Partnering To Meet Common Goals

By David Berra

The area around Raleigh, N.C., is experiencing unprecedented growth in a time of economic downturn and recovery. With revenues declining over the past few years, combined with the continuing growth of soccer, a partnership with a non-profit athletics provider and land owner was an ideal opportunity. The city consulted with a private organization, the Capitol Area Soccer League (CASL), which currently owns 24 open, multi-purpose fields that range in size from full-scale fields to smaller fields   for child-league play. Most of the fields are of natural turf, which limits the amount of play time due to maintenance concerns. Thus, artificial turf seemed like the obvious solution. Because of the option for extended play that artificial turf offered and the opportunity for additional fields, the city partnered with the CASL to replace two natural-turf fields with synthetic turf and light them for evening play.

Return On Investment
Artificial fields must be lined and marked for multiple men’s and women’s sports, which adds to the complexity and cost of the project.

The Raleigh City Council agreed that allocating approximately $2 million for multi-purpose artificial fields would offer a great return on the investment in hotel reservations, restaurants, and entertainment, as well as other economic impacts that prospective tournaments would bring to the area. The partnership offers both the city and CASL an opportunity to host lacrosse, soccer, and Ultimate Frisbee tournaments, as well as other field sports. The city can use the fields for regular youth- and adult-league play during set hours and weekends, while CASL runs leagues at other times. The partnership includes site improvements by CASL in parking and storm-water management, as well as repair and replacement of the fields as needed in the future. CASL has also offered to work with the city and the state to manage the additional artificial-turf field off its property but within the city limits. Charlie Slagle, president of CASL, commented, “This is how partnerships are supposed to work.”

Striping And Marking
The benefits from fields like these are dependent upon the ability to host several sports. The artificial fields must be lined and marked for multiple men’s and women’s sports, which adds to the complexity and cost of the project. This also requires cutting, gluing, and splicing the artificial turf, which can result in a greater need for seam repair in the future. The basic outline of the soccer fields is incorporated into the turf at the factory, and once the artificial grass is in place, the additional lines are cut, glued, and sewn in. While this slows down the process of installation, it does allow for a variety of tournaments, which adds a positive economic impact.

Storm-Water Management
Partnering with the regulatory agencies such as storm-water management is critical because the drainage for the fields is paramount. The complex system is designed to drain the water from the field as quickly as possible, yet store the runoff below the field or in a storage facility, such as underground pipes or ponds, to avoid flooding downstream. Many agencies are not familiar with the requirements of synthetic fields and the principles of engineering so the fields drain correctly. Contracting an engineer

experienced in field design is critical, as the calculations are more accurate if based on research and experience to limit their impact and cost to retain extra runoff. CHA Sports engineered the drainage system at the CASL site to meet local codes so the fields can quickly drain and play can resume immediately after a storm. Tournaments can be completed even in poor weather.

Advice For Success
Those agencies that might be considering a conversion to synthetic turf should be aware of the additional equipment needed to maintain fields, including a groomer, extra materials such as rubber infill and turf, and brush attachments. When designing a new field, other furnishings will be needed, such as fencing and netting to control errant kicks, as well as goals and lighting controls that can be programmed via a laptop or through the web. Although irrigation can benefit play, it is generally discouraged because of added costs and the concern of increasing humidity on fields in the Southeast (except as needed for washing the field if spills or injuries occur).

David Berra, ASLA, works for the city of Raleigh, N.C. Reach him at .