Feature Article - February 2011
Find a printable version here

From Blueprint to Ballgame

The Ins and Outs of Sports Field Design

By Brian Summerfield



Harvard 'Fields' a New Soccer Stadium

Harvard University's Soldiers Field sits on land next to the Charles River in Boston that was donated by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his son, as well as Henry Lee Higginson, an alumnus whose notable accomplishments included serving as an officer in the U.S. Civil War and founding the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

When the time came to construct a new soccer field on these grounds, Harvard sought a venue that was well designed but also more functional than nearby Ohiri Field, which, because of its proximity to a residential area, could not offer the lighting required for night matches. Also, it was often difficult to play in the notoriously inclement New England weather on a natural surface.

Working with Stantec Sports Group, Harvard built an artificial turf field that seats 2,500-plus people—in addition to standing-room-only space—for the men's and women's soccer teams.

The site was not without its challenges, said David Nardone, a Stantec senior associate. He said they realized the soil below the field would compress from the get-go.

"The new soccer field had to be created at or below the existing grade to help mitigate potential settlement," Nardone explained. "This requirement produced a large volume of soil that would be expensive to export off site."

To counter this problem, Stantec developed a design that proposed berns—that is, inclined earthen walls—on all four sides of the proposed field, creating an outdoor stadium field surrounded by vantages for spectators.

Harvard selected this option, and once construction was completed in 2010, dubbed the new venue Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium.

"After the fact, they named it a stadium," Nardone said.