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 achieving a successful playing surface.

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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.  Click here for more information on field crowns and slopes.
     - Determine the rootzone composition.  The type of soil used influences nutrient and water holding
       capacity, compaction potential, drainage, and turfgrass species. Click here for more information on rootzones.
     - 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.

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

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. 


A Guide to Synthetic and Natural Turfgrass for Sports Fields - Selection, Construction and Maintenance Considerations
Specification Outline, Construction, and Maintenance - Penn State University
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.
8 Steps to an Easy Field Facelift
Utilizing Soil Tests in Nutrient Management for Sports Fields
The STMA Collection of ASTM Standards for Athletic Fields
Advisory Bulletin 1: Determining the Right Sports Field for Your Athletes
Advisory Bulletin 2: Suggested Equipment List
Advisory Bulletin 3: In-House; Architect-Bid-Contractor; Design-Build; Owner's Representative... What works best for building your sports field?
Advisory Bulletin 4: The Fundamentals of Project Management
Advisory Bulletin 5: 'Lessons Learned': Peer Advice on the Management of Synthetic Sports Fields
Sand Base Fields Don't Work! (But They Could) - Washington State University
Building Athletic Fields - University of Nebraska
Turfgrass Establishment - Penn State University
Carolina Athletic Fields: A Guide to Maintaining Quality Turf on Athletic Fields - North Carolina State University

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International Resources