Blending With The Neighborhood

Sometimes, the biggest concern is not keeping up with the neighbors--it’s keeping a profile so low they barely know you’re there.

Foothill College's new and award-winning softball field. Photos Courtesy Verde Design, Inc.

When Verde Design Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., began designing a new softball stadium for Foothill College, the facility needed not only to satisfy the requirements of the college and NCAA but to work for the surrounding community in Los Altos Hills.

“The neighborhood association and adjoining properties wanted to keep the status quo of the former field as a baseline for new construction,” notes Dennis Bethke of Verde.

Concerns had also been expressed about light spill, noise pollution, and other aspects of a new facility, so the design team had several challenges, including staying within the budget.

“The height of the new backstop needed to stay at the same height as the former backstop,” says Bethke. “The corner for home plate was on a rock strata, which limited any adjustment downward on the field, without having escalating costs of construction.”

The new stadium included a grandstand recessed into the slope of the land in order to achieve sound abatement, and also created an amphitheater effect. This also made it possible for Verde to fit the facility between the nearby rock face and a newly constructed FIFA-regulation grass soccer field, with close proximity to parking and the college’s Physical Science and Engineering Complex, which was undergoing its own renovations.

Safety netting was held at 25 feet above the new synthetic-turf playing surface in order to alleviate the neighbors’ concerns about anything interfering with the aesthetics of the skyline.

The new field was built on the footprint of its predecessor.

Another concern in the community--that of errant foul balls that could damage property or cause injury--was also solved by the design of the field, which included a clear playing space (75 feet horizontally and 22 feet vertically) between the backstop and property line.

While the new field was limited to a smaller footprint, it was offset with a wealth of amenities: the new facility includes two concrete-block dugouts, dual-station bullpens and batting cages, with infield areas for pitching and batting practice.

Dugouts are fully furnished and have electrical power, and drinking fountains are conveniently located in the complex. Other furnishings include a softball scoreboard with LED lights with electronic team names and advertisement panels, a flagpole, and pedestrian lighting.

The stadium’s synthetic-turf surface has a 2-inch pile height and inlaid lines and markings. The infill is SBR rubber with silica sand.

In designing the landscaping, the company incorporated local geographic features that were used to create a more eco-friendly space. Landscaped areas are populated with low-maintenance plantings and designed with grassy swells that act as filtration devices.

Irrigation systems were designed to minimize water use, and have been programmed to minimize runoff and maximize absorption.

The softball field was designed to limit impact on the surrounding community.

According to Bethke, the project has been a success with the homeowners since “the placement of the grandstand allows the sound from the games to be directed away from the housing.”

Light spill was contained, and the sightlines from houses were maintained as well.

The facility was a success professionally as well, being awarded Sports Field of the Year by the American Sports Builders Association, the trade association for designers, builders, and suppliers of materials for the sports-facility industry. Foothill College’s softball stadium was recognized in the Single Field category of the program.

The team is happy with its new field, the college is happy with the completed project that fits the footprint the school set, the neighbors are happy because everything is community-friendly, and the industry is proud of a great example of sports-facility construction. Sounds like a winner all around.

Mary Helen Sprecher has been a technical writer for more than 20 years with the American Sports Builders Association. She has written on various topics relating to sports-facility design, construction, and supply, as well as sports medicine, education, and health and industrial issues. She is an avid racquetball and squash player, and a full-time newspaper reporter in Baltimore, Md.

2011 Sports Field of the Year -- Single Field Category

American Sports Builders Association

Foothill College Girls Softball Stadium (Los Altos Hills, Calif.)

Architect/Engineer: Verde Design, Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.)

Synthetic Turf Surface: Fieldturf USA, Inc. (Canada)