Feature Article - February 2004
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Fielding Questions

Sports field designs and options for high-performance and high-use

By Stacy St. Clair


Regardless of what turf surface you choose, you'll need to make some important decision early in the process. Here are some things to remember when considering a new field:

1. THINK OUT OF THE BOX: What will this field's primary purpose be? Who will use it and when will it be used? Be as broad and creative as possible when considering this question. A football field may be used for band practice, graduations, concerts, etc. Once you've decided its multiple purposes, it will help determine lighting, parking and surface needs.

2. TEST THE SOIL: Early soil test can be translated into specifications for field care after construction. Once the test results are available begin planning for future maintenance. Contact equipment providers and start researching the new tools you'll be needing.

3. CHECK YOUR WALLET: When building a field, make sure you'll have the money to keep it up. Regardless of surface or design, there will be upkeep: Make sure the right money for ongoing maintenance will be available in your budget to protect your investment.

Also, the sports field financing should come from an entirely separate fund from the sports facility kitty. If the project runs over budget and cuts need to be made, you don't want to be deciding between upgrades to the field and public bathrooms. More often than not, the bathrooms win out and your athletes will suffer.

4. KEEP IT SEPARATE: Officials often tie the field construction with other major building projects. While it's OK to tie them together, experts recommend bidding separately. Spend a little more to hire someone who knows about field design and materials. You'll save money in the long run.

5. GAIN A CONSENSUS: New fields frequently draw criticisms from NIMBYs who worry about lighting, noise and increased traffic. Encourage stakeholders—imagine band kids and football players working side-by-side!—to share their enthusiasm for the project with the rest of the community before you break ground.