Oro Valley needs more space to play, so the town is creating it.

The Town Council voted 7-0 at its Nov. 6 meeting to authorize $2.3 million in improvements at Naranja Park.

When the dust clears, the park will include two lighted, 60,000-square-foot multisport grass fields bordered with turf.

The town also will create a 1.1-acre dog park with separate grass enclosures for large and small dogs, with ramadas in both areas, and add a 180-space chip-sealed, lighted parking lot.

Crews will grade 24.6 acres, extend utilities from Tucson Electric Power Co. facilities on the east side of the park and connect water lines to existing infrastructure.

Oro Valley Parks and Recreation Director Kristy Diaz-Trahan said the park will be a boon for town recreation. Oro Valley now has two parks with multiuse fields: Cañada del Oro Riverfront Park, 551 W. Lambert Lane, and James D. Kriegh Park, 23 E. Calle Concordia.

“Currently, we have two multisport facilities, so essentially we’re increasing that by 100 percent,” Diaz-Trahan said, adding that different sports’ demands on fields creates scheduling difficulties. “By increasing the number of our facilities, we greatly help not only ease the demands on existing fields, but keep pace with the booming demand that we have.”

Diaz-Trahan said the park is just what the community has been seeking.

“People were hoping for it, not just from the multisport community, but also folks playing basketball and softball,” she said.

“It’s also good for property owners and it impacts tourism. We can go after soccer, lacrosse and football tournaments, and it also improves our youth baseball tournament and softball tournament space as the future rolls out.”

The development is a long time coming. The town bought the 213 acres that make up Naranja Park, which is north of West Naranja Drive and east of North La Cañada Drive, in 1996 and 2000.

The town has struggled to develop the park for years. The initial master plan adopted by the Town Council in 2002 priced the park’s development at $154 million. The town conducted studies in 2006 and 2007 to create a programming and concept design report, but voters scuttled those plans in 2008 when they voted down $48.6 million in bonds needed to build the first phase of the project. The town eventually opened a fixed-course archery range there in November 2012.

The $2.3 million development will cover the first phase to develop the park. Work started Nov. 7, and the park is expected to open by Jan. 1, 2015.

Not all residents are happy with the tack the town has taken.

John Musolf, a 75-year-old Oro Valley retiree who is active in the community, said he’s happy the land will be developed as a park but is dissatisfied with the piecemeal approach.

“I want to see more park space in town; however, I think we should try to do a long-range plan, which is originally what we set out to do,” he said.

Town Manager Greg Caton said the current plan is “more appropriate” than previous efforts, allowing the town to set up infrastructure and add new parts as needed without taking on debt or issuing bonds.

The town expects the park to cost $120,000 a year in staff, operations and maintenance costs. The park is expected to generate $25,000 in annual revenue from rental fees.

Of the $2.3 million development cost, $1.8 million comes from general fund reserves. The rest comes from the town’s bed tax fund contingency reserves, and parks and recreation impact fees.

“We are really underfielded at this point,” Caton said. “We haven’t constructed fields in a number of years, and as the demographics have changed, there are a lot more active and younger community members who have really utilized our field space.”

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com