|This article was printed in the Chandler Insider section of the SanTan Sun News (pgs.16-17) on Sept. 2, 2017:
Chandler offers specialized recreational amenities to meet the needs of a diverse community
There are few people who have been to every one of Chandler's 60-plus parks, every recreational facility or every aquatic center. With so many outstanding amenities, it's likely that there are some unique recreational opportunities that are hidden gems, unknown to most residents and visitors.
Many of the niche amenities that exist in Chandler today were developed in response to suggestions from engaged residents who approached the Mayor and City Council with their ideas, and then, worked closely with the City's Parks and Recreation divisions to turn those ideas into reality.
Here are some of the specialized recreational amenities that you may not know about, but they help make Chandler such a great place to live and play!
The archery range on the north end of the Paseo Vista Recreation Area (McQueen and Ocotillo roads) is one of the best in Arizona, with 25 90-meter lanes, five 60-meter lanes and four 30-meter lanes. It is open for use every day, from sun up to sun down. The range is managed through a partnership between the City and the Paseo Vista Archery Club, which organizes classes, tournaments and maintains the facility. Information on classes can be found at chandleraz.gov/breaktime or the Club website, paseoarchery.org.
- BMX Bikes
Chandler's 25,000-square-foot Espee Bike Park is a BMX rider's dream and a perfect example of the City working with residents to meet their unique recreation needs. The design is the result of many months of cooperation among City staff, architects and a focus group comprised of Chandler residents, plus design and amenity suggestions offered at public meetings. This free, non-supervised, bike-only (BMX, Freestyle, Grind) public facility is located at 450 E. Knox Road. It incorporates features that allow users of varying ability levels to be challenged. Espee Bike Park is regarded as one of the best in the nation, and it gives Chandler youth and other Arizona communities an alternative riding place to business districts, school grounds, canal banks, dirt lots and other unconventional locations. They can learn their sport, develop their skills and share camaraderie with fellow BMX/freestyle bikers. A special competition will be held there Nov. 18. Details can be found at chandleraz.gov/bikepark.
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players each on a cricket field. At the center of the field is a rectangular 22-yard-long "pitch" with a target called the wicket (a set of three wooden stumps topped by two bails) at each end. Major cricket-playing nations around the world include Australia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, England, India, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and Zimbabwe. While the sport is unfamiliar to most Arizonans, it is gaining in popularity thanks to the multicultural influence of employees at multi-national corporations, such as Intel. Chandler has a dedicated pitch at the Snedigar Sportsplex, and it's becoming more common to see groups playing cricket in other City parks and school fields. [Chandler thanks Phrake Photography for the use of cricket photos published in the SanTan Sun News.]
- Disc Golf
The wide open spaces found at the Paseo Vista Recreation Area offer a perfect location for a disc golf course. Disc golf is played much like traditional golf, but instead of a ball and clubs, the players use a flying disc, or Frisbee®. A second shorter disc golf course in Chandler is at the Mesquite Groves park site, on the west side of Val Vista Drive, ¼-mile north of Riggs Road.
There are several places in Chandler to ride horses, including sections of the Paseo Trail along the Consolidated Canal in east Chandler, and at Veterans Oasis Park, 4050 E. Chandler Heights Road. This 113-acre park features a lush wetland habitat with horse trails accessible through v-notches or horse stepover gates in the fence at three access points. Horseback riding is allowed only in designated trails, and riders must ride in from outside areas, as there is no horse trailer parking nor loading/unloading of horses allowed within the park itself.
Chandler has two community (urban) fishing lakes that are stocked by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission every two weeks from mid-September through June, with species including catfish, trout, sunfish and bass. All persons 10 years or older must have a current Arizona fishing license, and details are online at azgfd.com.
If you are looking for a fun, low-impact sport that you can learn quickly and enjoy with all ages, perhaps, pickleball is right for you. This paddle sport combines many elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong into a simple game that can be played indoors or outdoors. It is played on a badminton-sized court, with a slightly modified tennis net and the players (singles or doubles) use a paddle and a plastic ball with holes. Pickleball is especially popular among retirees and active adults. In Chandler, the Tumbleweed Recreation Center has two indoor courts available for play every Tuesday and Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 7-10 a.m. Saturday. Six outdoor courts are being added to Arrowhead Meadows Park.
