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Turf Management - Planning, Design, and Construction bests practices


Any new development requires careful consideration of the health of the ecosystem during planning, design, and construction. The thoughtful use of BMPs during planning, design, and construction results in an environmentally sustainable facility that operates efficiently. Additional BMPs that must be considered during this phase include many of the topics addressed in the rest of this document, such as turfgrass selection, nutrition, irrigation, and stormwater management.


Sports fields should be planned, designed, and constructed specifically for the sport to be played in order to meet the specifications for that sport. Each sports field has standard dimensions, contours, and drainage specifications that aid in the rapid shedding of stormwater.


If possible, orient fields to minimize the time that players must look directly into the sun during games. Generally, the long axis of the rectangular field should be in a north-south direction. This also minimizes the field area shaded during the winter months if there are trees along the south side of the field. Rule books for baseball and softball fields recommend orientating the field so that center field from home plate to the outfield fence is in an east-northeast direction. In addition to orientation, a good design provides an adequate irrigation and drainage system, as well as grade plan. 2.1 Planning and Design While many issues must be addressed during the planning and design phases, a number of considerations have significant impacts on the overall sustainability and functionality of the final sports field performance.

2.1.1 Project Team Critical Roles

The planning and design phase of sports field construction involves numerous personnel and should include the sports field manager whenever possible. In order to ensure that new sports fields are planned and constructed properly, a sports field architect and a CFB are critical to avoid expensive failures. These critical roles should be filled as soon as possible, and these experts should be involved in all phases of planning, design, and construction.


2.1.2 Site Assessment

The team planning any new field installation must consider many factors, including how the proposed site and the project will be impacted by site characteristics, such as:

  •  Existing soil composition

  •  Existing drainage patterns

  •  Existing infrastructure and slope surveys

  •  Site surroundings/surveys

  •  Pre-mapped drainage systems, including any existing municipal sewer systems

  • Proposed drainage system

  •  The type of stone used in the base system

  •  The planarity of subgrade soils

  •  The planarity of the stone base

As part of the site assessment, any review of natural or historical resources (e.g., wetlands surveys, listed species review, archaeological review) needs to be conducted, as required by state regulations or local ordinances.


2.1.3 Soil Profile Selection

One of the first decisions made during the planning process is the selection of the type of soil profile: native soil, modified native soil, or sand-based soil. Each has pros and cons, which must be evaluated before a final decision is made.

2.1.4 Maintenance Considerations

The maintenance of natural grass sports fields must be reviewed prior to construction as the resources needed to maintain a field are significant. All newly constructed fields must have a detailed maintenance plan that encompasses utilizing a sports field manager to ensure the investment is cared for properly. Care involves ensuring proper agronomic practices are followed and the field is protected from pest damage. Maintenance includes proper mowing, fertilization, irrigation, cultivation and topdressing, and mitigation of mechanical, environmental, and pest- related turfgrass stress. Field usage also influences turfgrass maintenance. For example, heavily used fields typically require more inputs to maintain turfgrass cover. Essential natural turfgrass maintenance practices are discussed in detail in the Cultural Practices chapter. Once the planning and design phases are complete, construction must be carried out in a way that minimizes environmental impacts. Maintaining a construction progress report, as well as following regulations and coordinating with regulatory agencies as required, helps to ensure compliance.

2.2 Drainage

Within the field, efficiently ensuring that precipitation drains through the surface and subsurface is critical to maintaining playability. Water drains or exits a field through evaporation, surface runoff, internal root zone drainage, and eventually out of the root zone profile, preferably, through an underground drainage network.

2.2.1 Surface Drainage

Moving water the shortest distance possible over the playing surface is the best strategy for achieving adequate surface drainage. For rectangular fields constructed using fine textured, native soils, crowning is preferred over a simple slope from one side to another, with the crown constructed with a minimum 1.5% slope. Stakeholders involved in ball roll sports (e.g. soccer, field hockey) may be reluctant to accept aggressively pitched surfaces. Consultation with a certified builder, sports field manager, or university Extension agent can be used to determine the best design for the specific application. If native soil construction is employed and stakeholders are unable to accept crowned surfaces > 1.5% and/or inclusion of sand-slit drainage, expectations for field drainage should be lowered. Generally, baseball and softball outfields are crowned toward the outfield fence or crowned through center field with runoff toward the sidelines. Infields only have 0.5% slope from the pitcher’s plate to the bases. Skinned areas have variable slopes from 0.5% to 1.5%. The baseball pitcher’s plate is 10” above home plate while the softball pitcher’s plate is level with home plate.

