The turf and soil may be the sports field manager’s main focus, but let’s not overlook the other, inorganic aspects required for athletic action. Lighting, scoreboards and structures are the hardware elements of a field, and play an important role in game play, meeting usage demands and player safety.
Permanent, removable; frame-supported, air-supported; there are a wide range of athletic field structures available to meet the needs of any facility. Today’s modern versions offer quicker construction and larger, more open space than their brick and mortar predecessors. While “domes” were once attainable only by professional venues, new technology and market demand have led to the development of structures to suit the needs of school, college and municipal fields.
The Arizon dome at Rosemont Softball Stadium.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ARIZON.
Given their speedy construction, air-supported structures have become a popular option for sports fields looking to provide indoor space. Also, air-supported domes can be installed seasonally, permanently or temporarily, offering flexibility.
Inflatable structures have been used in recreational facilities since the ’60s, but new technology has led to designs and operations that are much more energy efficient than the domes of decades past.
To reduce energy consumption, Heather Fliss, sales and marketing coordinator for Arizon Structures (www.arizonstructures.com) says fields can choose exterior fabric designs that utilize natural light to reduce daytime lighting costs, opt for insulation options that offset heating/cooling costs, use equipment with a low-horsepower motor or select T-5 high-efficiency lighting.
According to Fliss, growing field use demands have led many field managers to consider sports field structures as a way to continue play during the “off-season.”
“We are seeing a tremendous need for winter-only indoor building solutions. Many athletic organizations and schools want to keep programs going year-round without sacrificing outdoor summer play,” she said.
When determining what size structure your field will require, it’s critical to factor in space for spectators, if the field will be used for competition.
Kathleen Hayden, truss arch specialist for ClearSpan Fabric Structures (www.clearspan.com) said, “One single tennis court can be covered by a round-style 65-by-120-foot building for a practice facility, but if there are bleachers and seating, a structure that is wider and longer, like an 83-by-140-foot, would be more appropriate.”
Fortunately, fabric buildings can be designed to customer specifications and customized to fit any space. They can be built to any length and up to 300 feet wide. Hayden said the industry trend has been moving away from cookie-cutter structures and toward customized buildings. One of ClearSpan’s most popular options is retractable sides, allowing structures to be opened up when the weather is nice.
Varco Pruden (www.vp.com) custom designs structures using a truss beam frame to allow the column-free interior space required for indoor sports facilities. As a bonus, the open-web design of the rafters allows daylight to be dispersed throughout the facility, helping to improve energy efficiency.
Technology leads the way in new product development for scoreboards, and what were once used solely for displaying points have evolved into complex electronic units capable of delivering instant video replay, animations, sponsor messages and more.
High-tech scoreboards are a big investment, so field managers should check out all available options before choosing a scoreboard that fits their budget. The investment can bring big benefits for fans and venues.
The Miami Marlins video display features Daktronics 15HD LED video technology and provides live and recorded video, colorful animations and graphics and standard in-game statistics.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DAKTRONICS.
Justin Ochsner, marketing and media relations for Daktronics (www.daktronics.com), said, “The technology available and the effect it can have on fans is a major factor in the fight of the in-venue versus the at-home experience. With that in mind, the better the experience you can provide at the events, the more likely people will leave their homes to view the game firsthand.”
A fast-growing and popular trend geared toward ramping up the fan experience is what Ochsner refers to as “moments of exclusivity,” in which all displays throughout a venue are integrated and programmed to show a single message at the same time for one complete visual experience.
Lighting is a critical component of any venue, and can also be a major expense. Proper selection, design and installation are mandatory to ensure a system that will be safe for athletes, and affordable to the venue.
Energy efficiency is leading the way in new advancements in sports field lighting. Lighting control systems and light level adjustment options enable field managers to provide sufficient lighting for a given circumstance without wasting energy.
Fabric buildings can be designed to customer specifications and customized to fit any space.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CLEARSPAN.
“Customers are looking for higher and higher light levels but at the same time are seeking energy savings. We addressed this conflict with the introduction of the EcoLink Wireless Control System and Scene Lighting. Scene Lighting allows you to control the desired light level on the field based on the sport or activity taking place. For instance, you can have a game level, practice level, egress level and maintenance level,” said Rodney Hawthorne, president of Techline Sports Lighting (www.sportlighting.com).
Lighting can be programmed for operating times or controlled directly from any smartphone, tablet or computer at any time.
Katie Meyers is editor of SportsField Management and can be reached at Katie Meyers kmeyers@MooseRiverMedia.com.