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SAN DIEGO — Mission Valley is changing in major ways, and much of the public focus has centered on Snapdragon Stadium, the impressive new home of the San Diego State Aztecs football team.

But that’s not the only huge project coming to the central city district: Crews broke ground on the sprawling new SDSU Mission Valley River Park this week. Parks and other green spaces were central to the university’s pitch for the development, as they tried to highlight community value beyond a new stadium and campus extension.

The river park features trails for both bikers and walkers, multi-use grass fields, basketball courts, fitness equipment, playgrounds, picnic areas, an outdoor classroom and more. Portions of the space run along the San Diego Trolley Green Line.

The park will use native flora and fauna and SDSU researchers are helping remove invasive species that currently inhabit the area, replacing them with plants that should help the river’s water quality. The landscaping should also mitigate issues with flooding and polluted runoff that crop up in the area during each major rainstorm.

The design incorporates interpretative signage and other nods to its status as Kumeyaay land.

Much of the project will replace a large parking lot.

“The construction of the river park is a major milestone in a long-awaited project that will revitalize Mission Valley for all of us,” said Mayor Todd Gloria, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to reclaim parking spaces and give them back to the people in our community. I can’t wait to see families enjoying the magnificent new river park and look forward to the many benefits (it) will bring not only to the university, but also to our region as a whole.”

The River Park area makes up 34 of the development’s roughly 80 total acres of parks and green space. The entire SDSU Mission Valley site is a whopping 166 acres.

The project is one in a variety of recent developments aimed at giving the valley a greener, more walkable, more environmentally-friendly design.

SDSU’s project calls to mind Civita Park, the sloping 14 acres of multi-use green space situated among apartment buildings west of the SDSU Mission Valley project. Developers similarly touted that park’s positive impact on local hydrology, converting part of a sand and gravel quarry into a sprawling outdoor space with native plants.