The Skokie Play Fields is a 40-acre active recreational park located along the Skokie River entirely within regulatory floodplain. Gewalt Hamilton assisted the Winnetka Park District in developing a long-range Master Plan for redevelopment of the park, and implementation of Phase I of the plan. These improvements included the reconfiguration and improvement of the existing natural turf ball fields, new athletic field lighting, irrigation, expansion of the Tennis Club, parking lot reconfiguration / reconstruction, and a modernized traffic signal. The project also included a large multipurpose synthetic turf athletic field to allow the District to accommodate heavy sports programming throughout the year.

Due to frequent and costly flooding in the adjacent neighborhoods, the Park District recognized that significant stormwater improvements needed to be incorporated into the project in order to garner public support. Gewalt Hamilton coordinated with the Village of Winnetka and designed infrastructure systems for integration into future Village stormwater improvements. The cooperative spirit of the design allowed the Village and public to fully support the project.

A major component of the first phase of the improvements was the creation of over 20-acre feet of detention and flood storage to support the initial and future phases of development. The storage was created within the area of the existing driving range and within an underground vault located below the synthetic field. Gewalt Hamilton developed the Master Stormwater Management Plan with input and coordination from the Village of Winnetka and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD).

The Team was tasked with maximizing the usability of the fields following a storm in order to support heavier use and additional sports programming. The synthetic turf fields are durable enough to withstand heavy use after a rain event; the fields were also designed for the greatest flexibility in programming. Football field goals can be removed, and markers denote areas of striping for soccer, lacrosse, baseball, and softball. Temporary striping washes away or is easily brushed out to accommodate other sports.

Improvements also addressed issues of historic area flooding. Newly created stormwater detention accommodates not only all phases of park improvements, but also the Village’s neighborhood and community flood control projects.

The project includes best management practices (BMPs), providing opportunities for stormwater reabsorption instead of surface ponding. Permeable pavers were used on walkways and in plazas; areas between fields were restored to native plantings. Bioswales and rain gardens were established in depressions. These improvements help control flooding and erosion, decrease runoff, filter out pollutants, and recharge groundwater supplies.

Patrons of the Skokie Playfield have experienced the benefits of these improvements first hand. The fields are not only usable more quickly following a rain event, but they can accommodate heavier use and are more aesthetically pleasing. Native plantings, rain gardens, and decorative hardscape features add additional beauty to the Park.