2.2.2 Subsurface Drainage

Because native soil fields retain more water than other field systems, subsurface drain tiles within the playing may be installed. Properly installed tiles within the playing area maintain their function over time. Proper installation includes appropriate tile depths, spacing, and crowns, as well as the use of appropriate backfill materials. If not installed and maintained correctly, the system will not function properly. Proper function allows water to passively enter the tile and then move to its next collection point by gravity. Once installed, subsurface drainage systems require maintenance, such as cleaning of catch basin structures. A university Extension agent should be consulted for assistance in subsurface drainage issues.


2.3 Stormwater Management

Stormwater management is the control and use of runoff and includes planning for runoff, maintaining stormwater systems, and regulating the collection, storage, and movement of stormwater. The sports field manager and administration must be aware of the principles of water management and integrate them into the design and construction that influence surface and subsurface drainage both on and off the field. Additional stormwater control measures can be incorporated throughout the facility to manage stormwater runoff. Runoff, or the movement of water across the land surface from either precipitation or irrigation that does not infiltrate into the ground, is the conveying force behind nonpoint source pollution. Stormwater management refers to runoff from precipitation, but the principles can also apply to irrigation runoff as well. Off the field, stormwater should be managed to ensure that it does not contribute to nonpoint source pollution of water resources. BMPs should be used to reduce stormwater volume, peak flow, and nonpoint source pollution by promoting infiltration, retention, and filtering. BMPs help achieve such goals by:

  • Keeping stormwater close to where it falls.

  • Slowing down stormwater runoff.

  • Allowing stormwater to infiltrate into the soil.

By ensuring the involvement of the sports field manager in all efforts related to water management, time, effort, and often costs can be saved by incorporating the proper structures and landscape features that assist in drainage and stormwater management. In addition, these efforts increase the sustainability of the entire facility by effectively slowing down stormwater, allowing the opportunity for infiltration to effectively remove any contaminants, and conserving water through water reuse for irrigation or for greywater purposes.


2.3.1 Source Controls

Source controls help prevent the generation of stormwater runoff or the introduction of pollutants into stormwater runoff. For example, during construction or redesign activities, strict adherence to erosion and sedimentation controls helps to prevent, or at least minimize, the possibility for sediment, nutrients, and chemicals to impact water quality through runoff. After construction, implementation of BMPs can reduce the potential for off-site movement of nutrients and pesticides.

2.3.2 Structural Controls

Structural controls are design and engineering features used both in construction and as part of ongoing management practices that help to remove, filter, retain, or reroute potential contaminants (e.g., sediments, nutrients, and chemicals) carried in surface runoff. The controls may also be combined to increase the treatment of stormwater. For example, sediment forebays can be used to pretreat stormwater before it is discharged to a dry extended detention basin, wet basin, constructed stormwater wetland, or infiltration basin. Periodic inspection and maintenance of all structural controls are essential to ensure they function as designed. Maintenance includes periodic cleaning of small basins, ponds, and forebays to remove sediments.

Erosion and Sediment Controls: Through the process of erosion, particles of sand, silt, and clay, can be transported off-site by flowing water and blowing winds. Sedimentation occurs when eroded material settles out of the water column, degrading water quality by increasing turbidity, harming aquatic plants, and impairing habitat for aquatic organisms. In addition, soil contaminants may be transported with eroding soil. During construction, erosion and sediment control measures must be inspected regularly to ensure that they are functioning as designed.


Erosion and sediment control plans are a regulatory requirement at the state level. Additional regional or local regulations may also exist, such as mandated buffer distances.


2.3.3 Non-Structural Controls


Non-structural controls often mimic natural hydrology (e.g., constructed wetlands), hold stormwater, and filter stormwater via vegetative practices (e.g., filter strips and grassed swales). Turfgrass areas are extremely effective in reducing soil losses compared with other cropping systems, due to the architecture of the turfgrass canopy, the fibrous root system, and the development of a vast macropore soil structural system that encourages infiltration rather than runoff. Additionally, turfgrass density, leaf texture, rooting strength, and canopy height physically restrain soil erosion and sediment loss by dissipating impact energy from rain and irrigation water droplets.

