Steep Slope on Soccer Field Leads to Reconstruction

A soccer field in Buffalo, New York, is getting some press – for all the wrong reasons.

According to an article in the Buffalo News, the grass field (originally intended for use by the Park School of Buffalo) was recently discovered to have a 10-foot difference in slope lengthwise.

The problem with the field, which had previously been used for high school games, went unnoticed until a local college team began practicing on it.

The article states that during Daemen College men’s and women’s soccer games, players “noticed about 75 percent of the scoring in every game was taking place at the same end.”

Athletes also reported being out of breath from repeatedly having to charge uphill during the game.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), “An engineered natural turf soccer field should have a minimum of one-and-one-half percent slope for fields which are surface drained. For natural turf fields with a sub-surface drain system, the slope should be no less than one percent. For synthetic turf fields with a sub-surface drain system the slope should be no less than one half of one percent. Slope is measured from center to side.”

The last substantial renovations to the field itself were made approximately 10 to 12 years ago, according to a high school administrator. The college, which had struggled to find a permanent home field for its soccer teams, brokered a deal with the high school to use its fields at times the younger players weren’t on them. Last year, the college improved the field by investing in a scoreboard, a temporary press box and netting behind one goal that would prevent misfired kicks from ending up in the woods.

But not grading.

The Park School now plans to begin construction on upgrades to the field that include leveling it out and laying down new turf. Daemen College has raised money to pay for the field improvements, in exchange for a long-term agreement to continue using the field rent-free.

The field is used for soccer in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. Following its improvements, it will be ready for use again in the fall.

The article points out that the college elected decided to invest in improvements to the field in order to cement its partnership with the high school. All of the work, according to the college A.D., has the purpose of bringing the field closer to an NCAA level and to make the signs school-neutral, because it’s hard to recruit Division II-caliber athletes to Daemen when it’s clear the school is playing at a high school.

While it is hoped this case will raise awareness of proper slope and grading on fields, field builders have long noted that owners, in upgrading (and sometimes even originally constructing) a field, often skimp on the grading and drainage in favor of more visible enhancements – Wi-Fi, lighting, scoreboards, upgraded concessions and more – that give a facility its ‘wow’ factor.

Still, as the high school and college sports seasons wind down, there may be opportunities for dialogue, particularly between field builders and owners, to make sure fields are in compliance.

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