The city of Chandler (Ariz.) is fortunate to be in a region of the United States where residents and visitors take advantage of outdoor amenities year-round. With more than 240,000 residents, the city’s 62 parks, six recreation facilities, and six aquatic centers serve hundreds of thousands of people each year. One area that receives the most impact from this continuous use is the 47 athletic fields.
Because the popularity of youth sports is increasing year after year, the city has seen a significant, damaging impact on the condition of its fields. The parks and recreation department does not offer youth-sports leagues, but it does partner with a number of community organizations to bring youth sports to residents. During fiscal year 2013-2014, more than 4,000 reservations for field use were made by private citizens, school groups, and partner organizations.
In late 2012, after discussing these concerns, city council directed staff to implement a strategy to improve the overall condition of the field turf in order to maintain the quality of the amenities for which the city is known.
A Closer Look
Shortly after receiving council’s directive, Mickey Ohland, Park Maintenance and Operations Manager, Mike Quihuis and Curtis Masterson, Park Maintenance Supervisors, and Joshua Adams, Recreation Coordinator II and staff liaison to the Chandler Youth Sports Association (CYSA) groups, met to develop a Rest and Recovery Policy.
A number of items were discussed, including:
- The minimum number of weeks each field would need to be closed in order to see noticeable improvement
- Concerns from the CYSA groups
- The impact on park staff responsible for field maintenance.
To get a better understanding of the demands on all athletic fields, the staff evaluated the average number of hours each field had been scheduled over the previous four years. An initial thought was to rest a field after it had been used for 300 hours. However, it was determined this would not be the best solution because each field would reach 300 hours at different times, making scheduling and performing maintenance tasks difficult.
After staff assessed each athletic field, it was decided that an individual field would need to close for a minimum of two weeks to produce the desired results. Also, the size of the field did not determine the length of closure. The amount of use a field received and the types of activities, along with the demand from the public, determined the recommended length of closure. Fields that saw a higher volume of use would need to be closed for as long as six weeks to properly rest and recover. Volume of use had a direct correlation to the amount of damage that occurred from season to season.
Depending on the time of year and the needs of the fields, several maintenance tasks may be performed, including aeration, fertilization, and de-thatching. In some cases, only additional watering and mowing to reestablish the turf may be needed.
“Determining length of closure was a balancing act between improving field conditions and meeting the public’s need for use,” Adams notes.
The city partners with the CYSA to operate various youth leagues offered to the community. To ensure that the needs of each organization are understood and met, the city hosts quarterly meetings with representatives from each sports affiliation. These meetings are used to introduce ideas and receive feedback on the policy.
A proposed schedule for turf development has been instituted to identify the least intrusive time for the city’s partner groups. This plan was endorsed and approved by the CYSA, the parks and recreation board, and city council. Once the policy was in place, information was placed in the CYSA guidelines, as well as on the city’s website.
“In the short time that the policy has been in place, the playing surface of our fields has responded positively,” Ohland says. “This policy is an excellent example of how parks and recreation staff and youth-sports groups can work together to ensure that the condition/quality and use of fields/facilities are maximized.”
Since the implementation, other groups have reached out asking for exceptions to the policy. The city has been open to making accommodations where appropriate and reasonable. Overall, staff members are committed to enforcing this policy.
It’s important to note that it is difficult to make everyone happy when introducing changes. It is also imperative to the success of any change that the city seeks the community’s feedback before implementing such policies so as not to alienate residents and visitors in the process.
For more detailed information on the policy, visit: www.chandleraz.gov/fieldrentals.
Brooke Peterson is the Marketing and Communication Coordinator for the city of Chandler, Ariz. Reach her at Brooke.Peterson@chandleraz.gov.