Buffers: Buffers around the shore of surface waters, wetlands, or other sensitive areas filter runoff as it passes across the ground. Buffers are the last line of defense to minimize sediment and solute (mostly fertilizer and pesticide) contamination of waterways. These are relatively more important in areas with high precipitation.

Depending upon site-specific conditions, including the amount of available space, a range of buffer widths can be considered. Buffer widths as narrow as 10 feet have been shown to be effective. In most cases, a wide buffer is needed to effectively protect aquatic resources. Smaller buffers still afford some level of protection to the surface waters and are preferable to no buffer at all. Protection of the biological components of wetlands and streams typically requires significantly greater buffer widths.

For vegetated buffer zones, ornamental grasses, wetland plants, or emergent vegetation around the perimeter and edges of surface waters serve as a buffer and wildlife habitat for many aquatic organisms and can be aesthetically pleasing. Use native plants for these plantings whenever possible. See the Sustainable Landscaping chapter for more guidance on plant selection and the benefits of utilizing native plants.

Riparian buffers along streams and rivers can be up to three different plant assemblages, progressing from sedges and rushes along the water’s edge to upland species. Riparian buffers of sufficient width intercept sediment, nutrients, and chemicals in surface runoff and reduce nutrients and other contaminants in shallow sub-surface water flow. Woody vegetation in buffers provides food and cover for wildlife, stabilizes stream banks, and slows out-of-bank flood flows.


Wetlands and Floodplains: Wetlands are transitional areas between aquatic and dry upland habitats. They are flooded or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration long enough during the growing season to support plants and other life adapted to saturated soils where oxygen is limited and unique chemical properties form.Riparian habitats include the dense and diverse vegetation growing along streams, rivers, springs, wetlands, ponds, and lakes. They often support plants adapted to highly fluctuating water availability (from spring flooding to summer drought). In addition, wetland and riparian habitats are essential for many fish, wildlife, invertebrate, and plant species. Nearly half of bird species rely on wetland and riparian habitats, as well as numerous other game, fish, and other wildlife species. Conserving any wetlands and riparian areas within the facility boundaries protects water quality and biodiversity, while reducing the potential for flooding and soil erosion. To protect these natural resources, wetlands should be identified in the field by qualified wetland specialists during the design phase and before the permitting process is initiated. Facility design should minimize any impact to wetlands and streams tied to activities such as filling, dredging, flooding, or converting areas from one habitat type to another. In addition, natural buffers should be retained around wetlands (as with other waterbodies) to protect water quality.


2.3.4 Green Infrastructure

In and around the buildings, parking areas, and other structures, opportunities should be identified to slow down the movement of water from impervious surfaces (i.e., paved areas) and allow for infiltration. Green Infrastructure (GI) features can be used as an effective and economical way to improve the safety and quality of life (EPA, 2017) through the intentional use of the ecosystem services provided by plants in the managed landscape. Green roofs, rain gardens, bioswales, cisterns, and permeable pavements are examples of GI landscaping. In using these kinds of stormwater control methods, the natural drainage patterns should be utilized and runoff should be channeled away from impervious surfaces.


Green Infrastructure conserves, restores, or replicates the natural water cycle by reducing and treating stormwater runoff, thus turning a potential pollutant into an environmental and economic benefit.


Green Roofs: A green roof is a building roof partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. It may also include additional layers such as a root barrier or drainage and irrigation systems. Green roofs can reduce stormwater runoff, help regulate a building’s internal temperature, and mitigate the urban heat island effect. Green roofs can catch 40-60% of stormwater, reducing flow into a city’s sewers (EPA, 2008) and can reduce approximately 65% of peak flows and 55% of runoff volumes (Jaffe et al., 2010). Green roofs can also offer significant economic benefits, including a longer roof life and heating and cooling energy savings. Green roofs require special engineering and should be designed and constructed by certified professionals.

Rain Gardens: A rain garden is a small, shallow area designed to temporarily capture rainwater that drains from a roof, parking lot, or other open area. A rain garden is not a pond, water garden, or wetland. It is dry most of the time and briefly holds water after a rain. Rain gardens typically are planted with a mixture of deep-rooted perennial flowers, ornamental grasses, and woody shrubs that are adapted to wet and dry conditions. There are a variety of specialists (such as Extension agents and horticultural professionals) who can provide guidance on plant selection appropriate for rain gardens. See the Sustainable Landscaping chapter for more information on plant selection.

