Seeping With Success

In real estate, the secret to success is location. If a property is not in a desirable place, it is a much harder sell.

Sports field drainage isn’t a “sexy” topic, but it’s an important one. Photo courtesy of Rettler Corp., Stevens Point, Wisconsin

When it comes to sports fields, success or failure relies on drainage. If a sports field sheds water efficiently and is ready for action in a reasonable amount of time, it’s a desirable, successful facility.

However, if there are puddles of water or slick, muddy areas where the grass can be easily uprooted—it’s a problem.

Although there is no formula to make a field drain perfectly, there are reasons it may not:


  • The amount of precipitation in the area
  • The type of soil the field uses
  • The way a field is built and maintained
  • The time needed for a field to rest and dry.

Exploring these factors may help to identify the source of a problem.

What Type Of Soil?

In natural fields, how well the facility drains hinges upon several factors. The first is the type of soil in the field. A native-soil field uses the soil originally found at the site when it was built. Many existing fields fall into this category.

While the true native field (which only uses the original soil and nothing else) may be the technically eco-friendly option and the least expensive, it may not be the most efficient in terms of drainage, and may absorb water more slowly than the field manager would like. In addition, the soil may also compact over time, and drain even more slowly.

Therefore, some native fields are known as modified native-soil fields, and include not only the original soil, but amounts of sand, peat, compost, and other materials to provide a better-growing medium, or a sand-cap field, in which the top portion of the soil is replaced with sand, either during construction or over time.

A second type of system is sand-based, in which the native soil is completely removed and replaced with an under-drain system, a drainage media layer (principally stone), and root-zone material (mainly sand) to improve drainage.

There are other systems as well, but the majority of municipal fields use one of the above.

What Type Of Slope?

A field drains in one true plane (that is, from one side to another, or from one end to another), or it is crowned (meaning sloped in more than one direction, often from the middle of the field outward).

Draw water away from the playing surface. Photo courtesy of Stantec, Boston, Mass.

The low areas where water runs after it leaves the field are where perimeter drains must be installed; without these, areas such as the space behind a soccer or football goal, or the area around the benches where players sit, will collect water, eventually becoming hazardous and unusable.

Different sports have different slope recommendations: Slope Chart

Are You Keeping The Water Moving?

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