Feature Article - May 2016
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Destination for Sports

Creating Multi-Use Sports Facilities

By Joe Bush

Growing and Growing

Nardone said the sports facility industry has recovered along with the rest of the economy. "It's definitely growing and strong from our perspective," Nardone said. "We're seeing it on the public side; we're seeing it on the private side."

Flanagan said projects can range from as simple as one multipurpose field with parking and basic amenities, to as detailed as fields next to buildings for indoor sports as well as locker rooms, showers, and rooms for meetings and instruction. He said regardless of the scope, public and private stakeholders should be cautious who they approach for help.

"Be wary of carpetbag contractors who say, 'I can install three fields for half a million dollars,'" Flanagan said. "They're grossly inadequate. It'll be a solution you'll have problems with and will have to replace quickly.

"There are contractors out there that's all they do, install these fields. They have the technology, equipment and experience. You can really mess this up if it's the first time you're doing it. Make sure you have a contractor that has experience doing quality work."

RJM Design Group was in charge of a 57-acre award-winning sports park in Lake Forest, Calif., that took five years from start to finish. The park features five diamonds, a 27,000-square-foot rec center and gymnasium, classrooms, two restroom and concession buildings, 38 sports field lights, two synthetic turf soccer fields, two outdoor basketball courts, eight gazebo picnic structures, two playgrounds and more than 500 parking spaces. Each diamond has two bullpens, and soft toss cages to warm up batters. There is terraced spectator seating.

Ryan said two aspects of the project stood out; one was that despite its size and number of amenities, a person can get anywhere in the park without having to cross a vehicular drive or parking lot.

"Little Johnny playing on one field could go all the way over to the other side to see his sister playing on another field on his Razr, walking or on his bike and never have to worry," Ryan said. "That's the kind of influence we would like to have on our projects if possible, where you take the recreational ability to a higher level, but you also take the site development and relationships to a higher level."

He said the project was also notable because of the flexibility of not just his company but the city. There was some doubt as to the availability of some of the land, so the master plan had to account for the possibility of a smaller area. The project needed to work with either size, said Ryan, because the city had to satisfy its citizens' demands for the space needed from their sports programs.

"Well into the project it was determined all the parcels were going to fit," he said. "We were able to look at the plan, and it was determined before the final drawings were done that if we flipped where the diamond fields were, and we took the soccer fields and flipped them, that would allow us to really craft the vehicular access and the relationships of the parking lots would allow people to have convenient parking to all the features.

"You're only as good as your client. The city was very agile."

Ryan calls Lake Forest Park "a real true community park." Controlled by the city, it serves groups that play baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse. Ryan said those considering a multipurpose sports facility should be prepared for finding more demand than the initial survey discovered.

"Folks you didn't realize you had in your community, they see a potential for field time," said Ryan. "You build it and they'll come, and they come out of the woodwork."