Installing rain gardens in locations where they catch and temporarily hold water helps control stormwater runoff, remove contaminants before releasing water into the surrounding soil or aquifer, and conserve water by reducing supplemental irrigation needs. Water collected in the rain garden slowly infiltrates into the soil to support plant growth and to lessen runoff into storm drains and nearby streams or lakes. In a properly sited and constructed rain garden, standing water disappears within 24 to 48 hours.

Bioswales: Bioswales are stormwater conveyance systems that provide an alternative to storm sewers and can absorb low flows or carry runoff from heavy rains to storm sewer inlets. Bioswales concentrate and convey stormwater runoff while removing debris, sediments, nutrients, etc. They improve water quality by infiltrating the first flush of stormwater runoff and filtering the large storm flows they convey. They are typically vegetated, mulched, or xeriscaped.

Cisterns: Cisterns are receptacles for holding precipitation, such as runoff from rooftop downspouts and gutters. They can range in capacity from a few gallons to thousands of cubic yards in storage tanks placed either above or below ground. The stored water can then be used in non-potable manners such as landscape irrigation, rinsing gardening tools or washing equipment. By storing water, cisterns reduce the amount of stormwater runoff to streams and storm sewers, particularly for small storms. A filter is used to remove any debris from the runoff before entering the cistern. A gutter guard can also be used to reduce the leaves, dust and debris that may enter the cistern.

Permeable Pavements: Maximizing the use of pervious pavements, such as brick or concrete pavers separated by sand and planted with grass or porous asphalt, allows stormwater to infiltrate into the soil as opposed to running off. Crushed stone and other permeable products are available for walking paths or parking lots. Mowable drives and walks can be used by adding a rigid lattice designed for distributing traffic yet allowing grass to grow through the lattice.

2.4 Field Design and Construction

The majority of sports fields constructed today in high schools, clubs, and smaller communities are native soil fields because they typically cost less to construct and are considered to be easier to maintain. The type of existing soil is an important consideration in the design of a new sports field. For example, soils high in clay and/or silt hold adequate nutrients (as compared to sandier soils) resulting in relatively simple fertilization programs. Soils high in clay and/or silt also have high water holding capacity compared with sandy soils. Soil testing should be conducted during the design phase to understand the soil structure of the native soil.


2.4.1 Native Soil Fields

Native soil fields use existing soils very often comprised of silt and clay and depend primarily on surface drainage to remove excess water. Native soil fields hold adequate nutrients, have a high water-holding capacity, are stable, have good shear strength, and provide good traction. However, most native soil fields provide inadequate internal drainage, compact easily, and are prone to surface rutting and puddling. In addition, native soil fields may become saturated during periods of heavy rain leading to compaction and turfgrass damage. Properly crowned native soil fields are important to mitigate these conditions. Sand slit drainage systems can also be used to improve the drainage capability of an existing natural turfgrass field. The sand slit drainage system is a means by which the drainage of a natural turfgrass field can be improved without requiring a major reconstruction.


2.4.2 Modified Native Soil Fields

Modified native soil fields have had a coarse physical amendment, such as sand, mixed uniformly with the existing soil to significantly improve drainage performance. The cost of modified native fields can be high, especially if the physical amendment must be custom screened. However, this increased cost is compensated, in part, by improved playing conditions. Modified native soil fields have better internal drainage and are less susceptible to compaction versus unmodified native soils. However, drainage may still be limited, irrigation is needed, and fertilization needs are greater than on native soil fields. Furthermore, proper construction with respect to achieving an appropriate ratio of native soil to sand is an important factor. Physical testing of native soil to sand ratios in the modified native soil should be performed by a reputable soils laboratory to avoid costly mistakes and a field that does not meet performance specifications. Hire a reputable soils laboratory to test soil mixtures for any type of soil modifications.

The particle size range of the coarse physical amendment is important though it may be difficult to obtain the desired size range without paying a premium for specially screened material. Also, it is essential to obtain a uniform mixture of the soil and physical amendment, which can be very difficult to impossible to achieve if mixing on-site instead of off-site.

Like native soil fields, modified native soil fields require surface drainage. Surface drainage should be an even and consistent crown/grade. Modified native soil fields may benefit from subsurface drainage. When installed, subsurface drainage should be installed under the modified native soil using the same type of drainage as described for sand-based fields.


