do you do when your field is run down, worn out, poorly drained
– in a word, inadequate -- and there is zero chance of
finding the funds in the budget to solve the problem? All your
mowing, fertilizing, sprinkling, and coring efforts have been
to no avail. The dilemma is commonplace, especially in small
schools but also for secondary sports in larger schools.
was pretty much the situation faced by soccer coach Ryan Clymer
(Class of 95) at Faith Christian Academy in Sellersville, PA.
The soccer field was clearly not up to par and it was not anywhere
near the top of the priority list in this year’s budget,
(or any other year’s budget for that matter.) Clymer is
an active member of the school’s Alumni Association. One
night last July (2005), after a friendly alumni soccer grudge
match with the high school team, there was considerable hand
wringing about the dismal condition of the field.
for the soccer program, the timing could not have been better.
The Alumni Association was on the hunt for a project to rally
around. Clymer suggested that the Alumni undertake a major overhaul
of the soccer field. High-octane Faith alumnus, Henry Thompson
(Class of '90), was so taken by the idea that he could hardly
sleep that night. The board had received estimates of nearly
$300,000 to renovate the field and they were not at all confident
that even this would provide satisfactory results. Henry was
convinced that if given the mandate, the Alumni Association
could do the job right and at a fraction of the cost.
board’s primary concern was the drainage system. The original
field had been built some 25 years earlier with little attention
to drainage. Considerable compaction and settling had occurred
in the intervening years. They did not want to see a lot of
time, effort and money invested in the project only to find
that imperfect drainage had derailed success. Henry and his
cohorts thoroughly researched drainage systems and came to the
conclusion that the Multi-Flow drainage system was their ace
of spades. Thompson summarized, “It appeared to be effective,
fast, and durable: all the things the board was looking for.”
recalls, “We were pretty pleased to find out that we could
install a 21st century drainage system, like the professionals
use, for about 1/3 the cost of one employing an outdated method.”
He was also surprised to find out that the Multi-Flow technical
staff was willing to spend time with him designing a system
custom made for the Faith field, one that they could install
the Faith Board of Directors gave their stamp of approval to
the Alumni plan which included not only a Multi-Flow drainage
system but also a sprinkler system, an enlarged playing surface,
extended perimeter safety zones, 1300 tons of fill, amended
top soil, scoreboard, press box, sod, and last but not least,
a two-tired patio area! Excitement began to build among the
students, with parents, and in the surrounding community.
field was asked to carry a lot of traffic. With varsity and
JV boys’ soccer in the fall and varsity and JV girls soccer
in the spring and practices all summer long, the field seldom
rests. Athletic Director Russ Hollinbach recalled that the situation
was especially critical when the school hosted tournaments and
eight games were scheduled in two days.
question remained, however, how was this ambitious project going
to be funded? The total value of the project had been estimated
at $400,000 but a goal was set to accomplish it with $70,000
in cash. The Alumni Association was willing to raise the cash
and it was able to provide substantial free labor. Much of that
labor was experienced in various phases of construction.
material costs were a substantial part of the budget. Henry
Thompson began the process of establishing working relationships
with materials providers. In all of his contacts he spread enthusiasm
for the Faith Academy soccer project and he looked for ways
that Faith could be of value to the vendors. One example of
this was in his dealings with Multi-Flow manufacturer, Varicore
Technologies. Varicore had already provided him with drainage
consultation, CADD drawings, and cost estimates. Thompson offered
to host an athletic field drainage seminar for schools, colleges
and park departments in the Philadelphia area. The seminar was
a big success for all parties. Forty-five landscape superintendents
and maintenance professionals attended the seminar and were
effectively educated about innovative solutions to a critical
common problem: drainage. Varicore was pleased to establish
contact with a large number of potential customers. Faith was
delighted with the donation Varicore made to the soccer field
project in consideration of the seminar. Everyone went home
relationships were established with numerous other companies.
Some of these had prior connections with the church or school
and wanted to support it, while others found supporting the
project to simply be good for business.
project implementation began in April of 2006 when several small
buildings, including the press box, were dismantled and 1500
tons of fill were hauled in. The additional fill allowed for
the field to be expanded 30 feet to the south which was in the
direction of a very steep downward slope. The fill also allowed
for a leveling of the field surface. After the field was graded,
a large group of volunteers gathered to remove rocks, sticks,
and other debris.
came the sprinkler system. They installed a system usually reserved
for larger sports complexes. This means that the field should
remain green well into the fall. The sprinklers are easily adjusted
for trajectory and rotation, taking into account wind and coverage
requirements. They are regulated by a computer operated timer
that automatically adjusts watering schedules combining user
preferences with daily satellite-transmitted weather station
data. This technology provides substantial money, water, and
Multi-Flow drainage lines were trenched into the field at 15
foot intervals careful to avoid the irrigation lines. The Multi-Flow
shape insures that water can enter the system quickly; the Multi-Flow
structure assures that water can be carried away speedily; and
the heavy needle punched geo-textile filter will protect the
system from siltation. These collector lines followed the natural
contour of the field emptying into PVC transport pipes on each
side of field. Trenches were 4 inches wide and 15 inches deep.
Coarse sand was used to backfill the trenches. This backfill
surrounded the Multi-Flow and extended to the surface. It will
provide a favorable path for water to follow to reach the drainage
medium as well as protecting the geotextile filter from clay
collector lines, one down each side of the field, graduated
from a 4-inch, to a 6-inch, and finally to an 8-inch PVC pipe
as they progressed down the field allowing for the increased
volume of water they will be expected to carry.
the installation of the sub-surface drainage system, the field,
was regraded and a layer of field mix was added. Sodding occurred
in late June. Only hours after the sod was in place, five days
of record setting rainfall began. Five inches fell on one day
alone! Most athletic fields in the area were submerged. Many
were heavily damaged. Henry Thompson and his group were delighted
to find that there was no water left standing on their field
when the rain finally stopped. Coach Clymer commented that he
is confident that his “field will be in excellent shape
despite, the wettest summer in 50 years.”
alumni group has now started work on the two-tier 2,000 square
foot patio overlooking the field. The field is located on a
terrace of a hillside overlooking scenic Sellersville. The patio
will make a great place to grill some brats while watching the
boys’ team pursue their fifth district championship in
six years or the girls’ team working at earning the sixth
championship in seven years.
it would be less hassle if such projects could be funded in
the general budget, but the approach taken by the Sellersville
group did have some advantages. To mention just a few:
has heightened awareness of and support for the Faith Christian
Academy soccer program.
field has attained a degree of personality and uniqueness
it never would have had under a conventional budget/engineer/contactor
relationships were established that will be beneficial for
future business dealings.
team and other project participants feel a high degree of
ownership in the completed project.
Previously untapped community skills and resources were identified
The end result was certainly of a higher quality than it would
have been if it had been funded from the budget.
The cost to the school was zero!
fall when the snare drum and bagpipes lead the team up the hill
to make their traditional entrance onto the field the team will
have its sights set not on the field but on a state championship.
One thing is for certain, they will have a very pleasant venue
for soccer and fans will be treated to watching a match on a
premier field ready for action, regardless of last week’s
weather or schedule.