The foundation for fun
Last year, city leaders from Malden and Melrose, Mass., worked together to build a new sports field at a park that borders the two cities. The field, which has a synthetic grass surface, has eased an acute shortage of playing fields in the area and provides an all-weather playing surface for local school children, youth athletic leagues and an adult rugby club.
In recent years, Malden and Melrose have struggled to keep up with an increasing demand for athletic field space. The demand has been fueled by a growing local interest in sports that require rectangular fields, such as football, soccer, rugby, field hockey and lacrosse. Responding to requests from residents, the two cities combined their resources to build a multi-purpose field at Pine Banks Park, a 110-acre recreational complex established by a private non-profit foundation nearly a century ago and shared by the cities. The park’s Board of Trustees, which includes representatives of both cities as well as local community members, managed the field’s development.
The board hired Burlington, Mass.-based Fay, Spofford & Thorndike, an engineering firm, to create a master plan, design the field and oversee construction. Because land was at a premium, the engineer had few choices for locating the field within the park. Working with Canton, Mass.-based Nangle Consulting Associates, an environmental consultant, the engineer developed a plan to reclaim land that served as a municipal burning dump decades ago. Because of the site’s history, the site design called for adding a protective layer of gravel between the field and any materials remaining in the soil.
The original plan called for a 140,000-square-foot, rectangular, sand-based, natural grass field, but, just as the grass field was ready to be installed, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs awarded Pine Banks Park a $500,000 Urban Self-Help Grant. As a result of the additional funds, the engineer recommended switching to a synthetic grass surface that would be more durable than natural grass and less expensive to maintain.
The board hired Boston-based Geller Sport to help develop the specifications for the synthetic surface. Together, the cities and their consultants considered a number of options and decided to use a synthetic surface in which the space between individual “blades” of grass in the surface carpet are filled with a mixture of sand and rubber, which provides a realistic and resilient playing surface.
The new field at Pine Banks Park opened in fall 2003 and was used extensively by high school soccer and field hockey, adult rugby and Pop Warner football teams. Unlike grass, the synthetic field is not vulnerable to adverse weather. Springtime games are not affected by melting snow or spring rains, and autumn games are not affected by early frosts or snow. As a result, the field can be used later into the fall season than a natural grass field. Also, spring sports can begin earlier.
In addition to the state grant, funding for the project’s $1,100,000 construction cost was provided by Malden and Melrose, area rugby and football associations, and a donation by a local private foundation. This spring, Pine Banks Park received a second grant of $306,000 from the state to fund additional improvements to the new field. The money is being used to install field lighting, a parking lot and other site improvements.