Marking Fields For Functionality

Raise your hand if your fields have an identity crisis.

Using one surface for several sports is a challenge, but worth the effort.

Oh, come on. You know what I mean. With all the games that take place on an athletic field–soccer, football, lacrosse, field hockey, softball, kickball–fields have many roles to fill, and depending on where you are geographically, they may be in use year-round.

It’s no surprise that there is an increased demand for sports facilities–economic setbacks have led many people to drop gym memberships and take advantage of local programs, and more parents have explored sports opportunities provided by parks and rec departments as an economical alternative to high-priced sports camps. In addition, more students than ever are participating in school athletic programs (many of which hold games on local municipal fields), and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Athletics Participation Survey, during the 2009-2010 school year, there were 4,455,740 boys and 3,172,637 girls involved in high-school athletics, for a total of 7,628,377. And that doesn’t take into consideration the countless sports and social programs for adults and youth, the Little League, the travel and club teams, the home-school groups and others, in which players lace up their shoes and head out onto the field on a regular basis.

Having fields that serve multiple uses means that, with efficient scheduling, one set of fields can see action for an array of sports. Unfortunately, it also means that those fields have to be marked for varying uses. Soccer, football, field hockey and lacrosse (to name only a few) require different field sizes and different markings. Having lines for all those sports means a field becomes not only an aesthetic problem (being visually cluttered and crisscrossed with markings) but a confusion to athletes and officials (a potential for more than a few challenges and arguments).

So there you have it–a field with an identity crisis. Now, how do you get it off the therapist’s couch and back in action? Easy–just listen to the advice of those who design, build, and mark fields for a living.

“With respect to field markings, it will be dictated largely if the fields are natural or synthetic turf,” says Devin Conway of Verde Design in Santa Clara, Calif.

Natural Or Not?

The choice of whether a multiuse field should be made of natural grass or synthetic turf is best left to the municipality. While there is no official recommendation (and each side certainly has its fans and foes), it is essential to remember that this is a field that will get a great deal of use by a large number of athletes, all of whom have different needs and styles of play. Another important thing to consider is the geographic location and weather conditions.

Unlike its synthetic counterpart, a natural-grass field needs to rest between heavy uses (to avoid looking skinned and bare), and may not be able to be used in muddy or wet conditions, whereas synthetic fields have a drainage system that allows for less downtime after a rain. On the other hand, a natural field is less expensive to build, remains cooler during play, and is less expensive to repair. Ultimately, there is no ”right” facility–but there is a facility that is right for a given situation.

Drawing The Line

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