Feature Article - May 2016
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Destination for Sports

Creating Multi-Use Sports Facilities

By Joe Bush

The Right Site

Ryan said before someone calls RJMDG to start the partnership, there has likely already been a high-level meeting concerning a piece of property that may or may not be available. From the city council or city manager level, RJMDG is asked to take a look at the site. Ryan said expectations can be a far cry from reality.

We would recommend getting public input. If the public feels like they are involved in the process, they will be much more likely to support the project.

"'Can you get 37 ballfields on this site? Ryan said. "We'll look at it, and 'No, you can get 12.'"

Ryan wouldn't joke if it weren't true. People forget about parking and access, restrooms and walkways, warmup areas and out-of-bounds space and seating. A yield study gently reminds all involved what is possible with the needs stated, goals desired and space available.

"A yield study is just trying to land the general spaceship in the right hemisphere," Ryan said. "This is a real thing. There's no access here, you got to take everyone through a residential neighborhood, and they're not going to like that. Could you weather that type of outcry from the community? It's more sharing of information, a better way to illuminate those factors that come into appropriate design."

Ryan said even if the prospective client needs some time to recover from the harsh reality of the yield study, they usually return with a new plan, because the original impetus for a new facility is still pressing. There are more teams needing practice and game time than fields, and so neighboring communities are targeted, for example.

"'We should be taking care of our own: What do we have to do? Do we have to buy land? What other opportunities are there? Can we be more aggressive?'" Ryan said. "Very rarely does anyone ever go away. They go away like boomerangs; they go re-tool and come back.

"Their need isn't going away. It's just a matter of sharing the information with the right people so they can continue to pursue, re-target their emphasis to accommodate those needs they're feeling pressed with on a daily business. Every time they go to the produce section they get asked by somebody, 'Hey, when are we going to get these fields?' It doesn't go away for them, ever."

Steven Flanagan, a principal at LPA Inc., said there are rules of thumb interested parties should consider to help them visualize realistically what their land can fit for the most popular sports, soccer and the diamond sports. First, soccer complexes of 20 fields, the size needed for tournaments, need at least 100 acres.

For outdoor sports, the path of the sun has to be taken into account and the fields oriented accordingly.

"Both teams have to look into the sun and can take advantage of winds," said Flanagan. "Ideally, you want your long sports to run north-south so that the long side is facing east and west. Baseball wants the batter looking northeast when they're in the batting position so they're never really looking into the sun.

"When you get into the four baseball/softball field complexes, from a logistical and management standpoint, ideally you want all the backstops to back up to each other, a four-pod of fields with the center area where there's a concession stand. A lot of times for convenience of the program and also for land planning, you see that configuration and it's OK recreationally, and it's OK for night games."