Last Tuesday evening, after a day of rain, Lowell Danner and his 9-year-old son, Benjamin, pulled into the brand new Quarry Point Park for some father-son soccer practice.

"I saw it being built and saw that fields were being done, but when I saw soccer fields, I got excited," Lowell, of Lakeville, said. "It's nice that there's something close. The fields are green. It's big enough. There's plenty of room here."

Quarry Point Park, a 40-acre athletic complex at Pilot Knob Road and 160th Street, opened in the first week of June.

The park is built on an old gravel quarry site that Dakota County gave to the city of Apple Valley in the early 1990s. The caveat was that the city would have to use the parcel for parkland and that the county would empty out the gravel before handing it over.

After the quarry was played out, the city took it over and brought park plans to the public. In 2007, residents approved a $14.43 million bond referendum that included funds for the $2.9 million park.

"There's always been a good support in Apple Valley for good schools and good parks," said Apple Valley City Council Member Tom Goodwin.

He said that at just three weeks old, Quarry Point is already one of the gems of the park system. It boasts two baseball fields, two softball fields, two full-size soccer fields and four smaller soccer fields, along with a park office and a concession stand.

The grounds include lights for night games, quick-draining turf and sound systems for public address announcing.

Scott Selby, who heads the Eastview Athletic Association, has been walking the grounds for more than a year as the project progressed.

"I've been so anxious for it to open," he said.

Part of that, Selby said, was because both his association and the Valley Athletic Association (the two youth sports associations of Apple Valley) were pushing the capacity of current fields.

"While school numbers are slightly down, participation in youth athletics is up," he said. "We have more kids participating in every grade level in every sport."

Eastview alone has 1,200 children in soccer and 1,000 in baseball, he said, and Valley's numbers are similar.

"The big crunch comes not only in the fields, but in any kind of facility," he said. "We are really at capacity between Eastview and Valley Athletic Association. Having this, especially in the middle school ages, more than doubles the number of fields we have for that group."

The two associations will have the fields at Quarry Point Park about 98 percent of the time, said Scott Breuer, recreation superintendent for the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

Breuer, like Selby, has been looking forward to Quarry Point's opening.

"I spent a lot of time out here this spring, seeing the turf mature and all the details come to completion. Now we're getting staff on board and the concession stands fired up," he said.

"It's an exciting time for our department."

Benjamin, the 9-year-old Lakeville resident who was playing soccer with his dad, was excited to get one of the first trials on the field.

"I'm a really big soccer fan," he said, playing with a soccer ball. "The fields are very big and the grass is very nice. It's just all new."

Peter Cox is a St. Paul freelance writer.