Imagine the look on a child’s face when he or she is able to actually play a game on a reasonable surface. The hard-to-negotiate turf has disappeared, and the fear of falling on concrete has vanished. The only thing left to trip on is pride when accepting a compliment for a perfect throw or a long, fly ball.
International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) membership company, TotTurf, a national company based in Phoenix, Ariz., has a new reason to be proud this year. Through the company’s efforts–partnered with the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team and the City of Phoenix–two new baseball fields for children with disabilities have recently opened in northeast Phoenix. TotTurf, which specializes in “poured-in-place” surfacing for playgrounds, donated more than two years to the design and installation process to surface the fields, making it possible for children in wheelchairs and with other disabilities to play baseball.
“It’s good for the kids,” TotTurf CEO Richard Hawley says. “With this field, children with disabilities have an opportunity to play baseball on a field just like the rest of their friends. This concept gives kids a chance they wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Designing Adaptive Fields
Typical baseball fields are usually grass infields and outfields, and grass is difficult for wheelchairs to move on. The TotTurf surface is made from 100-percent, recycled tire buffings and polyurethane binder, and poured in place at the site. The surface is durable, yet shock-absorbing, and is typically used on playgrounds to reduce the risk of injury to children through falls. TotTurf’s surface is certified by IPEMA to meet ASTM standards regarding safe surfacing systems for playgrounds. ASTM standards require that surfacing be shock-absorbent in falls from 3 to 8 feet.
The baseball field project has been in the works since 2005, when the Arizona Diamondbacks decided to add accessible fields to the total of 26 fields they helped build in the Phoenix area. The city became involved, planning a four-field complex in northeast Phoenix, which also is home to 10 soccer fields for kids. Fundraising for the complex was spearheaded by the Diamondbacks Foundation. The $3-million complex includes a common concession stand amid the four baseball diamonds.
Hawley became integrally engaged in the project, assisting and lending expertise in the design, including the field’s color and borders. The field includes several other accessible features, such as wider dugouts to accommodate wheelchairs and modified dimensions.
For The Greater Good
TotTurf’s staff took on the project as a labor of love, donating countless hours, even bringing in out-of-town staff to install the surface, which according to Hawley, is one of the largest surfacing units of its kind in the United States.
“This project is as important to us as any of the work we do,” said Hawley. “Our whole staff got involved. Even though TotTurf is a national company, our headquarters are in Phoenix, and we felt strongly about giving back to our community.”
TotTurf’s Marketing Coordinator, Kelli Vessel, was involved as well, working with the Diamondbacks and City of Phoenix to raise awareness about the fields. Youth baseball is popular in Phoenix, and the fields, which officially opened on September 17, are expected to be full. They will be utilized by the Arizona District 3 Little League, which consists of 14 Little League programs.
“TotTurf’s dedication and hard work are a fantastic example of how IPEMA-membership companies partner with their local communities to encourage providing universally designed play environments,” said IPEMA President Tom Norquist. “The great thing about this effort is that now every child can participate in these wonderful outdoor activities–job well done, TotTurf!”
Of The Community
The City of Phoenix’s Adaptive Services Program will run the Reach League, starting October 13. Other organizations that have expressed interest about using the field for their disabled youth programs include Special Olympics, Mesa Association of Sports for the Disabled, City of Chandler Therapeutic Recreation, City of Peoria Adaptive Recreation, Deer Valley School District Adaptive Physical Education, Life Challenge and the Valley of the Sun School and Habilitation Center. The Challenger Division of Little League Baseball, which enables boys and girls with physical and mental disabilities to play, also will use the adaptive fields.
Last year, IPEMA kicked off its Voice of Play initiative, designed to increase awareness about the many physical, social, cognitive and emotional benefits of play and playgrounds. IPEMA is encouraged that its membership companies are taking on important community projects that fit cohesively within the Voice of Play’s mission.
Voice of Play’s Web site serves as a resource for parents, kids, community groups, school principals, boards, teachers and administrators; parks and recreation professionals; playground designers and equipment manufacturers–along with everyone who cares about kids and play! Some highlights of the site include information about physical, social, emotional and cognitive benefits of play; playground certification and standards; a resource kit for parents; and an area to ask questions to play experts. For more information, visit www.voiceofplay.com.