Nothing fills an Aussie with more pride than seeing their favourite team’s colours fly high in the playing field. Australians are well-known world over for their love of sports. Whether cricket, rugby, soccer or hockey, it is common to find them playing or cheering on the greens.
“Sport has shaped the Australian national identity through events such as the Ashes, the Melbourne Cup and the America’s Cup. By the 1960s, Australia had an international identity as a sport-obsessed country, an identity which was embraced inside the country.”
Australia has won the Cricket World cup five times, the Rugby World Cup ten times, and had 421 Olympians in 2016 Summer Olympics!
It is a well-known fact that organised sports give young minds an opportunity to learn about strategy, planning and of course team-building. Organised sports also help in developing the right exposure to understand the balance between healthy competition and good sportsmanship.
Naturally, sports will be encouraged if we have well-constructed sporting grounds. Here are 5 factors to consider while constructing sporting grounds:
When developing the preliminary plans for a sporting ground, surface material is the most essential aspect. While the choice of surface is primarily determined by the sport to be played, there are many factors to keep in mind.
a) Natural or synthetic
For outdoor grounds, one can choose between Natural and Synthetic turfs.
- Natural Grass refers to any natural turf species used for sports ground construction i.e. Kikuyu, Couch and Rye grass.
- Synthetic Turf refers to any artificial turf surface used in sports ground construction including unfilled, filled and water-based surfaces.
The choice of material will be primarily defined by the purpose of ground.
It is extremely important to understand the purpose of the ground – whether multipurpose or specific to one sport, is it for professional or amateurs, who will maintain it, etc. A key component to choosing between synthetic or natural turf is to understand and determine the demand for the use of the surface. Sporting participation trends fluctuate and are often cyclical in nature. A number of sports such as soccer and lawn bowls have experienced significant growth in the last five years.
In addition to trends, local factors need to be considered, such as:
- Facility provision
- Club management
- Availability of volunteer resources
- Competing sports and their fixturing
- Local demographics and
- Marketing techniques
These all impact on participation rates and need to be considered when determining the demand for your sport.
A sport like Cricket necessitates the use of Natural Grass at the professional level. This is evident also in the great care and assessment of the cricket pitch which determines the spin and speed of the ball.
Basketball has gained great popularity over the years in Australia, and has become one of the most popular participation sports in Australia. In Victoria, and Melbourne, particularly, it has more participants than any other sport. Here one needs to consider a concrete flooring for outdoors – that can take the stress of the elements or a well finished wooden flooring for indoors – that adheres to professional standards.
Sports like Hockey and Rugby are played in natural and synthetic turfs but maintenance and level of participation will determine the choice of the material. Tennis is played on Hardcourt (acrylic) surfaces.
When planning the construction choosing materials can be restricted by the budget of the project. It would be futile to plan a sporting ground without full knowledge of the budget. This isn’t as simple as knowing the budget allocated for the construction of the ground, but also includes an understanding of the budgets allocated for the functioning and maintenance of the ground. While developing your plans for the sporting ground, make sure you have a good understanding of the purpose of the grounds but also include the operational stakeholders to understand how they are planning to maintain and operate the facility. Simple issues like limited staff, resources or even a shortage of water in the area can be pivotal in planning the ground.
3. Climate and Durability
a) Climate/weather conditions
A key component of the decision making process is the local climatic and environmental factors which affect the local region. In particular the water supply, rainfall events and other weather conditions.
Questions regarding water supply must be answered when determining your surface type:
- What will be your primary and back-up water source for the surface?
- What will be the cost of this source?
- Is it sufficient to meet the irrigation requirements to maintain the surface to the minimum standards for use (taking into account rainfall and irrigation requirements)?
- Is the source’s availability likely to change within the short-medium term?
Another key consideration is the average temperature of your local environment, particularly during anticipated playing times. Synthetic surfaces can be up to 40% hotter than a natural field, although this can be affected by other environmental considerations such as wind and humidity.
b) Usage and Durability
Besides the natural elements, the durability of the surface will be determined by type and level of usage. Type of usage refers to the impact on the surface, sports like football or rugby will have high impact on the surface – here wear and tear will be quicker. Whereas, sports like cricket will be less stressful on the playing surface. The level of usage refers to the number of teams registered, the frequency of competition and tournaments and training schedules. When planning the sporting ground these factors will help in the decision making of the material to be used.
4. Long Term Management
During the planning phase of the sporting ground, do keep in mind the life cycle cost of the facility being created. Life cycle costing will help you to get the most out of your facility by making sure construction, redevelopment, or asset replacement is achieved at the lowest “whole of life” cycle cost.
Long term management includes maintenance of the surface, operations, and staff allocation. It will include basic manuals of maintaining the surface, right tools and staff recruitment, staff training. It also includes managing resources like funding, water, repairs, staff, etc.
Finally there is no sport without a spectator. Australian football has more than 7 million spectators every year! The cheering crowds, the energy of the stands and general excitement of the spectators is what pushes and encourages players to perform their best. Seating can be as basic as foldable chairs, or permanent stands.
Well designed seating and sightlines can do wonders to the sporting arena and create great repeat value for the ground. Unlike traditional sporting grounds, designers are now taking a “Fans-First” which improves visibility and comfort for the spectator.
One must not forget that a public space of this nature will also require ancillary facilities also. Basic amenities like washrooms for spectators and accessibility ramps, well organised parking, safe bike stands are very important to keep spectators loyal to the sporting ground. Of course, it is also important to provide and maintain facility like basic gyms, locker rooms for players. Lighting for the ground for tournaments and practice after dark are also an added plus.