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Installing/Upgrading School Sportsfields

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The land once occupied by a middle school in Atlanta was reconfigured by Eberly & Associates to become competition fields for baseball, softball and lacrosse, and practice fields for soccer and football for Grady High School. City infrastructure running through it and the freeway system bordering it produced particular challenges for the landscape architecture firm.

In the book, Baseball and Softball Fields: Design, Construction, Renovation and Maintenance by green industry professionals Jim Puhalla, Jeff Krans and Mike Goatley (John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2003) the authors cite that "to successfully design and construct a baseball or softball diamond requires careful attention to the subtleties of survey, design and grading." They then proceed in the following chapters to detail the most important aspects of this particular design process - the field's contours and layout; irrigation, drainage and covers; soils used for turf and "skinned" areas (all areas left purposely bare); the selection of turfgrass; and fences, dugouts and bullpens.

Some of the authors' suggestions include:

Every sports field should be treated as an individual draining unit by using swales and/or catch basins around the field, or by making the field higher than its surroundings.

Slopes should be between 1.0% (0.5% for baseball/softball fields) and 2.0%

The preferred slopes for grass fields are 1.25% to 1.75%

Differences in grade should be continuous and uniform

Reserve sufficient space for human access to the field via walkways and driveways.

Balance the amount of soil that needs to be cut (lowered) with the amount to be filled (raised) to minimize the trucking in or out of soil

For baseball or softball specifically:
The infield should be the highest point of the field, with the
pitcher's mound being the highest point, determined by the proper sanctioning bodies, of the infield

Ideal slopes are .05% for the infield, 0.5% to 1.5% for the skinned area slope, 1.0% to 2.0% for the outfield

Base lines should be as level as possible

Since sports fields play such an important role on school campuses, especially in secondary and collegiate settings, LASN is pleased to include profiles of the design and creation of three recent such projects.

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Grady High School's baseball field included natural turf and outfield safety netting that was determined, through the study of ball trajectories, to be high enough to prevent balls from interfering with vehicle traffic.

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The project also incorporated a fieldhouse and parking lot with a bioretention area (inset) in its center. Another bioretention area was designated for the space between the end of the parking lot and the freeway connector road, To the right of the fieldhouse is what the designers call a bosque (a type of forest habitat found along riverbanks in the U.S. Southwest) green plaza. The large tree at the left of the fieldhouse was preserved from the former site.

Walden Athletic Complex
Eberly & Associates

Like many urban schools, finding athletic field space has always been a struggle for the teams at Grady High School in the Atlanta Public School System. The abandoned Walden Middle School, 2 miles from the High School, offered an opportunity to create a dedicated athletic facility for the Grady Lacrosse, Soccer, Baseball and Softball players.

This location offered many benefits for the school, but the site had severe constraints - small for the program, existing city infrastructure running through it and adjacent to an interstate highway. Because of these constraints, the Atlanta Public School System, for the first time, chose a site development team to lead the project.

Eberly & Associates' team was chosen to master plan, design and construction services for the redevelopment of the 7.3-acre urban site. The goal of the facility was to offer GHSA competition fields for lacrosse, baseball and softball and additional practice fields for soccer and football. The baseball/softball field has natural turf that is convertible during the respective seasons. The synthetic multi-sport field has field markings for football, soccer and lacrosse.

The proximity to the interstate presented unique safety challenges. The team studied ball trajectories for baseball, lacrosse and softball to design safety netting that didn't detract from the skyline view.

The complex is located at the end of a residential street, creating challenges for pedestrian, car and bus ingress, egress and circulation. Entry to the complex was moved to the interior of the site to create a sense of arrival and accommodate bus and car loading and unloading.

The landscape design enhances the identity of the Grady High School Knights Athletic Program. The hardscape design features include cobbles that were found on the site and other materials from Walden Middle School.

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The baseball field at Orange Coast College in Southern California was fully renovated with the help of RJM Design Group. Artificial turf was selected to replace the natural grass. The field drainage system consists of a 4" aggregate base with drain lines 15' off-center to meet the improved 0.75% field grade

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Astroturf Diamond Series (inset) was also specified for the foul ball areas and the warning track. The turf system allows for different infill pile heights and densities with sand and rubber, or turf blade heights to accommodate faster or slower play. Instead of a complete replacement, it was decided that the existing infield fence just needed some modification.

