Share And Share Alike

Gary Jelin, AIA, of TMP Associates, architects for the new school, recalls that early during construction, when the 400-meter, all-weather running track surface had not yet been installed, residents were already walking around the asphalt area that was laid in preparation for final construction. “I remember driving up to the site, thinking, ‘Who are all of these people?’” Jelin says. “We had to kindly ask them to return after the track surface had been installed. They were anxious to get out there!” It became clear to all that a marriage of district and community would result in a win-win for both parties.

Athletic facilities for the comprehensive, 1,600-student high school would not only serve its younger grade 9-12 citizens, but the community as well. According to Skyline High School Principal Sulura Jackson, the sharing agreement is fairly simple: The Ann Arbor recreation department may request use of the turf field, and after it is accommodated, other groups that meet the district’s criteria may schedule use of the facilities. These might include nonprofit groups or informal community gatherings. In all cases, these outside requests are only granted when they do not interfere with student athletes’ games and practices.

Built To Last

The Skyline stadium field is attractive to the city parks and recreation department and other groups for different reasons. The field includes a unique playing surface called Prestige by FieldTurf. The turf is virtually maintenance-free, and features a drainage system underneath which literally pulls water away from the surface and re-directs it into a nearby natural retention pond. Captured rainwater and natural runoff from the entire site–including the building, parking areas and other sports fields–naturally end up in these ponds.

The turf never needs to be re-striped, as it is marked–predominantly for football–but also includes markings to designate soccer, field hockey and lacrosse boundaries. The field never requires aeration, watering or repairs to dead grass spots. There are no worries about standing water on rainy days.Skyline’s Athletic Director Lorin Cartwright believes that the features and quality of the turf make community use possible. “A facility has to be able to absorb the wear of outside groups,” she says, “while still maintaining the ability to be usable by our students on a daily basis.”

In many cases, with natural grass fields, public use is discouraged because the extra use may result in damage that requires costly maintenance. And schools take pride in keeping a field in top shape for their student athletes. In many cases, high schools and school districts are protective of their football fields. These natural grass fields are often surrounded by elaborate security systems and fencing with a general “keep out” sense about them. At Skyline High School, the athletic campus has quite the opposite feel–community members are welcome there and, in fact, a series of pedestrian paths lead from the neighboring subdivisions directly to the fields.

There are no security systems in place here. The city, along with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (“The Ride”), has made an investment and added a bus stop to the site so that community members can travel to and from the facilities without the use of their own vehicles. New bike racks encourage bicycle traffic to the athletic campus as well. For those who choose to drive, a 610-car parking area directly adjacent to the football field allows for student, resident and visitor parking.

Now that the school is complete and facilities have been constructed, the results are clear–residents are using the fields, tracks, bike trails and parking areas. Along with the careful selection of products and materials, early conversations among community members, park district, city- and school-district personnel made it possible. Ann Arbor continues its tradition as a ‘healthy’ town, and now offers even more athletic amenities to its residents.

Michelle McCulloch has been a member of TMP’s marketing team since 2005. Established in 1959, TMP Architecture is a full-service architectural/engineering firm focused in the planning and design of K-12, municipal and college/university projects. The firm has offices in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Portage, Mich. and Columbus, Ohio. Michelle can be reached at

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  1. A Never-Ending Battle
  2. Turf Network
  3. The Root Of The Issue
  4. Synthetic Turf
  5. Marking Fields For Functionality

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