Making The Most Of It

Stormwater drainage. Typically, recreation fields include a stormwater basin or swale to manage the runoff during and after storms. However, this field really couldn’t sacrifice that type of space, so the design team instead incorporated a stormwater bioswale in the safety zone along the eastern side of the soccer field, essentially making it a double-duty space.

Ancillary areas. Finally, the team assessed all the remaining space not dedicated directly to play or to required safety areas, and determined how it could best be put to use. As a result, the maintenance building was removed (the BPCA found another location to store the equipment), and the surrounding area was opened up into play space. The fencing along the walkway leading from the community center to the fields was removed, and a seamless transition between the walkway and the turf was created to remove that fixed boundary and extend the field’s flexibility.

Going Green

One of the guiding principles for the BPCA is to ensure that any development in the neighborhood employs the highest-performing environmental techniques available.  So while maximizing space was indeed a priority of the project, doing so sustainably was equally important and posed an added challenge for the field’s designers.

To find the optimum “green” system that could also withstand the demands of this multipurpose site, the design team conducted a life-cycle analysis of each component of the synthetic-turf system,

With synthetic turf, portable mounds can be moved on and off the field as needed.  Photos Courtesy Of Stance

With synthetic turf, portable mounds can be moved on and off the field as needed.

Photos Courtesy Of Stance

including fibers, infill, carpet backings, standard and short pile, and pads. Based on a 30-year period for a heavily used multipurpose field, the study led the team to a custom system of short pile with alternative infill turf on a 100-percent recyclable shock pad. This new system–considered the most sustainable in any athletic field in the world–was then coupled with the space-saving drainage system to treat stormwater runoff on-site without sacrificing field space.

Lessons Learned

With such challenging goals, the reconstruction of this much-loved field certainly provided some lessons for designing high-demand, multiuse athletic fields.

  • Listen. Obtain input from a field’s users early and often. Listen to how they really use the field most–half-field scrimmages, multi-team/age group practices, etc.–versus general expectations for standard play. Depending on users’ goals, fixed boundaries and hard lines may not be as important as flexible spaces.
  • Be flexible. Keep in mind that a little creativity can go a long way. At Battery Park City, many of the changes to the field space were minor but, added together, allowed for an expansion here or shifting there that translated into more space for more children.
  •  Go small. Depending on the level of play on a field, more participants can be accommodated if the field is divided into smaller areas. In soccer, for example, there is a trend at the younger levels to have the kids play small 3-on-3 games at one end of the field instead of having larger teams run the full length. Rather than concentrating on field lining, focus on creating a space that is as flexible as possible and can adjust to these examples of changes in coaching and training philosophy. Aim to combine the lines of each sport as much as possible to avoid the now-common rainbow of different lines for different sports that often confuse not only players, but officials, coaches, and spectators.

Since opening in the fall, the ball fields are used almost every day of the week. Thanks to the input of the user group, the field’s flexibility allows for all levels of participants to learn and play on the fields–from young soccer players learning skills in small groups to older players taking batting practice in net-enclosed practice spaces–in one of the most condensed urban areas in the country.

David Nardone is a co-leader of the sport group at Stantec. He is based in Boston, Mass., and can be reached at

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Related posts:

  1. Synthetic Turf Performance Guidelines
  2. Marking Fields For Functionality
  3. Planning For Flexibility
  4. Striping For Several Sports
  5. Biting The Synthetic Bullet

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