Make The Most Of Multi-Tasking
By Matt Veronesi
As park and recreation professionals, we are always looking to maximize field usage. At the main sports complex in Kristi Babcock Memorial Park in the town of New Windsor, N.Y., we do well in getting the most out of the fields by making them flexible. In the spirit of doing more with less, here are some ways for you to get the most out of your sports fields.
The memorial park has seven multi-purpose fields. One side of the park has two full-size, all-grass fields used for soccer, football, and lacrosse, and a small field used for soccer and football for ages 3 to 5. One of the full-size fields can also be divided into two recreation-size soccer fields, or two touch/flag football fields. The various sports can be played on the same fields because different colors are used to paint the lines for each sport. The color of the lines depends on the time of year and the sports being played. For instance, in the fall football lines are painted white and soccer lines are painted yellow. In the spring, soccer lines are painted yellow, boys’ lacrosse lines white, and girls’ lacrosse lines orange. When only one sport is being played on the fields at a given time, white lines are used. Using different-colored lines maximizes field play for games and practices, which also increases revenue. To make this arrangement work, fields must also be equipped with football goal posts, soccer goals, and lacrosse goals at appropriate times. Problems that can occur are over-usage of fields and the added expense for paint because of the extra colors. To prevent over-use, the fields are rotated, and one field is a game only/no-practice field. The added cost in paint is covered by field rental fees or the organizations using the field pay for the paint.
Go The Distance
On the other side of the park are four baseball/softball fields. To accommodate both sports, the infields are skinned with no grass. Softball is traditionally played on all skinned infields, not infields with grass. The fields are large enough for all levels of baseball and softball, from youth to adult. Each field has ground sockets for bases at four different distances for baseball and softball, and three different pitching rubbers for softball.
The different distances for bases are:
- 60 feet (for girls’ softball and Little League baseball)
- 65 feet (for men’s softball, coed softball, 9- and 10-year-old travel baseball)
- 70 feet (for 11- and 12-year-old travel baseball)
- 90 feet (for baseball ages 13 to adult).
The different distances for pitching rubbers are:
- 40 feet (for girls’ softball, ages 12 and under)
- 43 feet (for girls ages 14 through college)
- 50 feet (for men’s softball and coed softball).
Portable pitching mounds with artificial turf are used in two different sizes for baseball. For players 12 and under, the pitching mounds are 6 inches high by 50 inches wide by 53 inches deep. Each costs around $600 and weighs about 60 pounds. For ages 13 and up, individual mounds are 10 inches high by 8 inches wide by 10.6 inches deep and weigh around 350 pounds and cost around $2,800.
The distance from the mound to home plate depends on the level of baseball:
- 46 feet (for Little League and travel baseball ages 10 and under)
- 50 feet (for travel baseball for 11- and 12-year-olds)
- 60 feet, 6 inches (for baseball ages 13 to adult).
Since these fields are full size and can be used to play adult baseball, ground inserts are installed in the outfields so portable fences can be constructed for softball and youth baseball:
- 200 feet for girls’ softball and youth baseball
- 225 feet for travel baseball for ages 12 and under.
Portable fences are expensive, but players find the fields more desirable. No one likes playing on fields without fences; the chance for a homerun hit over a fence is far more exciting. Obviously, permanent fences could not be installed at the different distances for softball, youth baseball, and travel baseball because men’s softball and adult baseball could not be played on the same field. The cost of portable fences ranges from $1,000 to $2,000 per field, depending on the distance at which the fencing is placed.
Mounds Of Fun
There are some issues with flexible fields. Skinned infields make for more work when it rains, and fields have to be made playable for games. Additionally, the initial cost of portable mounds for baseball is very expensive, and pitchers must not wear metal spikes because they tear up the turf. Also, smaller mounds have to be locked up because people may steal them since they are so portable. The larger mounds are heavy so are less likely to be stolen, but being heavy there is a problem in moving them. Four or more men may be needed to move the mounds on and off a trailer to the field, or one person with a forklift is necessary.
The flexibility at Kristi Babcock Memorial Park maximizes field rentals daily because local leagues as well as regional tournaments can be accommodated. The baseball and softball fields are rented for tournaments every weekend from April through November, which generates revenue through rentals as well as concessions. Tournaments also help local businesses, such as hotels, restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets, etc., since participants travel from all over the state and surrounding states.
Matt Veronesi is the Director of Parks, Recreation, Buildings & Grounds for the town of New Windsor, N.Y. Reach him at (845) 565-7750, or firstname.lastname@example.org.