Leftover space. The term doesn’t really conjure up visions of anything useful or practical. And if it’s outdoors, it’s space that can easily turn into a derelict area. Unless, of course, you’re the Albuquerque Public Schools system. Then you might have bigger plans. The administration had a plan for the space in question, situated between a middle school and a high school: a four-field soccer complex that could be used for district-wide meets and games.
The end result has been a facility that not only is a showcase for student athletes, but a showpiece for the school system. And it didn’t escape the notice of the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA), the national organization for builders and suppliers of materials for athletic facilities, which recognized the facility in its annual awards of excellence, naming it the Sports Field of the Year in its Multiple-Field category.
The facility is aesthetically pleasing and in compliance with the standards of the National Federation for State High School Association (NFHS), the governing body for high school sports. That totally belies the challenges that faced Robert Cohen Co. LLC of Albuquerque, New Mexico, as specialty contractor on the job. Mondo USA, Inc. was the synthetic turf manufacturer on the project.
“The site required excavation of basalt, the lava from prehistoric volcanoes,” Robert Cohen notes. “Local mineral law would not allow the basalt to be removed from the site. To resolve this, the excavated basalt was used as decorative rock for the landscaping.”
It wasn’t the only ‘green’ touch the facility has. Drought-resistant native plants were used in landscaping, reducing the need to water and eliminating the problem of invasive species. The four new artificial turf fields are eco-friendly in several ways. They do not require watering, mowing, weeding or fertilization, meaning no power has to be used to maintain them. (The previous complex was natural turf and required upkeep; in addition, it was located at a distance from most schools, meaning that buses had to be used to get students to and from meets).
Natural turf fields do need to be cooled, however, and because in the southwest, drought conditions are the rule rather than the exception (meaning that watering the fields to cool them would be out of the question), the Cohen company engineered fields that would contain an infill that was 100% post-consumer recycled. The infill retains 40% less heat than regular ground rubber tires and is made of recycled polyolefin derived from shopping bags and soda bottles. It has no heavy metal content, is static cling-free, no granular splash and does not off-gas polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PHAs).
The finished facility also includes portable bleachers, as well as rest rooms and concessions and plenty of nearby parking spaces. It is lit to allow night play, meaning that the fields can accommodate more players over the course of a school year. In addition, because it is synthetic turf, it does not need to be allowed to rest between uses.
The field sits on two layers of stone, 6″ thick on compacted soul. Its drainage system is made up of perimeter perforated pipe with flat panel drains on 15′ centers. Each field slopes in one true plane corner to corner, with a grade of 1/2%.
The project was completed in mid-August of 2009, meaning it was ready for student use in time for the opening of the 2009-2010 school year. The new facility, welcoming to players and spectators, has the added attraction of being a flagship among the school system’s athletic facilities.