Making The Most Of It

As expected, the neighborhood known as Battery Park City along the southwestern edge of Lower Manhattan puts a premium on space. The 92-acre community comprises residential areas, high-rise commercial buildings, and various businesses and community resources.

Amidst this urban density, the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA), which manages the area, has incorporated open and park space wherever possible. In fact, more than a third of the area’s land is dedicated to parks, gardens, plazas, athletic fields, and other open

Obtain input from a field’s users early and often.  Photos Courtesy Of Stance

Obtain input from a field’s users early and often.

Photos Courtesy Of Stantec

spaces. Accordingly, the community takes full advantage of these resources, and its sole athletic-field complex hosts a robust lineup of youth recreation programs, including Little League baseball and soccer for all levels, as well as field time for adult recreation leagues and youth camps. With so much activity in the neighborhood, the space is constantly in high demand.

The building boom around the ball fields and the volume of users eventually led the BPCA to recognize the need for an upgrade. In the words of the user group, every square foot represented another child who could participate, so making the best use of the site was paramount. In addition, converting the natural grass to synthetic turf would help protect the field from further wear and tear.

Getting Creative

With the challenge upon them, the project team began the redesign process by first asking a targeted user group for feedback and ideas on how they use the space as well as how they would like to. The group included representatives from various organizations, particularly youth soccer and Little League. Participants raised a number of concerns with the existing fields, including the lack of dedicated team areas, the quality of the surface, and the limitations the field orientation put on tournament play.

With that guidance and input–solicited from the early schematic design phases through to construction documents–the field designers considered a number of methods to make the most of the field’s space.

Overlap. In order to accommodate the various sports, field overlap was a given. The tight space could feasibly host only one large soccer field and two Little League baseball fields, so maximizing that overlap was a key objective. With synthetic turf, separate infield mix was no longer needed, allowing the fields to overlap further and create a better-proportioned and larger soccer field. The two baseball fields within it lined up with each other, with the first-base line of one field adjacent to the third-base line of the other.

Netting. With the baseball fields so close to each other, safety and interference from overthrown or foul balls became a concern. To solve the problem, the design incorporated movable netting systems to separate the baseball fields during the season. The nets are strung on a circular foundation embedded below the turf with a sleeve from which the net can slide in and out, and can be used to create separate practice spaces as well. And to further take advantage of every inch, even the space between the nets in the middle of the field is utilized as warm-up space.

Portable mounds. Another method for quick shifting from baseball to soccer was the use of portable mounds. With synthetic turf, the mounds can simply be moved on and off the field as needed. They can also be used with a natural-grass field; however, conversion requires much more work than with a synthetic surface.

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