Design, Construction, and Reconstruction of Sports Fields

Whether you are designing a brand new facility or reconstructing an old field, the following information provides facts and advice for acheiving a successful playing surface.

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Certification Programs

Sports Field Design

Properly designed sports fields provide long lasting, safe playing surfaces.  During the design and building process, following the appropriate steps will help acheive the desired playing surface.

     - Survey the area where the field is to be built.  Determine the existing slope and assess how water moves over the  
     - Determine the field layout.  Consider field orientation and field dimensions.  Click here for more information on sports
       field dimensions.
     - Make a list of design criteria.  Consider the following: how the field will be sloped, how the field will be used, and
       safety issues.
     - Determine the rootzone composition.  The type of soil used influences nutrient and water holding
       capacity, compaction potential, drainage, and turfgrass species. 
     - Select the species of turfgrass that will be used on the field.  Choose a species that is adapted to the local climate as
       well as the use it will receive.  Click here for more information on turfgrass species.
     - Determine how water will drain and if drainage needs to be installed.  Click here for more information on drainage.
     - Develop an irrigation plan.  Decide if an irrigation system will be installed or if a portable system will be utilized.
       Click here for more information on irrigation.

Additional Resources:
A Guide to Synthetic and Natural Turfgrass for Sports Fields - Selection, Construction and Maintenance Considerations
Benefits of Natural Grass Athletic Fields
Natural Grass Athletic Fields PowerPoint Presentation - customizable PowerPoint to support natural grass fields for athletic use at high schools.  Please contact for a template.
Athletic Fields - Specification Outline, Construction and Maintenance - Penn State University
Athletic Field Construction and Establishment - University of Kentucky

You must be an STMA member to view these resources:
Field Crowns and Slopes (m)
Irrigation (m)
Rootzone (m)

city of wilmingtonuva






  City of Wilmington - Legion Stadium & Hardee Baseball Stadium                    University of Virginia Scott Football Stadium Field
  Photo courtesy of Carolina Green Corp                                                            Photo courtesy of Carolina Green Corp

Sports Field Construction

Construction of a new playing surface involves transferring the design plan to the new construction.  The construction process involves installation of the rootzone, installation of drainage and irrigation, grading the site correctly, and turfgrass establishment.

When constructing a sports field, it is important to meet safety and design specifications.  ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), is a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of international voluntary consensus standards. Today, some 12,000 ASTM standards are used around the world to improve product quality, enhance safety, facilitate market access and trade, and build consumer confidence. ASTM's leadership in international standards development is driven by the contributions of its members: more than 30,000 of the world's top technical experts and business professionals representing 150 countries. Working in an open and transparent process and using ASTM's advanced electronic infrastructure, ASTM members deliver the test methods, specifications, guides, and practices that support industries and governments worldwide.

ASTM has developed various documents for athletic surface construction.  STMA has a bulletin available that provides a summary of the standards pertinent to construction.  Click here to view The STMA Collection of ASTM Standards for Athletic Fields. 

ASTM documents are available for purchase through the ASTM website (  If interested in purchasing multiple standards or a package of standards, contact Lisa Palmer at

Certfication Programs

American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) is a national organization for builders, designers and suppliers of materials for tennis courts, running tracks, natural and synthetic turf fields, and indoor and outdoor synthetic sports surfaces.  When choosing the entity that will be constructing the field, consider the qualifications.  ASBA created the Certified Field Builder Program to help raise professional standards and to improve the practice of field construction.  Certifications in both natural and synthetic turf are available.  Click here for a video to learn more about the certification.  ASBA provides construction guidelines and other information on:
Indoor Surfaces

Sports Field Reconstruction

Reconstruction of a field usually involves adjusting the grade. Determining what the entire field needs before starting a project can sometimes save a lot of time and money. The field may only need minor repairs to adjust the grade or complete reconstruction. The most accurate way to determine the correct grade is to survey the field. 

