A Never-Ending Battle

In the last few years, the term, “home-field advantage,” has taken on a whole new meaning. With modern technologies, the athletic-sport field has advanced in durability, comfort, aesthetics and safety, particularly in high-school sports. Where athletic fields were once reserved for varsity game day, they can now support practices, competitions in various sports and physical education classes–all on the same day–thanks to synthetic-turf fields.

In western New York, one of the most intense high-school football rivalries occurs between the Canisius High School Crusaders and the St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute Marauders. This rivalry has been featured as part of the U.S. Air Force National Rivalry Series, and even broadcast to U.S. troops around the world. The rivalry is so great that the schools even constructed their respective new synthetic-turf fields using different methods. Canisius used the typical “design-bid-build” method, while St. Joe’s used a construction manager (CM) and a negotiated-contracts approach.

Design-Bid-Build

The design-bid-build approach to construction is the most common construction delivery method. The president of Canisius High School approached one of Wendell Duchscherer Architects’ principals–a graduate of the school–to prepare construction documents for a new athletic complex in West Seneca, a suburb of Buffalo, NY. Canisius is located in the heart of Buffalo in a densely populated area and on a limited-sized campus, necessitating the need for an off-campus facility.

Because of the limited on-campus field, the teams had to be bused to other locations to compete, and desperately wanted a home field. After successful fundraising, the school purchased a 33-acre site in a first-ring suburb. Once the scope of this facility was decided, a design team of architects and engineers worked on the construction documents. The drawings and specifications in design-bid-build contain the entire layout on how a complex is to be built. These documents are used by various general contractors to bid, and the favorable bid wins the award.

At first, natural turf was to be used because the original field in the city was constructed of early-technology synthetic turf. That turf was so worn out it looked and played like outdoor carpeting. The school wanted a better and safer field for its players. After reviewing the newest turf technology, synthetic turf was chosen again. The most important reason for this decision was maintenance. Maintenance personnel at the school would have to travel 30 minutes to cut grass or line fields. Obviously, this was not necessary with synthetic fields. Professional sports teams and larger colleges tend to have dedicated employees for fields, and can take the time for these simple and necessary tasks; however, most high schools cannot afford the added tasks. Although there is still some maintenance with synthetic fields, it is far less.

Our company continued to work on this project as the owner’s representative to review construction progress, and to address any resulting issues. Since unknown conditions are always possible on a project site, we–as design professionals–were able to assist the owner from going over budget or being delayed beyond the anticipated finish date.

The complex is now home to all of the sports teams Canisius offers to its students–football, soccer, lacrosse and track and field. The multipurpose facility–now called the Robert J. Stransky Memorial Athletic Complex– includes bleacher-seating, a flex classroom, storage and press boxes.

Construction Manager

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