Feature Article - October 2002
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Field Guides

From brand-new or converted complexes to parent-proof fields, a look at the latest in sports field design

By Mitch Martin

Series above, top to bottom: At Lincoln High School in Warren,
Mich., a newly reconstructed regulation baseball field with
90-foot bases, skinned from dugout to dugout. The school
wanted to replace the slag with new skinned soil and grass
for the infield and foul territory around the infield. The original
field (2nd from top). The entire skinned area was excavated
and used as the material for a new outfield warning track.
After the right preparations, the field was ready for sod

One thing Jim Puhalla, president of the Ohio-based Sportscape International, specializes in is the conversion and updating of existing baseball and softball fields. Recent projects at high-school fields in Ohio and other states were undertaken to save failing baseball fields. The centerpiece of these conversions is often turning "skin," or all-dirt, infields into grass infields.

Many older parks were built without grass infields for budgetary reasons. By adding grass infields, facility managers will have fewer runoff problems and rutting. Grass infields and grass foul areas, also limit muddy conditions after a rain.

Skin conversions are often done in cooperation with overall renovations of ballparks, with added features such as new fences, new irrigation and concessions.

Puhalla is the co-author of Sports Fields: A Manual for Design, Construction and Maintenance. He and his co-authors, Dr. Jeff Krans and Dr. Mike Goatley, will be publishing a new book this fall: Baseball and Softball Fields: Design, Construction, Renovation and Maintenance.

Puhalla believes that irrigation should be the budget priority for every new or rehabilitation field project.

"Your irrigation is going to be the best thing for the maintenance of your field—I don't care where you live, unless it's Seattle," Puhalla says.

However, Puhalla believes that sub-irrigation often can be a waste of money, particularly infield sub-irrigation.

"People think it's going to work on the skin area, and it's never going to," he says.

Instead, infield projects should concentrate on having adequate sloping. Foul territories should slope into the dugouts.

In a major upgrade of an existing ballpark, Puhalla noted two things that are particularly potent ways to spiff up a park.

One is adding a warning track along the outfield fence, which also serves and obvious safety function. Puhalla advises facility managers to use the best local dirt and other material available because trucking costs can greatly increase the expense.

Puhalla also advised the purchase of a reel mower, which will allow the grounds crew to create patterns in the outfield grass, just like Major League crews create.

"It can put a finishing touch on a field, and you have to buy a mower anyway," Puhalla says. "Plus, you can use it on your other fields."