On any field, elevation adjustments should begin at the highest point of the crown. For example, when reconstructing a baseball field, elevation adjustments should always begin between the pitcher’s mound and home plate, then work out to the baselines, the rest of the skinned area and finally the outfield. This will eliminate any possibility of a slope towards the infield, or the middle of any field. If soil needs to be added to adjust the grade, the soil being added must match the existing soil as closely as possible. Otherwise, layering and drainage problems could result. Common methods to regrade include removing the sod and adding soil or removing the sod and topsoil, adjusting the subsoil to the correct grade, then replacing the topsoil and sod. 

References: The information for this section was taken from the book Sports Fields: A Manual for Design, Construction and Maintenance by Jim Pulhalla, Jeff Krans, and Mike Goatley. 


STMA Technical Bulletin:
A Guide to Synthetic and Natural Turfgrass for Sports Fields - Selection, Construction and Maintenance Considerations
Benefits of Natural Grass Athletic Fields
Natural Grass Athletic Fields PowerPoint Presentation - customizable PowerPoint to support natural grass fields for athletic use at high schools.

University Resources:

Rootzone Construction:
Sand Base Fields Don't Work! (But They Could) - Washington State University

Building Athletic Fields - University of Nebraska

A Relative Comparison of Options for Building/Renovating a Football/Soccer Field - Iowa State University
Specification Outline, Construction, and Maintenance - Penn State University
Athletic Field Construction and Establishment: Basic Requirements for Native Soils - University of Kentucky
Constuction and Maintenance of Skinned Sports Surfaces - University of Kentucky
Procedure for Selecting a Sand Rootzone - Iowa State University
Building and Maintaining Soccer Fields in Indiana - Purdue University
Turfgrass Establishment - Penn State University
Turfgrass Establishment - University of Tennessee

Construction Sessions featured at STMA National Conferences:
2015 - Managing Surface Conversions for NFL and MLS in a Multi-Use Stadium - Patrick Maguire
2015 - 2 Hour Infield Renovation - Mike Hebrard
2014 - Renovation Practices at Real Madrid and Manchester United FC - Part 2 – Simon Gumbrill
2014 - Arizona Stadium: 2 Years, 2 Renovations – Matt Anderson, CSFM
2014 - Trials and Tribulations of Building a New Sports Field Complex – Roger D. Havlak
2013 - STMA 116 - The National Mall Renovation: Design, Construction, Maintenance & Event Management Murray Cook, Norman Hummel, Ph.D., Erik Ervin, Ph.D.
2013 - STMA 207 - Building it Right ....... for all the Right Reasons Jim W. T. Plasteras 
2013 - STMA 312 - Converting from Cool Season to Warm Season Grass Darian Daily
2012 - Four-Inch Sand Cap Renovation and Grow-in - John Netwal, CGCS
2012 -
If You Build it They Will Come, But How Do You Maintain It? - Mike Trigg, CSFM
2011 - Native Soil Field Improvement and Construction: Making the Best of What You HaveJason Henderson, Ph.D., Chad Price, CSFM
2011 -
The Spartan Cap Athletic Field System ; Session Handout  - Alexander Kowalewski, Ph.D.
2011 - The Sports Turf Managers Role in Planning, Design and Construction of a Sports Complex ; Session Handout - Mike Trigg, CSFM, Paul Wiese
2011 - How Two NFL Organizations Approached New Technology in Field Surfaces ; Allen Johnson, CSFM Presentation ; Brief History of Green Bay Packers' Fields - Nick Fedewa, Allen Johnson, CSFM
2011 - Turf on the Frozen Tundra - Building Fields for the Green Bay PackersEllen Davis, Allen Johnson, CSFM, Andrew McNitt, Ph.D., Brian Storm, David Anderson
2011 - The First Year of the Philadelphia Union Field Jason Bowers, CSFM 

International Resources