Artificial Playing Field at Smith College to Benefit Athletes, Environment
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – This summer, Smith College will replace an existing grass playing field with artificial turf, a move that will benefit the environment and increase the amount of time athletes can use the field.
Having recently received approval from the city’s Conservation Commission, the project is slated to begin in April and be completed by the start of the next academic year.
“One of the driving forces for the new turf field is the sport of field hockey,” said Lynn Oberbillig, director of athletics. “Today the game is played exclusively on artificial turf. Our prospective student-athletes have all played on artificial surfaces in high school or through a club program.”
As part of the project, the field will be slightly expanded in size to meet National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) regulations for lacrosse, as well as field hockey. Lacrosse is now increasingly played on artificial turf, according to Oberbillig.
Sporting events played on artificial turf are much faster and involve a different skill set, she said. In the conference in which Smith competes – the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) – seven of the nine member schools already have turf fields.
Unlike the grass field, the turf will enable the Smith Pioneers to practice and compete outside year-round. With the grass field, the area was not able to be used during the winter and athletes had to wait for the land to dry out after the spring thaw before playing on it. When needed, the new field will accommodate other spring teams such as softball, soccer, Ultimate (Frisbee) and intramural programs. In addition, local athletic teams will also benefit from its availability.
Artificial turf offers a significant environmental benefit, according to John Robinson, manager of capital projects for Smith. The turf will eliminate the need for 900,000 gallons of water in irrigation each year and eliminate the use of any pesticides and herbicides on that swath of land.
As part of the design, a sophisticated underground drainage system will catch and store rainwater and release it over time, eliminating runoff and, instead, steadily recharging the land, said Robinson.
A significant proportion of the $1.3 million project will be covered with funds donated by a former field hockey player, her friends and family, said Oberbillig.
The cost of the project includes the relocation of one of a dozen outdoor tennis courts. That tennis court will be moved to an area formerly designated as a croquet court. The project will also fund improvements such as the blacktopping and creation of a turnaround for buses in the adjacent parking lot.