One Step Ahead

Pinelands Sports Center in Southampton, N.J.

By Daniela Bloch

hen asked what sets the Pinelands Sports Center apart from others of its kind, Craig Scott, vice president of marketing and sales at Universal Fabric Structures Inc., laughed somewhat playfully before responding, "We did it."

Jokes aside, Scott explained that the facility stands out because of its innovative technologies and unique structure, both of which Universal played a part in.

And it all seems to have come together.

Finished in summer 2005, the Pinelands Sports Center offers 33,000 square feet of multisport space. Its synthetic turf field, the same as that used by the Philadelphia Eagles and other professional and college sports teams, helps reduce injuries to facility users and caters to various sports-field needs. Accordingly, team field sports like soccer, softball, field hockey, lacrosse and football all take place on the field.

The center also offers instructional clinics. Even the marching band, cheerleaders, senior citizens and summer campers benefit from the new center.

"The structure itself provides a great environment, conducive to playing multiple sports," Scott said. "But it's also so great because of the people committed to it in the community there. Their mission is to support the community, and they are a committed, passionate people."

Netting around the field protects viewers and players alike, while dividers permit field segmentation that yields smaller and concurrent games or practices.

In addition to sports fields, the facility houses 2,016 square feet for restrooms, a concession area, a party room and an office. The concession area offers snacks, soft drinks and an array of sports beverages.

Creating this athletic haven did require some strategy. The structure of the new building needed to combine an existing brick and stucco facility in a way that let users enjoy the field while maintaining easy access to clubhouse amenities.

"It didn't really pose a challenge," Scott said, "but combining the interface with the existing building was unique."

Having to construct a recreational facility was in and of itself unique. According to Alex Samuelian, co-owner of the center, the community required recreational space that simply was not there.

"We saw a need for local teams to train indoors, especially during the winter months," Samuelian said. "Before, the closest facility nearby was about 45 minutes away, and even still, it was a steel structure or an old, converted tennis court."

The center also offers its community a preview of new technology that makes the field even more enjoyable to sports enthusiasts, according to both Samuelian and Scott.

The infill turf, for example, comes with all the field markings put right into it, as opposed to being painted on later. Samuelian said that this greatly adds to the turf's aesthetics.

"Also, the tension fabric structure makes you feel real warm inside, and comfortable," Samuelian said. "It adds a softer touch to the facility as opposed to a steel structure."

Additionally, the open field of the sports center, he noted, contradicts the tendency toward boarded fields, making the field stand out even more from recreational facilities as a whole.

And don't forget the lighting system.

"The indirect lighting from the sides is great because in the playing area you don't have to worry about the ball hitting the lights on the ceiling," Samuelian said.

Scott concurred, pointing out several other noteworthy qualities.

"It's the next generation," he said. "There's indirect lighting on the sides. The accoutrement and accessories are the newest in the industry, like the heat and cooling system. The climate control and indirect sport-lighting package make it such a high-tech facility."

Practical, safe and modern, the facility also can add attractiveness to its list of attributes.

"The aesthetics are great—the open, airy feel of it," Scott said. "It blends well with the natural environment. And it's expansive, really huge. It was not the largest facility we've ever built, but still, it was designed in such a way so as to create maximum sports usage."

The total package that the Pinelands Sports Center offers facility users seems to be a good deal for all involved. The community, Samuelian said, greatly enjoys the center, and even elite soccer and hockey teams come to take advantage of its features. Gradually, community members are even seeking out the center as a place to gather and celebrate functions together.

"We had a family party here once," Samuelian said, "where a group of families came in and played Ultimate Frisbee together."

Perhaps Scott's boast was right on.


Pinelands Sports Center:

Universal Fabric Structures Inc.:

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