McKelvey Park's baseball diamonds are back, and they're looking a little depressed.
After more than two years of construction, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is nearing completion of a $30 million effort to turn the park into a detention basin for flood water, which would help protect thousands of homes from flooding during a significant storm.
While the baseball facilities are brand new and expected to be open to the public by late July, the games will be taking place about 15 feet below ground-level. That's because 5 acres of McKelvey now serve a dual role as a neighborhood park and a flood detention basin -- a deep recession designed to take on water if Permanente Creek overflows.
Valley Water calls the project an important safeguard in the event of a 100-year flood, which has a 1% chance of happening in any given year and could affect large swaths of the city, including the Shoreline West and Cuesta Park neighborhoods. Instead, McKelvey Park would fill with water and drain out in a few days, followed by two to four weeks of "post-flood cleanup," according to the water agency.
An even larger, 15-acre flood detention basin is under construction upstream at Rancho San Antonio and is expected to be finished in early 2020. The two basins, along with other channel improvements, will provide "natural flood protection" for at least 2,200 properties in Mountain View and Los Altos, according to the water district.
Planning for flood basins along Permanente Creek began at least 13 years ago, when it was publicly revealed that the water district was weighing a 16-foot-deep flood basin at Cuesta Park Annex. A more developed version of the plan contemplated a total of four detention basins -- located at Rancho San Antonio, McKelvey Park, Cuesta Park Annex and Blach Intermediate School. The latter two faced serious opposition and were dropped from the project after water district staff took another look at the data and found the two basins weren't necessary.
The total project costs are estimated to be just shy of $70 million, the largest cost being McKelvey Park. The lengthy process of designing the project, redesigning the project, acquiring right of way and clearing the environmental review process cost $16.7 million prior to construction crews breaking ground in 2017.
McKelvey Park's busy construction gummed up traffic along Park Drive and Miramonte and Mountain View avenues, reducing travel along Park Drive to one lane for five months. All three roads had intermittent lane reductions as construction crews relocated utilities. The payoff this summer will be a new 0.7-acre mini-park and parking lot along with the baseball fields.