Feature Article - March 2005
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Field Goals

Making your sports fields look like the pros—without breaking the budget

By Kelli Anderson

Talk about an extreme makeover. Every year the Sports Turf Advisory Committee in the National Interscholastic Athlete Administration Association (NIAAA) puts theory into practice by performing its transforming magic on one lucky athletic field. The ideal candidate is always a desperate one—a field bereft of funding and hopelessly beyond hope—in order to demonstrate the power of its message that knowledge, not necessarily money, is the key to a safe and beautiful sports field.

This past year the committee knew it had found its makeover star after reading the description of a dilapidated ball field in Louisville, Ky.

"The infield was basically dirt and rocks," says Steven Silvano, CAA and athletic director for Moore Traditional School. "When it rained it packed itself down. There were dips, holes and gullies. The whole field was off center, and the fence behind home plate was full of large holes and was all bent up."

From weed-choked outfield to mud-mired water fountain, it was not a pretty sight.

Like something out of a reality show, the NIAAA descended on the high-school ball field in August 2004 with truckloads of donated materials, volunteers and professionals. In one afternoon the bedraggled field became safe, playable and pretty thanks to an impressive list of improvements ranging from rebuilding the pitcher's mound (designed to fit their pitcher's own stride) to amending the infield soil and correcting all the distances between bases and their paths.

More importantly, Silvano was given the knowledge he needed to continue to improve his field over time and strategies that would make it economically possible. It's all about information, knowing where to get it and how to use it that can make your athletic fields look like the pros without sinking your budget.