Orange Coast College Ballfield Renovation Project
RJM Design Group

RJM Design Group headed up the renovation of the existing natural grass baseball field at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California. The facility was in disrepair and lacking in on-going maintenance. The Landscape Architecture firm based in San Juan Capistrano, provided design, construction documentation, bidding assistance, and construction administration for the project.

The improvements, which were funded through OCC's Foundation, included: removal of natural grass field and installation of new synthetic turf field, base and home plates, pitching rubber, batters and catcher's box, concrete grade beam to accommodate new outfield chain-link fencing, new chain-link mesh with sliding access gates and maintenance gates at infield fencing, batting cages and bullpen, and a new field drainage system. These improvements protected existing field dugouts, batting cages, bullpen, infield walls and fence posts, and overall field layout.

In addition, new Astroturf Diamond Series synthetic turf was installed in the infield, outfield, foul ball areas, warning track, bullpen, bunting area, and pitching practice areas.

Final changes included outfield fence padding and windscreen. The area of the project encompassed 2 acres, the timeline from design to final construction was six months, the total construction cost was $1.8 million and it was completed in 2017, in time for the baseball team to start their 2018 season on the improved field.

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In Missoula Montana, the landscape architecture firm WGM Group was tasked to do the planning, engineering and surveying of what would become the University of Montana's new women's softball field.

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To improve drainage of the field, the artificial turf chosen is a permeable type. A large part of the project was an extensive irrigation plan for the surrounding natural grass areas.

University of Montana Dornblaser Softball Field
The University of Montana Athletics Department had been working towards inclusion of a women's softball program for over three decades.A In 2014, donor funding and opportunity aligned to realize this long-sought goal.A Fast and focused work was needed to take the $1.3 million project on South Campus from inception to final construction.A As part of a multi-disciplinary design-build team, WGM Group provided the landscape architecture services to make it happen.

The process was intensive, with challenges to be overcome along the way. After extensive planning and survey work, unusually cold weather during the fall of 2014 brought construction to a halt. Fortunately, WGM Group and collaborating partners were ready to hit the ground running when warmer weather returned in the spring.

WGM Group's Jeff Smith was the lead landscape architect on the project, and directed a multi-disciplinary team to regrade the field, redesign and redistribute the irrigation system, and install permeable artificial turf that prevents water from pooling on the field. Jeff and his team also designed bleachers that accommodate seating for 1,000 fans to cheer for their team. Every aspect of the project was coordinated to create the best experience for players and fans, while complementing the design aesthetic of the manicured campus.

Careful planning and meticulous project management made the project a success. Despite the challenges, the fully completed softball complex on the UM campus was ready for the opening game of the inaugural softball season, and was within the construction budget of $1.3 million.

Retaining Walls Serve Extra Functions at Connecticut H.S. Sports Facility

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The design of the retaining walls needed to stabilize the sloped area surrounding the sports field at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury, Connecticut, also provides seating for onlookers. The tiers between the walls, filled in with field base stone, double as walkways. The specifications for the walls include filter fabric, A 3/4 " drainage fill, 6" perforated drainage pipe that outlets to a storm drain, and a leveling pad of unreinforced concrete or crushed stone.

In Waterbury Connecticut, a stylish new multi-purpose athletic field was one of the components of the academic and athletic program expansion at the John F. Kennedy High School. Eight retaining walls specified with Keystone Compac® III concrete wall system were designated to serve multiple functions at the athletic fields: slope stabilization, landscape aesthetics and a comfortable common area for spectators. The system provided a natural-looking bleacher system consisting of the walls with caps as seats and field base stone between each tier as walkways. Tan-colored wall units with a straight-split face style and natural stone texture complement the exterior of the school building.

The eight segmental retaining walls, which totaled nearly 2,000 square feet, had an average length of 100' and an average height of 3'. The wall system's developer attests that the Compac® III units are lighter weight than comparable structural block and their shortened tail design makes easier to handle. Units vertically interconnect using high-strength fiberglass pins and have cores that are designed to be filled with crushed stone to provide additional mechanical interlock and internal drainage.

These particular wall units have been approved by 27 state highway administrations. Superior Landscape Products of Milldale, Conn., manufactured the product for this project. Mike Vigue of the project's installation company Mizzy Construction remarked that "the color quality and consistency of every pallet was great. And the compact size of the units was user-friendly to set, especially for this application where access was limited in some areas."

As seen in LASN magazine, June 2019.

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October 17, 2019, 4:39 pm PDT

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