Photo by Mike Ladevaia, Erie Sports Commission

Taking the field: Quidditch and Ultimate

If you rounded up the usual suspects for sports field use (and here we’re talking about those who play on rectangular fields, not diamonds), you’d come up with football, soccer, lacrosse, rugby and field hockey players.

Two niche sports that are gaining popularity, particularly at the club level, however, also use fields; but not surprisingly, many field managers don’t yet know how to handle them. They are Quidditch, created in the “Harry Potter” books, and Ultimate (formerly known as Ultimate Frisbee before Wham-O who trademarked the Frisbee, got “turfy” about its name being used).

Both sports are popular at the collegiate club level, as well as at the youth and adult division, and on the international level. Additionally, both sports are now hosting regional and national tournaments in a variety of cities and drawing quite a bit of press coverage for it. So with all the growth, it pays to be prepared to know how to set up fields for both sports. Here’s a quick primer.


The national governing body is US Quidditch. Quidditch is a co-ed contact sport. In JK Rowling’s magical world of Harry Potter, the sport was played in the air by broomstick-riding witches and wizards who were trying to score points by hurling an enchanted ball (a quaffle) through goal hoops and avoid being hit by other magic balls (known as bludgers) that flew around the field trying to knock players of both teams off their brooms, all while keeping an eye out for a flying ball known as a Snitch, whose job it was to avoid capture by one player on each team, known as a Seeker.

The earthbound version makes some adjustments (the Snitch is carried by a person, the quaffle is a slightly deflated volleyball and the bludgers are dodge balls) but players must still play holding a broom between their legs, all while trying to get the quaffle through a goal hoop and avoid being hit by the bludgers, which are thrown by opposing team members.

More information on the magical game is available in the “Potter” books. More information on the practical game (also known as the muggle game) is found at US Quidditch’s website. But since fields won’t set themselves up by magic, field managers will have to put in some real time to get them ready.

The four boundary lines of the field, according to US Quidditch, form a rectangle 66 yards/198 feet long and 36 yards/108 feet wide. The player area is a larger rectangle (72 yards/216 feet long and 48 yards/144 feet wide) enclosing the boundary lines. (For details, see the adjacent diagram). Hoops for goals are available through various online retailers and the US Quidditch site also offers links to informational pages on how to construct them. (It also requires a scoreboard that is either electronic and programmable, or a manual three-digit per team scoreboard.)

Essentially, the size of the Quidditch field allows the sport to be played on a variety of existing fields already in use for more traditional sports. The difference, however, is the lining of the fields. Quidditch doesn’t mandate any particular line color, but the field of play does have to be delineated according to official rules (also found on the site).

“The fields are usually lined before each event in paint or chalk,” says Sarah Woolsey, executive director of US Quidditch. “Teams often use cones for practices.”

Whether paint or chalk is used is likely to depend upon the field’s makeup (turf or grass) as well as its other uses. If the field is likely to be used again by another team that will require different markings, ascertain that temporary, washable paint, which can be removed from turf or grass, available online as well as from retailers, is being used.

While the sport of Quidditch initially used whatever field was available, as it increases in popularity and cities compete for the right to host competitions, the expectations of sports fields are likewise increasing. (Richmond, VA will host the Quidditch World Cup in July of 2020; that city already hosted the International Quidditch Association’s Pan American Games this past summer).

And yes, players have their preferences about certain types of fields. “Our players, like in many other sports, tend to prefer grass if all things are equal,” says Woolsey. “However, we play a lot of tournaments in the late fall and early spring, and the flexibility that turf provides is wonderful, and our players like the stability that turf provides in the event of inclement weather. I think one thing that helps with the ambivalence we see is that we’ve had inclement weather at the vast majority of our events for the past two or three years, so our athletes have definitely shifted more positively about turf recently.”


Unlike Quidditch, Ultimate is a non-contact sport. It’s played by single-gender and co-ed teams, and again, is popular at the college level, with action also taking place at the elite and international levels, as well as youth. (There’s also a beach version). At the national level, it is governed by USA Ultimate and at its highest level, by the World Flying Disc Federation.

The objective of the game is similar to that of football; try to get the disc into the end zone while avoiding turnovers to the opposing team. However, players must throw the disc to other players (not run with it) in order to move it down the field. Any time a pass is incomplete, a turnover occurs, resulting in an immediate change of the team in possession of the disc. Each game is 36 minutes, divided into two 18-minute halves.

The perimeter of the field is 70 yards/210 feet long x 40 yards/120 feet wide. (See the diagram enclosed, from USA Ultimate’s website). The playing area proper, as it is known, is the playing field excluding the end zones. The corners of the playing field proper and the end zones are marked by brightly colored, flexible cones. As with Quidditch, the dimensions of the sport lend themselves to use on fields for other sports, including soccer and football. A scoreboard typically used for soccer or football can be used.

Outside the long sidelines of the playing field, it is recommended that two additional lines be placed, one delineating where team members can stand and one, further back, delineating where spectators can be. (One thing you won’t have to worry about is space for officials; the sport of Ultimate is self-refereed and puts a strong emphasis on the Spirit of the Game, or SOTG).

As far as surface and playing conditions go, USA Ultimate has its own preferences. The rules, found on the website, note, “The playing field and surrounds should be essentially flat, free of obstructions and afford reasonable player safety. Well-trimmed grass is the recommended surface and all lines should be marked.”

While there are no special goals or equipment apart from the disc and cones, fields do need to be marked in accordance with the rules, and as with Quidditch, take precautions with the products used.

While it’s unlikely either sport will warrant a purpose-built field any time soon, Quidditch and Ultimate are gaining in popularity. That means field managers will likely start seeing action in these sports sooner, rather than later.

Mary Helen Sprecher wrote this article on behalf of the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA), a non-profit association helping designers, builders, owners, operators and users understand quality construction of many sports facilities, including sports fields. One of the Association’s resources is the book, Sports Fields: A Construction and Maintenance Manual. The ASBA sponsors informative meetings and publishes newsletters, other books and technical construction guidelines for athletic facilities including running tracks and sports fields. Info: 866-501-ASBA (2722) or