2.4.3 Sand-Capped Fields

The construction method used for sand-capped fields is the same as for modified native soil fields. Sand-capped fields include a “cap” of a 3” to 6” pure sand layer over the native soil that is added during the construction process and not mixed into the subgrade. The depth of the sand layer should be evaluated by a physical testing laboratory with regards to its particle size and the anticipated amounts of rainfall (with more precipitation requiring greater sand depths). If the subgrade is compacted during construction, drainage may still be inadequate, leading to saturated fields and thinned turfgrass. Deep tillage (4” to 8”) of the subgrade prior to adding the sand cap can help to avoid this potential problem. Subsurface drainage can help to remove excessive water on sand-capped fields.


2.4.4 Sand-Based Fields

Sand-based fields are generally used for, but not exclusive to, professional or high-profile college sports. These fields require intensive management. They contain a high percentage of sand (>90%) as well as a percentage of organic matter and/or soil, as recommended by a certified independent soil laboratory. All proposed materials should be tested by a reliable laboratory in developing final mixing percentages for a soil that meets performance expectations.

Although quite expensive initially, sand-based fields offer several advantages over native or modified native soil fields. If the proper sand size is used, these fields will have excellent internal drainage and a lower percent of crown can be used for surface runoff (0.5% to 0.75%). Also, soil compaction is lower. As with modified native soil fields, the sand particle size range is extremely important. It is difficult to obtain the desired size range without a custom blending of the sand and the organic matter.

Sand-based fields almost always contain internal drainage tiles within the playing area to direct and remove the water that rapidly percolates through the sand. Two types of drainage systems are in current use: the first, and more common, system is a root zone mix over a 4” layer of “pea” gravel (for a sand-based field, the size of “pea” gravel is typically between 1/8"-3/8" in diameter, depending on sand type), with 4” drain tiles embedded in the subsoil. The second drainage system deletes the 4” layer of “pea” gravel while retaining the root zone layer at the desired depth. The first system provides the best drainage, especially during heavy rains and allows for the flattest surface.


Establishing grass cover from seed in cool season areas is more difficult on sand than with a soil medium. However, seeding is recommended in preference to sodding when commercial turfgrass sod produced on sand is unavailable. The use of turfgrass sod grown on peat or native soil negates the infiltration advantage of the sand by creating a layer that impedes water infiltration and percolation.


Warm season turfgrasses, like bermudagrass, are commonly vegetatively established by sprigs (shredded stems) as many improved cultivars cannot be seeded. Like with seeding, sprigging requires very intensive irrigation scheduling and monitoring during establishment. Sand-based fields have greater irrigation and fertility needs than native or modified native soil fields because the nutrient and water holding capacity of sand-based fields is minimal.


Construction of sand-based fields should follow ASTM F-2396 Standard Guide for Construction of High Performance Sand-Based Rootzones for Sports Fields.


2.5 Baseball/Softball Field Planning, Design, and Construction

2.5.1 Infield Skinned Areas

The integrity and performance of infield skinned areas in baseball and softball competition is crucial to the quality of play in each of these sports. Sports field managers greatly influence the playability of skinned surfaces with game day grooming practices and the sufficient application of water to the infield soil surface as needed. To be in position to have a successful infield surface, some standard practices on material selection and installation need to be followed during construction or substantial renovations.

The percentage of sand, silt, and clay is a critical consideration during the planning phases. Mixes of all types should have a silt to clay ratio of 0.5 to 1. Fields with greater sand content are better suited for low maintenance situations. Higher silt and clay surfaces are more typical of professional or college fields with dedicated sports field managers providing daily grooming and watering. Choose an infield soil that can be managed according to the labor and budget of the facility. For example, a professional level infield mix is 60% sand, 18% silt, and 22% clay with a silt to clay ratio of 0.82. A lower maintenance level infield mix may have a blend of 72% sand, 12% silt, and 16 % clay with a silt to clay ratio of 0.75. The professional mix holds up to heavy traffic better. Both mixes require use of a tarp in heavy rain on game days and consistent watering to keep surfaces from drying out and becoming too hard. Water should be consistently applied so that moisture infiltrates all the way through the soil profile to ensure that the ball rolls and reacts consistently.

When looking at material sizing tests for an infield mix, no particles should be greater than 3 millimeters. Five percent or fewer of particles must be retained in a sieve at 2 millimeters. Regarding sand size, the combined amount of sand retained on medium, coarse, and very coarse sieves should total a minimum of 65% of the total sand content. The delivered product should be free of rocks, stones, or any particle greater than 3 millimeters. Weeds or weed seed contamination is unacceptable. Testing of the finished product for particle sizing is strongly recommended at least once during the installation process. A lab that conducts tests in accordance with ASTM F-1632 should be used.

