Precision painting pays off

Photos by Brian Hall.
Philip Braselton, assistant facilities and maintenancedirector, follows one of the string lines to paint duringthe initial field setup. Pacesetter Park is set up and ready for the games to begin.

During our busiest weekend in May, we can have up to 55 soccer game fields on the facility at our 138-acre Pacesetter Park in Sylvania, Ohio. If you visited our facility prior to that, all you’d see are our two dedicated baseball/softball quads and open turf areas. None of the soccer fields exist until we need them. We’re designed to be flexible, allowing us to set up various field configurations to serve multiple sports programs.

The Sylvania Recreation Corporation operates as the development and maintenance division for community recreation and works hand-in-hand with the school district maintaining many of its fields.

Our two major soccer tournaments take place on back-to-back weekends in May. The first, the OYSAN State Cup tournament, brings up to 120 teams. The second, a travel tournament, can bring up to 230 teams.

Plotting the fields

Field layout starts with preseason communication with the field user groups. Our painted field space is used only for permitted play, primarily for games. A limited amount of on-field practice is permitted based on field availability and team needs. For most of the playing season, we keep approximately 70 acres of open space available for practices and pickup games.

During the spring soccer season, we may need five fields for adult play, six fields for travel team play and 17 fields for recreational play. Some of the adult-level fields may also be used for some recreational games.

Generally, six of our recreational soccer fields will be for the youngest players, so we position them adjacent to the parking lots so it’s not too far for the spectators to walk, and so they can watch from their cars if the weather is cold. We also try to place fields and work with game scheduling times so that fields used by older, more competitive players aren’t intermingled with those used by the younger players.

Our travel-level soccer fields host close to 180 games and involve more out-of-town players and spectators, so we want to position them closer to the restroom/concession location to accommodate the larger numbers of spectators and to generate more revenue.

We typically plan to allow 20 to 30 feet between fields, shooting for an average of 25 feet. We want to make that space as safe as we can for the spectators, the players and the turf. Sometimes, in tournament situations, we’re forced to reduce that space because of the number of fields needed, so we address that issue with the tournament director prior to laying out the fields, giving them the option of reduced between-field space or more fields. (They’ve always opted for more fields.)

We do the plotting of the season-long fields matching the placement to the blocks of open space within our site according to the field space each section can accommodate. Because we’ve worked with it many times over the years, it’s an “in-the-head” process, rather than being mapped out by graph or computerized program. However, once the layout is set, we do map it out using the Publisher computer program, which is posted on-site and on our Web site. That’s primarily for the benefit of the public because our site is so large it’s hard for them to find the specific field designated for a game without that map.

Precision is essential during the setuppainting as the same lines will berepainted throughout the season. One of the massive string reelsdesigned by the Sylvania staffto handle multiple field layouts.

The layout

We set up the fields within each specific area based on the best use of space. We don’t maintain a permanent layout location for the fields, as we want to maintain flexibility within each area to eliminate some of the wear patterns that permanent locations develop.

We layout three to five fields at a time, starting the setup from the first stake in the ground. We place all of our stakes for that group of fields and put out all of the string for them at one time, checking for accuracy and making sure the string is tight every step of the way.

We’ve designed our own massive string reels that allow us to do that. We purchased a consumer hose reel and removed everything but the reel. We attached the reel to a steel frame, then ran a steel shaft through the center of the reel and welded on a 9/16 bolt so we can wind the string using an electric drill. We have three of these reels so we can lay out up to 15 fields at a time.

Once the set of fields is laid out, we paint the lines using one of our two Graco airless walk-behind painters.

Though the season-long field locations are planned out beforehand, we don’t set up all of them at the same time. Each set of fields is lined out and painted just prior to its first use, which reduces paint costs and staff time, and, because no field exists until it is needed, we eliminate the interval of wear.

We try to repaint each of the fields on seven-day intervals, though, at times, weather conditions or game schedules require a tighter interval. Typically, we’ll start repainting on Wednesday and finish on Thursday, which gives us Friday as a one-day window to work around the weather.

We use 15-foot-wide gang deck mowers to mow the fields prior to repainting them. Those operating the mowers coordinate with the person on the painter, starting the process with the fields scheduled for use first, then moving to those scheduled next, etc.

The multiple field set up at Pacesetter Parkand the results of the precision painting by the staff. Cory Hull, sports turf intern, uses the ride-on painter to repaint the lines.

Our weekly routine must be changed to accommodate the wide range of field users. For example, we have some flag football games that we’ll line out and paint within the 70-acre open space. We’ll also set up parts of that area for additional field space when needed for our tournaments. Because of our close relationship with the schools, we occasionally work with them to schedule games on some of their fields.

For our two major tournaments, we need every inch of open space. No other recreational games are scheduled for those two weekends. We string out and line the additional fields, and we also need to convert some of the smaller soccer fields for the level of players involved. On those fields, we paint over the existing white lines with green paint, then lay out and paint the new field configuration with white paint. We also have to set up the soccer goals and flags on the newly lined tournament fields.

Following the tournaments, we use green paint to paint over the tournament fields we’ve just created and repaint the lines we previously “greened out” with white paint. We then reset the goals and flags on the original fields.

Of course, during this time we’re handling the other regular maintenance issues on the fields and general areas of the park, including turf maintenance and trash removal. We also tackle major projects during the summer months, including last year’s renovation of 18 off-site baseball fields, converting the old crushed limestone skinned areas to clay over an eight-week period. I’m also overseeing the installation of inground irrigation within the practice facility that had not been previously irrigated. This will be the second year of the two-part installation planned to cause minimal disruption. It’s all part of a bond levy for upgrading our recreational facilities, and it’s an indication of the spirit of this community in acknowledging and supporting these facilities.

Brian Hall is facilities & maintenance director for Sylvania Recreation Corp., Sylvania, Ohio.