Patrick Fitzsimons has found his happy place — in his new office at Apex’s Pleasant Park.
“I look out the window, and I see people practicing and playing on the athletic fields. It’s a tiered park, so there are spots where you can be at the top of the hill and look down and see all six fields. When you see all those sports going on at once, it’s an amazing view,” says Fitzsimons, manager of Pleasant Park and athletic programs for the Town of Apex.
“It’s the first complex in Apex that has multiple fields in the same place. It allows us to program so much more … and also gives the opportunity to bring in other groups that have Apex citizens … such as travel soccer, softball, lacrosse,” he says.
The park’s six full-size turf fields aren’t susceptible to seasonal changes or weather, allowing athletic programs to carry on rain or shine, summer or winter.
In the month following the grand opening on Nov. 4, Pleasant Park hosted three weekend tournaments, including a lacrosse tournament that welcomed 20,000 visitors.
“It’s a game changer; we’ve never been able to do this,” Fitzsimons says.
Yet, for many visitors, the athletic fields aren’t the park’s main draw — the elaborate play structures that form the Enchanted Forest at the center of the 92-acre site beckon children and adults.
“We focused on how to get all generations to play together, and not limit one family member’s participation. It was really important that there be accessible play for all,” says Angela Reincke, parks planning project manager for the Town of Apex.
“It’s fun to climb a structure, but if you are afraid of heights, you want to feel like you are in the structure, but not too high. There are many ramps and decks, many different levels. … You are included even if you don’t do everything. You have the ability to play alongside,” she says, noting that the layout creates accessibility for everyone from unsteady toddlers to chaperoning grandparents to guests with physical or mental limitations.
Another central focus of the park’s design was how to bring imagination into the play space. The planning team, led by Reincke, developed a storytelling theme that resulted in the collection of structures called the Enchanted Forest. Designers brainstormed stories and imagination play that fit each piece of equipment, taking inspiration from fairy tales, modern movies, and literary classics.
For example, Reincke describes the Emerald Tritopia, the tallest climbing structure, complete with a 35-foot-tall slide: “It tells seven different stories. It’s the emerald palace in The Wizard of Oz, or it could be the beanstalk from Jack and the Beanstalk. Each piece has a list.”
Reincke hopes the park will be able to add family programs to unite play and imagination, “like a storytime hour where the younger population would read a story, then everybody takes a character and plays out the story that they just read,” she says.
Pleasant Park also boasts tennis, pickleball, and basketball courts, and a nature play area. In the coming months the town’s first splash pad will open, followed by a 5k cross country course and a large open play lawn with shelter available for festivals and private rentals.
“It is really cool to see all the different users come. We anticipated that the playground would be so popular. Then you have this other group of pickleball players that come every day. You have tennis courts, and you have athletic leagues that come. We created something that made sure to include all of these groups, which is really important because the higher the population gets, the more different interests there are,” says Fitzsimons.
“We committed that we were creating a place that residents could stay and play in Apex,” says Reincke. “It wasn’t just come and do your things, but also enjoy these other offerings of programs. Grandparents can watch tournaments in town. Every step of the way we said to ourselves, what else can this be adapted to? What else can be hosted here?”
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3400 Pleasant Plains Road, Apex