Creating the “Wow” Factor for Sports Amenities

It should come as no surprise that universities throughout the country are under constant scrutiny to maintain a prestigious image by providing their athletes the latest and greatest in sports amenities.

Many administrators feel that athletic programs play a major role in their college’s or university’s success and send a strong message to recruits, current students and alumni that their institutions are committed to excellence.

In other words, athletic directors and facility directors alike are undertaking facility and field renovations to assure that their teams are the envy of all others in their respective conferences. Additionally, most of these projects seem to share a common goal: creating a “wow factor” while maximizing space and budgets.

Working Within a Limited Landscape

While some universities may have acres to maintain different facilities for every sport, others may have a limited landscape that requires one facility to serve multiple sports and/or activities. Regardless of the space configurations, the name of the game is all about being everything to everybody. Every sport wants to be, or at least feel like, “king.” And taking on a facility upgrade is a great place to start.

Creating the proper foundation with beautiful grass or synthetic turf fields is an obvious focus for facility projects; however, the less apparent, yet equally important, factor is the loose equipment selected to complete the project-what you might call “the icing on the cake.” And the flavor of the month is portable, multipurpose equipment that can be configured every which way depending on the sport or activity. Portable press boxes, sideline shelters, video towers and protective sports netting are all products that serve the common good whether it’s utilized by one specific sport or several teams.

Villanova University’s Higgins Soccer Complex Located in the Philadelphia suburbs, Villanova University happens to have the luxury of outdoor space to spread its athletic program’s wings. Having separate fields for most sports, they most recently felt the heat to upgrade their Higgins Soccer Complex. Two grass fields were replaced with the highest-rated FIFA turf currently in existence.

“We wanted our soccer complex to be state-of-the-art,” recalled Mick Keelan, Villanova University Associate Athletic Director of Facilities & Operations. “Of course turf selection was priority one, but we knew the goals and sidelines needed to make just as strong an impression.” A national manufacturer was chosen to provide the required athletic equipment to complete the project. The main soccer field received Europa Semi-Permanent International Soccer Goals with custom blue and white soccer nets to display Wildcat pride. The sideline configuration is second to none, featuring four Players’ Sideline Shelters (two home and two visitor) and Media Package as their portable press box and video tower combo. One end of the main field actually featured a concrete retaining wall that was a safety concern, so it had to be addressed.

Villanova engaged the same athletic company to custom-fabricate a wall padding solution that provided a safe, finished appearance. The second field in the complex received the synthetic turf upgrade as well. Mainly slated as a practice field, it was outfitted with a pair of portable Europa International Soccer Goals so they could be easily moved on an as needed basis. Ideally, the main and peripheral fields could be used simultaneously. With all that potential crossover activity , player safety had to be a top priority. Hence, Keelan and his team investigated the best options for protective sports netting and discovered that BallStopper systems offered the height configurations and custom integrations that were crucial for the project.

Boston University Uses Limited Real Estate Wisely at New Balance Field

Boston University is a prime example of how to think outside the box and use limited real estate wisely. Their newest athletic addition, New Balance Field, is a stadium complex constructed atop a 350 space parking garage. The ultramodern structure is home to the nationally ranked women’s field hockey team, as well as numerous club sports and intramural leagues. As an artificial, AstroTurf12 field, it features a state-of-the-art watering system that allows the BU coaching staff to start the water cannons by using an app on their cell phones.

For their multi-purpose equipment, they opted for a portable elevated scorer’s platform with an attached custom height video tower to anchor their sideline. Tim Cavanaugh, who is the Athletic Facilities Director at Boston University, mentions they found several companies to offer portable scorer’s platforms, but BU was looking specifically for a platform that could be custom modified to fit to their higher video tower. Above all, they wanted a piece that would complete “the first-class vibe of our new facility,” Cavanaugh explains.

Staying Mindful Throughout the Planning Process

When it comes time for your own facility addition or renovation, a good place to start is by contacting other athletic or facility directors who have recently been through similar projects. No doubt they will have plenty of helpful advice and/or cautionary tales. Also remember to enlist the help of industry experts to make the most of your available resources. What seems like a major problem to you may be looked upon as an easily solvable challenge to a professional.

Additionally, with all of the time, effort and money expended on the design and execution of the construction, you should be mindful to mirror that same energy when selecting the loose athletic equipment. Don’t lose steam at the project wrap up and just buy anything. You may be surprised that with a simple internet search, you’ll discover that the best quality products cost the same or less than some of the inferior ones. Finally, the more multi-purpose equipment you incorporate, the better chance you have of making all of your teams feel like winners.

About the Author
Leigh Driscoll Diskin is Director of Marketing at Aluminum Athletic Equipment Co., sister to Product Designer Adam Driscoll, daughter to President Tim Driscoll and grand-niece to founder, John Marzucco. Leigh enjoys working in a family-owned business, taking pride in its top-quality, Made in the USA products.