hits, so there is very little down time and players aren’t playing on a wet surface.”
Both Municipal Park and the Sports Complex also are environmentally friendly. “We used coconut and cork infill, not rubber, so it’s all organic. If runoff ever feeds into the bay, we’ve done no damage,” notes Gandy.
The two parks, which are both just five minutes from the beach, utilize natural grass in some of the playscapes and decorative areas, “and we made sure to save every tree we could,” Gandy adds. “In addition to great playing fields, we want the Municipal Park and the Sports Complex to be destinations.”
Activities and Attractions
Off the field, athletes, their families and sports spectators will discover that Portland offers a multitude of activities and attractions. The city’s location on two bays provides excellent fishing, boating, sailing, swimming, water skiing and kite surfing.
The Indian Point Fishing Park and Pier draws fishermen and bird watchers from around the world. Nearby is a 333-acre public park known as Sunset Lake, which provides an ecologically rich wetland and saltwater lake, lined by a two-mile hike and bike trail. The lake and its marshlands act as a nesting ground for several migratory birds. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy birding, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, swimming and sailing at Sunset Lake.
Another hot spot for birders is the Fred Jones Sanctuary, on the outskirts of Portland. Along with many year-round avian residents, this botanically rich, protected area is a temporary home to warblers, vireos, orioles and other songbirds during migration.
Violet Andrews Park, a 10-acre park overlooking Corpus Christi Bay, has been developed for the preservation of native wildlife. The two observation decks and the quarter-mile hike/bike trail provide prime opportunities for viewing the shoreline.
The narrow sand beach stretching along the water’s edge is a favorite for kite surfers from across the country. The area offers a pavilion and showers.
Portland’s popular Aquatic Center is open year-round and consists of a 25-yard by 25-meter competition pool complete with a diving area. There also is a zero-depth to four-foot recreation pool that includes several water toys suitable for everyone from toddlers to teenagers.
The Portland Community Center offers a variety of options to visitors including a walking and jogging track, racquetball courts, weight room and exercise facility, volleyball and basketball. Just behind the Community Center is the 13,534-square-foot skate park, which has, among other features, a six-foot kidney-shaped bowl, an eight-foot vertical ramp, half bowls, grind pad, flat bank rail and a double spine ramp. (Rental equipment is available.)
Visitors to the area also take advantage of golf at the NorthShore Country Club. The 18-hole, 176-acre course offers spectacular views of Corpus Christi and the bay.
Exploring the Texas Coast
Portland, on both the Corpus Christi Bay and the Nueces Bay, is just seven miles from downtown Corpus Christi and all the attractions of that large city, including a visit to the USS Lexington, the most highly decorated Essex Class aircraft carrier of World War II, which is a National Historic Landmark. Corpus Christi also is home to the Texas State Aquarium, with more than 320 different species.
Also within easy reach of visitors to Portland is Padre Island National Seashore, where a total of 70 miles of white-sand beach, scenic dunes and warm ocean water offer up ideal conditions for swimming, fishing, beach-combing, windsurfing, camping, bird-watching and more.
Portland is easily accessible by two major highways, in addition to the Corpus Christi International Airport. The city also has nine hotels with excellent rates, and which all offer breakfast to guests.
“The great thing about Portland is that you can easily enjoy everything the Texas coast has to offer,” Gandy says. “Visitors, especially families, who are here for a sports event or tournament can find many exciting things to do when not competing themselves or watching their athletes on the field.
“And now, with our new Municipal Park and Sports Complex, we have everything tournament and event owners could want, along with top facilities that let athletes perform at their highest level.” SDM