Prior to installation of the new infield skin mix, the subgrade should be established and graded to match the slope of the finish grade. Flexibility with use of subgrade materials is possible, but at minimum it should be free of large rocks or excessive organic matter and should be clean enough to be laser graded to a tolerance of + or – 0.25” in any direction. It is critical that the slope of the subgrade match the slope of the finished grade. Drainage lines under the infield skin are not necessary. Proper surface drainage is all that is needed to remove water from the skinned area. Irrigation lines should be avoided under infield skin areas.

A minimum of 4” of the imported infield mix must be installed consistently over the entire skin and baseline areas. As much as 6” of material is acceptable, as long as the depth of the product is consistent throughout the infield. Sufficient moisture should be present in the material to ensure proper compaction.


The new infield material should be installed in lifts, no more than 2” at a time. Each lift should be rough graded, rolled, and compacted. Then it should be scarified prior to the next layer being installed, to ensure bonding of the product. Sufficient moisture should be present in the material to ensure proper compaction. The range for the finish grade slope of skin areas is between 0.5% and 1.5%. A skinned area with a lower percentage of slope results in better playability. Flatter fields require a full-sized infield tarp. Laser grading of the finish grade must be a requirement of any construction specification. Finished infield skinned areas should be laser graded to a tolerance of + or – 0.25” in any direction.

The use of conditioners is strongly encouraged to aid in moisture retention and to improve playability of infields. Conditioners, applied at 0.25” in depth, should be the choice of the sports field manager. Three widely used and proven conditioners are calcined clay, vitrified clay, and expanded shale. Once an infield skinned area material is properly installed, moisture management of the product becomes the most vital aspect of day-to-day maintenance.


2.5.2 Pitcher’s Mound and Batter’s/Catcher’s Box Areas


The construction of the pitcher’s mound, as well as of the batter’s and catcher’s box areas of home plate, requires a firmer material than the infield skinned area. These areas should consist of 6” in depth of the specified mound clay product (Table 1). Higher quantities of clay are recommended for collegiate or professional applications. The pitcher’s mound dimensions should be designed in accordance with the appropriate league’s specifications.

During installation of the clay product in these areas, the clay should be compacted in lifts of no more than 2” depth, then scarified to assure bonding prior to adding more material. Slightly more moisture in the base than the added material should be present so that the product bonds more consistently. These areas should be compacted using a manually operated small plate compactor. Detail finishing of areas around the pitching rubber can be done with an 8” square hand tamper. A minimum of 1.5 tons of material per cubic yard of installation is typically used during construction. For game conditions, topdressing materials should be applied at no more than 0.25” depth. Products for topdressing can be calcined clay, vitrified clay, or expanded shale. It is critical to always tarp these spots when not in use, always retain moisture, and prevent rain from saturating or eroding the areas.

2.5.3 Baseball Infield Stormwater Management

Infield soil should have been graded during construction so that stormwater runs off instead of forming puddles. Raking and dragging after every use assists in keeping the field safe for play and helps to maintain the proper grade. A rake should be used along the grass edges, to avoid dragging too closely, risking the infield mix forming a lip along the transition areas. The home plate and pitcher’s area should also be repaired and compacted with fresh material free of conditioners or topdressings. Low spots should be filled with loose material and tamped into place to help maintain the grade and stop unsafe low spots and puddle potential. Always drag slowly to avoid unnecessary movement of infield material, and never drag with a truck, SUV, or automobile.

2.6 Water Quality Monitoring

While water quality monitoring is typically voluntary, monitoring results demonstrate a commitment to water quality and can serve as a source of litigation/penalty protection. In some locales, monitoring is required. Furthermore, providing monitoring information to local, regional, and state regulatory authorities and to watershed groups can help foster positive relationships with these stakeholders.

For new sports fields or renovation projects in the planning stage, baseline water quality levels should be measured prior to construction at points of entry and exit of flowing water sources on or surrounding the facility and on any surface water. This information can be used to form a baseline of flow and nutrient/chemical levels. Ongoing, routine water sampling provides meaningful trends over time. Post-construction surface-water quality sampling should begin with the installation and maintenance of turfgrass and landscaping and should continue through the first three years of operation and then during the wet and dry seasons every third year thereafter, provided that all required water quality monitoring has been completed and all management plans continue to be implemented. A single sample is rarely meaningful in isolation. It may also be wise to sample if significant turfgrass management changes have been made, construction or renovation activities have taken place, or new landscape or green design features have been installed that capture stormwater.

