Feature Article - February 2011
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From Blueprint to Ballgame

The Ins and Outs of Sports Field Design

By Brian Summerfield

Which Sports Will the Field Accommodate?

Will different sports be played on the field, or will it be dedicated to one particular team? Will it accommodate athletes of widely varying ages and skills? Will it be used for full-contact sports? Will it serve as both a practice and playing field? These are some of the questions you have to answer before you start putting designs on paper.

For understandable reasons, not least of which is cost, the multipurpose sports field has become a more popular choice in recent years. Of course, that may not be an option for a sport like baseball, which has highly specialized field requirements. But if you've got little land and funding to work with—and want to provide a space for sports such as, say, soccer, lacrosse and ultimate Frisbee, which don't require much beyond a big, open space and don't draw a ton of spectators—then a multipurpose field would probably be a good move for you. Plus, it may be used for non-sports activities, such as band practice or outdoor school gatherings.

At this stage, it's very important to communicate to the design firm about your needs. As a vendor, Nardone works closely with clients to figure out exactly what they want the field to be used for, now and in the future.

"Everyone's experience is unique," he said. "I really have to get to know them a bit to provide the best product for their athletes."

How Often Will the Field Be Used?

A sort of offshoot of the previous question, this is perhaps the most important thing to consider when dealing with the synthetic vs. natural issue. And when it comes to durability, it's no contest: Synthetic turf wins hands down. As mentioned earlier, these fields do need to be replaced after a while, but they can take a beating day-in, day-out for a solid decade.

"The big difference between synthetic and natural grass is maintaining the quality of the surface," Nardone said. "You have to really figure out how many hours you want to use it. You might play 12 hours a week and rough up natural grass."

Gill agreed: "The big advantage of synthetic turf is constant play. But natural grass is a bargain, especially when it isn't being played on a lot."