When the weather outside is frightful, there’s not much better than an indoor synthetic field. The ability to host practices, training sessions – even games – despite precipitation, cold temperatures and more, is something you can’t put a price tag on. But there are drawbacks to consider, and making the decision of whether to install an indoor field comes down to a balancing act between those aspects.
A sports contractor can help you decide which option is right for you by evaluating your needs, site and budget. Keep in mind that when the facility is still on the drawing board is the time when solving problems is the cheapest. Here are a few key points to bring up:
- The scope of the project:Is this just a structure that will cover a field? Are you interested in having a full indoor wellness facility or fieldhouse with fitness equipment, training rooms, etc. – or is it something in between? Will it include restrooms, lockers, etc.?
- How much is involved? Will the structure cover a pre-existing field or is this a job that will include the field as well?
- Will it be permanent or temporary? If the structure is just to cover the field, is it something that will come down when the weather warms?
- The weather: What type of conditions will it be subject to?
- Which sports will the field host? Remember that different sports have different field size needs. Some prefab structures are available only in certain sizes; talk to the contractor and make certain you’re on the same page about this.
- What type of lighting will you need? Multiple options exist on the market.
- Seating space: Will there need to be room for spectators? If so, how many?
- Will adjacent structures and amenities be necessary? Do you anticipate needing storage sheds, a parking lot, etc.?
- Climate control: With effective and appropriate HVAC systems in place, you can ensure your facility remains at an optimal temperature and humidity level for your athletes.
- Great revenue stream: An indoor field can pay its own way since it will find a ready clientele. Adjacent schools’ athletic programs, local travel teams, club sports and even pro teams will most likely be interested in having a place to play that offers reliable conditions throughout winter.
- Maintenance remains essential: Just as you made sure your outdoor field was being taken care of, you’ll need oversight on the indoor version. For example, because the field won’t get irrigation, it becomes even more important to have a regular program to keep the surface clean. The manufacturer of the specific surface will have a regimen for cleaning and grooming of the field. Remember, too, that if gas-powered vehicles are incorporated into those maintenance procedures, the ventilation system will need to be sufficient. The more in-demand your facility is, the more important it will be for you to carve out time for maintenance. An indoor field can very easily be booked all day long – so block out maintenance-only periods.
- Keeping it clean: Much concern has been given to the potential for growth of harmful organisms on the surface of fields; in fact, last August, SFM featured an article devoted to the topic of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). That article noted the difficulty researchers had in growing MRSA on synthetic fields – it was all but impossible on outdoor turf, and on indoor fields it could only be done if the temperature in the facility was at least 74 degrees with high humidity – and no light.
- Good drainage is still a must: If you’ve been thinking that a field that stays covered will not need a drainage system, think again. The field may still need to be hosed occasionally – at least in any areas that have been subject to spills, injuries or accidents.
These are, of course, all good pieces of advice when it comes to any field installation, but the best advice is that you get on the front end of any project. A licensed design professional will be invaluable in working with you to create the best possible conceptual for the project; make sure you’re working with one who has experience in sports facilities.