- RC Aircraft
Radio-controlled (RC) aircraft hobbyists have an airfield available to fly their craft at Thude Park, just east of the Price Freeway frontage road on Galveston St. The "Chandler Bowl Flying Field," as it is called by RC pilots, has a small dirt runway, a covered ramada and open skies for flying aircraft and helicopters. Weekends and evenings are often the most popular times to watch the fun! [Chandler thanks Louis Wakefield for the use of RC aircraft photos published in the SanTan Sun News.]
Since the day it opened to the public (March 24, 2000), the Chandler Skatepark has earned a reputation that attracts some of the best skateboarders in the world to south Chandler. This spacious, 35,000-square-foot facility is a free, non-supervised facility for use by skateboarders and in-line skaters of all skill levels. The Skate Park is located at 4500 S. Basha Road.
- Table Tennis
More commonly known as Ping Pong, this is another fun paddle sport that has been played casually by almost everyone. Earlier this year, a group of residents appealed to the City Council to create some playing opportunities in the community, and the Recreation Division responded. New tables were purchased and times set aside at the downtown Community Center, 125 E. Commonwealth Ave. The new Chandler Table Tennis Club conducts free open play Mondays and Wednesdays, 8:30-11 a.m., and Wednesdays and Thursdays 5-9 p.m. Councilmember Sam Huang, a strong advocate for the new program, said, "This is a great example of the City working with residents to create a pilot program, and it has been very successful. No paddle? No problem. Just go and check it out!" For more table tennis details, including upcoming special events and tournaments, call 480-782-2727.
In addition to these activities, park visitors can enjoy specialty activities and attractions at these parks:
- Veterans Oasis Park
- Geocaching, Demonstration Garden, Solar System Walk, Reptile Center
- Tumbleweed Park
- Arizona Railway Museum, Chandler Tennis Center, Playtopia Playground, Tumbleweed Ranch
- Desert Breeze Park
- Desert Breeze Railroad & Carousel, Hummingbird Habitat, Demonstration Campground
There also are six pools and aquatic centers, three spray pads, four dog parks and much more.
Whatever your interest or hobby, the odds are the City of Chandler has what you are looking for! Learn more at chandleraz.gov/breaktime.
Chandler Recreation, Parks divisions strive to meet ever-changing community needs
Demographic shifts in population are not only driving residential and retail development patterns in the City, they also are affecting Chandler's recreational programs and amenities. The increase in cultural diversity, more residents moving in from outside Arizona and an aging population are all creating a need for the City's Parks and Recreation divisions to conduct regular needs assessments to guide future programs and services.
Chandler Recreation Manager Joe Petrella is part of the leadership team working to keep the City's facilities and programs relevant to the people who live, work and play here. Petrella is on his second stint with the City of Chandler. From 2001-2005, he oversaw operations at the Snedigar Recreation Center. After recreation-related career stops in Connecticut, Virginia and Montana, he returned to Chandler in January to manage the Recreation Division.
"I loved working here, and when the opportunity to return opened, I was excited about the possibilities to work in a City with a progressive recreation model," Petrella said. "Chandler leaders are committed to building and maintaining a diverse collection of facilities and programs that meet the needs of the community."
Meeting those wide-ranging recreation needs is an ongoing challenge as people age or move in and out of the City. "We are always adjusting our programming and looking at ways we can modify existing amenities or add new ones," Petrella added. "People recreate differently depending on where they are from or their stage in life. Some cultures are drawn to paddle sports like badminton and ping pong; others to extreme sports like skateboarding or riding BMX bikes. We have to adapt to the people we serve."
Sometimes, it takes active and engaged residents advocating for their particular sport or hobby to drive changes in parks and recreation. The most recent example in Chandler is a resident who asked the City to develop a health and fitness program centered on ping pong. There were few opportunities in the East Valley for fans of the sport, and Scottsdale was the closest program. Petrella visited Scottsdale and spoke with a number of participants from Chandler area who said if the City added more ping pong tables that they would be used.
"They were right," he said. The Recreation Division purchased four new tables a few months ago, added day and evening hours at the downtown Community Center, and the impact was immediate. "Ping pong is already exceeding our expectations, and we are considering adding more tables. All that happened because a resident made a case for ping pong, we researched the issue and responded to meet the need," Petrella added.
A similar process happened with the growing sport of pickleball, a paddle sport popular among retirees and active adults. Pickleball was introduced at the Tumbleweed Recreation Center on a limited basis last year and has been so successful that six outdoor pickleball courts are currently being built at Arrowhead Meadows Park.
Petrella acknowledges that not every sport or activity can be accommodated in the City, due to limited space and competing needs, but he says Chandler Recreation staff is always looking for new ways to get residents to come out and play.