2.6.1 Water Quality Sampling

The number of monitoring samples is highly variable and depends on the size, location, and number of water sources on or near the facility. The entry and exit points of water sources are logical sampling points. However, sampling and analysis of standing water sources (i.e., ponds), springs, and any other irrigation sources should also be included. Consult a water or soil scientist that specializes in water quality for assistance.

2.6.2 Water Quality Analysis

Testing protocols can be simplified to sample only those parameters that are directly influenced by the actual management of the sports field or recreational area, such as sampling of organic and inorganic levels of nitrogen and phosphorus or a screen for selected chemicals used as part of the management program. The fertilization recommendations in the Cultural Practices chapter should be followed. Additional analytes can include watershed basin-specific parameters of concern, such as sediments, suspended solids, and heavy metals. Dissolved oxygen, pH and alkalinity can be sampled in situ.

Samples should be analyzed by a qualified laboratory (in some locales certification of the laboratory is required), and all quality assurance/quality control procedures (QA/QC) must be followed. The purpose of QA/QC is to ensure that chemical, physical, biological, microbiological, and toxicological data are appropriate and reliable. If a sports field should ever need to produce data for an agency or for litigation to defend the facility and management practices of the sports field manager, the data must meet QA/QC standards to be defensible. For example, laboratory participation for soil and water analysis with the North American Proficiency Testing program, administered by the Soil Science Society of America, is a means of assessing QA/QC. These reports can be requested from the laboratory to assure that they are capable of high quality soils analysis. Similar programs are available for drinking water analysis.

2.6.3 Interpreting Water Quality Results

Water quality can be analyzed by independent or university laboratories. Interpretation and use of water quality monitoring data depends to a large extent on the goal of the monitoring program. For example, the results may be analyzed to compare: ]\

  •  Values over time.

  •  Values following implementation of BMPs, such as IPM measures.

  •  Monitoring points entering the site and leaving the site

Results should also be interpreted and compared with the state’s water quality standards, if standards have been established for the parameter being evaluated. Data analysis can also be used to identify issues that may require corrective action, such as an observable spike in nutrient levels. For example, an extreme weather event, an operator misapplication or some combination of factors may be responsible for a detectable change during the monitoring process. Water quality problems can sometimes be addressed by simple changes to a sports field’s existing nutrient management program.


2.7 Planning, Design, and Construction Best Management Practices

Planning Best Management Practices

  •  Include a sports field manager during the planning phases of sports field construction projects.

  •  Consider the future maintenance budget as part of the planning process.

  •  Have a qualified wetland specialist identify wetlands during the design phase and before the permitting process is initiated.

  •  Minimize impacts to wetlands and streams associated with construction activities such as filling, dredging, flooding, or converting adjacent areas from one habitat type to another.

  •  Retain natural buffers around wetlands (as with other waterbodies) to protect water quality.

Drainage Best Management Practices

  •  Plan the crown of the field as appropriate for the sport.

  •  Surface drainage should be an even and consistent slope with a final surface grade tolerance of +/- 0.25” in 50 feet.

  •  If adding subsurface drainage, ensure that it is properly designed and installed.

Stormwater Management Best Management Practices

  •  Design stormwater control structures to hold stormwater for appropriate times to help remove total suspended solids.

  •  Use bioswales to slow and infiltrate water and trap pollutants in the soil, where they can be naturally broken down by soil organisms.

  •  Maintain healthy turfgrass or other vegetated cover adjacent to surface waters to slow sediment accretion and reduce runoff flow rates.

  •  Vary the width, height, and type of vegetation to meet the specific functions of the buffer and growing conditions at the specific location.

  •  Encourageclumpsofnativeemergentvegetationatshorelines.

  •  Plant shrubs and trees away from edges of waterbodies so that leaves stay out of the water.

  •  When mowing near buffer areas, return clippings away from the water or collect them (such as for composting in a designated area) so that runoff does not carry turfgrass clippings or remnants of vegetation into water.

  •  Keep all chemical applications away from the water’s edge when using rotary spreaders and/or boom sprayers, following label directions and applicable state or local requirements regarding distance or other requirements.

