Colby College Athletic Fields Case Study
With the proposed new Athletic Center at Colby College, to be located on the site of existing playing fields, the opportunity arose to relocate them into an area to the North of the existing Athletic Center and create an outdoor varsity playing fields precinct. This would allow for shared services, better promote interaction between sports and offer a more sustainable approach to getting participants and spectators to the venues.
The existing site was a secondary grassed playing and the storage yard as well as organic disposal for the campus. By changing the program of this space, it gave the College an opportunity to change protocols on maintenance procedures, as well as transforming this “back of house” area into a state of the art recreational location.
The previous existing playing surfaces consisted of two natural grass surfaces and one knitted nylon artificial field. After meeting with all stakeholders including athletic staff, facilities personnel as well as campus wide individuals, it was determined to build three new fields. They would be comprised of two natural grass fields, one practice and on game venue, mainly for the men’s and women’s soccer program. The third field would be an artificial turf, this was necessitated by the sports using the surface as well as the season they play in. The main users of this field are women’s lacrosse and field hockey. Women’s lacrosse practice season starts February 15th, and in Waterville Maine a surface is needed that snow can be cleared off from and natural grass will not allow that to occur without doing significant damage to the field.
It was decided that we would change from knitted nylon to an infill carpet for this field, for various reasons, for both sustainable and playability reasons. The knitted nylon was preferred for field hockey but was not the best for women’s lacrosse as well as the other users. Also, the knitted nylon need to be syringed with water before and during play for field hockey. The previous system in place, was an underhill system, using in excess of 15,000 gallons of water during every use. This represented a savings of $4,511.25 per use. The new surface has no watering requirements, thus a dramatic savings in water usage as well as treatment was realized.
Due to the contour of the site, dramatically sloped, it was decided the fields would be orientated such that they would be stacked from east to west and the game venues would be depressed into a “bowl” arrangement. This allows seating for spectators on the slopes surrounding the venues. It was decided at that time we would plant the slopes with more of a meadow mix grass that will only need to be cut twice a year, this greatly lessens the maintenance required which lessens the fuel emissions as well helps the acoustics of the surrounding area.
There was an existing trails system in the wooded area to the North of this area that had been in disrepair. This project connects to access points to these trails, and with the assistance of the facilities ground crew in rehabilitating those trails, there is now a usable wooded walking trail network for the Colby and surrounding communities to use. Potentially for both walking as well as cross country skiing and snow shoeing activities.
The uses of this site, ranging from varsity sports, to intramurals to health and wellness classes for the college community and extending to local organizations and other groups for of time uses during evenings, weekends and summer months make this site a great resource a great resource for an extremely large group of diverse teams and individuals.
During the construction phase of the project, a large amount of rock needed to be blasted, all of this was reused in the land forms creating this site. Also all of the topsoil from the pre-existing playing fields was reused on site, these two facets of the job minimized our need to import materials from off site.
The project was an extremely fast paced project, and using established practices and working in concert with the local community as well as the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the project achieved the required schedule and furnished a venue that is the envy of many other peer institutions.
The team that was put together for this project costed of:
Dale DeBlois Colby College, project manager
Mark Novak Activitas, design team principal
Ben Gleason Activitas, design team project manager
Steve Mohr Mohr and Seredin, environmental permitting and storm water design
Sean O’Leary Grondin, general contractor
The team worked very collaboratively together, as a fast paced project requires, and due to the nature of the end users, any and all changes requested were handled promptly and judiciously.
The final piece of the project to be completed was the landscaping. All walk ways and road ways are all ADA accessible, and dedicated handicap seating areas were incorporated. The vegetation was established to create stable slopes that will stand up to the high foot traffic such a venue creates. The sloped banks will be only mowed twice a year, as the vegetation is a meadow mix not a fine lawn. This greatly reduces the amount of maintenance required included gas and diesel powered equipment. The tree stumpage as well as other organic material found on site was used for our erosion control measures, this also minimized our environmental impact. All planting are such that they are non-invasive, native plants that require minimal maintenance and will help augment the rural landscape of the campus.
The irrigation that is on site, and necessary for sustaining the athletic fields are electronically controlled and have water sensor capabilities built in to insure watering only occurs when necessary.
The overall site offers pedestrian walkways that are lit by LED down lights that are controlled by light sensor, that are all ADA compliant, which encourages all potential users to recreate in a safe and healthy environment.
The ongoing maintenance and monitoring moving forward for the site, to insure the least environmental impact while keeping the site in the utmost condition include:
- Water meter to be able to monitor all usage
- Electrical meter to be able to monitor all usage
- Dailey scouting looking for potential pests and monitoring any stresses he plant population may be undergoing
- All trash and recycling is picked up daily and put into the campus single stream program
There are two AED devices permanently located at various locations on site, if ever needed and the overall layout of the fields are such that a spectators can watch multiple sports at a given time.
All of the electrical power used on site is part of the Colby Colleges commitment to sustainability. All of the campuses power is green e wind certified or solar generated.
The fields came on line for use for the fall 2018 season, and all teams that participate in activities there remark these are the best they have seen, in any division.
Overall summation of lessons learned on this project includes the transparent and inclusive meetings and communications to the stakeholders and end user groups early and throughout the design phase proved extremely beneficial. Due to the fast tracked process of this project, it was essential the design and construction teams bought into the overall process and maintained a constant critical eye on the ongoing work and dealt with the few items that arose quickly and efficiently.