When it comes to municipal parks and recreation areas, many have been slowly transitioning into multi-sport parks. For example, once serving singular sports such as baseball or soccer, these parks are now designed with fields and diamonds for both. With increasing populations and sports programming, municipalities are finding that transitioning their parks and recreational areas to be multi-use is providing the solution they need to serve their growing communities.
While on the surface, these shared spaces serve a variety of purposes and have a positive impact on community participation and inclusion. However, there are situations in which the sports can inadvertently interfere with one another. In many cases, this presents no real risk to spectators or participants but in some cases, stray balls can increase the risk of injury to those on adjacent sports fields or bleachers.
This was the case at the city of North Bay’s Veterans Park. With a baseball diamond running alongside the soccer pitch, it didn’t take long for the big bats to send stray balls directly into the soccer field and sometimes into the spectators area. In 2022, the city made the bold decision to suspend soccer play on the south end of the park as a precautionary measure. At that point, there had been no injuries reported, but there were multiple reports of foul balls coming within inches of players and coaches on the pitch.
A staff report published in the spring 2023 highlighted the risks to both players, coaches and spectators alike.
"[In 2022], the risk of foul balls landing in the area around the youth soccer was identified due to the increased number of players and spectators in the area where foul balls could be hit. It was determined that an installation of baseball field safety netting between the baseball diamonds and the soccer field would reduce the risk of foul balls landing in the area where the youth soccer fields were located," the report read.
Considering some of the recent upgrades to the site, key stakeholders from the city decided against moving the fields. It wasn’t long after this that our team was contacted to help design a solution that not only would keep everyone safe, but would get community teams back on the fields as soon as possible.
Our team was quick to visit the site to have a look at the entire layout, plan for potential layouts, and post placements as these large netting projects require many layers of engineering expertise. In addition to placement and overall design, available space and soil conditions play a role and should always be taken into consideration.
The project ended up requiring poles in custom lengths as well as unique footing designs. Considering their placement and the particular soil on site, the footings were engineered to be placed further in the ground than most other large netting barrier installations.
After a lot of engineering, the project was completed by our team in the early fall of 2023. With the new netting structures deployed, Veterans Park was once again firing on all cylinders. With soccer fields and baseball diamonds again in use at the same time, it’s another project well done by both our on-site team and our engineering department to ensure community sports in Veterans Park are back in full swing.