  •  When fertilizers or pesticides are needed in the buffer area, spot treat weeds or use drop spreaders or shielded rotary spreaders and boom sprayers to minimize the potential for direct deposit of chemicals into the water.

  •  Develop, enhance, restore, and protect wetland buffers. Manmade buffers should be designed to improve habitat diversity and include a mixture of fast and slow-growing native trees, shrubs, or grasses to provide a diverse habitat for wildlife.

  •  Encourage robust coastal and riparian vegetated buffers along the banks of wetlands, perimeters of ponds and other waterbodies, and undeveloped uplands.

  •  Do not fertilize riparian buffer areas below the high-water mark. Leave them in a natural state.

  •  Reduce the frequency of mowing at a waterbody edge. Take clippings to upland areas.

  •  Maximize the use of pervious pavements, such as brick or concrete pavers separated by sand and planted with turfgrass. (Special high-permeability concrete and asphalt products are available for walking paths or parking lots.)

  •  Minimize the direct connection of impervious area drainage to storm sewers to the extent practical.

  •  Disconnect runoff from gutters and roof drains from impervious areas, so that it flows onto permeable areas that allow the water to infiltrate near the point of generation.

  •  Use depressed landscape islands in parking lots to catch, filter, and infiltrate water, instead of letting it run off. When hard rains occur, an elevated stormwater drain inlet allows the island to hold the treatment volume and settle out sediments, while allowing the overflow to drain. In landscaped areas, use natural drainage patterns and directional site grading to channel runoff away from impervious surfaces onto planted areas such as grass swales, filter strips, or rain gardens.

  •  Install rain gardens in locations where they can catch and temporarily hold runoff.

  •  Incorporate other GI structures (e.g., cisterns, green roofs) when feasible.

Construction Best Management Practices

  •  Use a CFB to construct sports fields.

  •  Hire a reputable soil testing lab to test soil mixtures for any type of soil modifications.

  •  Achieve an appropriate ratio of native soil to sand for modified native soil field construction.

  •  Use a reputable soils laboratory to perform a particle soil analysis of native soil to sand ratios for modified native soil fields.

  •  Obtain the appropriate particle size range of the coarse physical amendment during construction of modified native soil fields and sand-based fields.

  •  Obtain a uniform mixture of the soil and physical amendment for modified native soil fields.

  •  For sand-capped fields, the depth of the sand layer should be evaluated with respect to anticipated amounts of rainfall, with more precipitation requiring greater sand depths.

  •  If the subgrade is compacted during construction of sand-capped fields, deep till (4” to 8”) the subgrade prior to adding the sand cap.

  •  Ensure soil used for sod best matches the existing soil of the field.

Infield Skin Construction Best Management Practices

  •  Select an infield mix material suited to the level of play and maintenance evaluated by a physical testing laboratory with regards to particle size and anticipated amounts.

  •  Choose clean infield mix material from a reputable source and have it tested.

  •  Install a minimum of 4” depth of infield mixes over a clean, compacted subgrade. Import material no more than 2” at a time and compact with a roller. Finish infield with laser grading equipment.

  •  Ensure that moisture is consistent all the way through the soil profile and that the finish surface has appropriate firmness and moisture for playing conditions.

Mound and Batter’s/Catcher’s Boxes Best Management Practices

  •  Install mound and plate clay to a depth of 6”, utilizing product with at least 30% clay content. Import in 2” lifts with manual plate compactor.

  •  Always ensure adequate moisture through the entire depth of mound and batter’s/catcher’s boxes.

  •  Repair to finish grade prior to competition.

  •  Use tarps as needed to prevent erosion.

Water Monitoring Best Management Practices

  •  Review existing sources of groundwater and surface water quality information.

  •  Developawaterqualitymonitoringprogram.

  •  Establish baseline quality levels for the different water sources used at the sports facility.

  •  Identify appropriate sampling locations and consistently sample appropriate amounts at the same locations pre-season, in-season and post-season.

  •  Visuallymonitor/assessanyspecificchangesofsurfacewaterbodies.

  •  Follow recommended sample collection and analytical procedures.

  •  Conduct seasonal water quality sampling. The recommendation is four times per year.

  • Partner with other groups or volunteer water quality monitoring programs if possible, to share data and monitoring costs.

  • Compare water quality monitoring results to benchmark quality standards.

  • Use corrective measures when necessary.


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