Managing Sports Fields
Centennial Parklands is a critical provider of community use turf sports fields in Sydney - in fact, we manage 36 turf sports fields all up, representing twice the number of turf fields provided by the four surrounding local councils!
With 550,000 sports participants, including more than 230 sports clubs and associations using Centennial Parklands sports fields and facilities annually, we have an intensively used space that needs to be well regulated and maintained to ensure that we can continue to provide high quality, safe and reliable fields and facilities for use throughout the year.
From juniors to elite
Our turf sports fields are in particular high demand, with the booming growth in sports such as football (soccer), touch football, and new and emerging sports such as OzTag, TRL and Ultimate Frisbee. From junior school and community teams to ellite sporting teams (Sydney Swans, Sydney Roosters, NSW Waratahs), we provide opportunities for the whole community.
We also host numerous sporting events every year – and in 2010 we even hosted the world’s largest rugby union festival, the Golden Oldies World Rugby Festival.
Find the balance
With this level of demand and activity for our sports fields, there is a need for us to find a balance between the social/recreational needs of the community with the environmental needs of the physical environment. Our role is to provide and maintain high quality sports fields and facilities for the community. However, with this comes the realities of dealing with physical assets in an outdoor setting.
There are a number of key issues we manage regarding our sports fields, including:
- our sports fields are some of the most intensively used in Australia;
- inclement weather is an obvious impact – extensive rains or other extreme weather events can cause unsafe conditions and damage;
- sports fields universally have what is considered a ‘carrying capacity’ – that is, sports fields are rated regarding how much physical activity (wear and tear) they can ‘carry’ before the surface deteriorates and becomes dangerous or hazardous to users;
- turf ‘recovery’ between seasons is essential to improve drainage, reduce rootzone compaction, aerate the soil and allow the grasses to grow back. Without this time to recover, sports fields would rapidly become bare and unplayable. A conundrum at Centennial Parklands is that due to the demand for sporting fields we are not able to schedule a lengthy recovery period between the summer and winter (and vice versa) sports seasons;
- public safety is not-negotiable, and we are required to maintain all of our assets in a safe and responsible manner. Public safety is critical to the provision of sports fields, and is dependent on maintaining turf in robust health over a smooth and even ground plane; and
- public safety does not just include safe, solid surfaces, but also includes minimising/eliminating weeds, such as bindii.
External social factors have also impacted upon Centennial Parklands sports fields, such as the changing nature and demand levels for certain sports. A number of these sports have ‘harder wearing’ on our fields, and with growth in demand, this means a higher level of wear and tear.
Where it becomes a problem is when the increased wear and tear leads directly to increased costs of maintenance and repair, or leads to increased times that certain fields have to be closed for ‘recovery’.
This is the balance we have to find. Our actions to manage our sports fields are very deliberate, and very informed (for further reference, we participate in the Sports Turf Association‘s best use modelling program for sports surfaces).
What criteria do we use to close a sports field?
We are often asked about the critieria we use to assess whether a sports field has to occasionally be closed during periods of wet weather
The criteria behind the closure of sports fields are based on on-site inspections where we look at the following factors:
- how much water is present on the turf surface;
- how wet is the turf surface and can it stand up to the rigours of sporting activities without the quality of the surface being affected;
- the location of the field and the soil type present (eg. Queens Park drains far more freely than Moore Park West where there are constant drainage problems);
- the provision of a safe facility for our users; and/or
- ensuring that fields are available for use as quickly as possible and not have to be closed for extended periods to due a loss of quality of the turf surface through allowing sporting activities after wet periods.
How do we notify sports users of sports field closures?
There are three main ways of receiving the latest information on sports field status:
- We operate a Wet Weather Line, and update it when conditions change. You can phone the Wet Weather Line on (02) 9339 6670.
- For seasonal and various casual sports hirers, we also operate an SMS notification service.
- We have a sports field status daily update service available on our iPhone app.
Is this just a 'Centennial Parklands approach' to managing sports fields?
No, however part of the issue of managing our sports fields are specific to the Parklands.
Our practices, assessment regime and assessment criteria are benchmarked against industry standards. We do, however, vary to some local councils (for example) where they may call a field closed up to 24 hours in advance, we often make a final inspection on morning (before 7am) on whether a field can remain open. This allows us to maximise the opportunity for conditions to improve and the fields to be declared fit to play.
Where our management practice is influenced by local factors is largely dictated by history and geograohy. Much of Centennial Parklands is built on a former swamp and is a key part of the Botany Wetlands System. A lot of water drains into this part of the catchment, particularly during storm events in Sydney. The general slope of the land in Sydney’s eastern suburbs is from the eastern coastal suburbs, down to Botany Bay. Much stormwater from the eastern suburbs passes through the Parklands during the channelling process (the cross-sectional diagram on this page gives you an insight of this).
The combination of surface water above, and the water table below rising can lead to times when the ground becomes very soggy.
Investing in improving our sports fields
Over the last five years, we have invested millions of dollars in rolling out a program of irrigation and drainage installation/upgrades across Centennial Parklands. This will continue over coming years. We are even investigating the possibility of introducing artifical sports fields in a few select locations.
Don’t sports field hire fees pay for the maintenance?
The revenue raised from sports field hire only pays for just over half the total cost of maintaining our sports fields. Sports fields hire fees are set annually to allow broad community access and use, and to assist in the cost of maintenance and improvement. To raise these charges to fund the majority or entire cost of maintenance would be wholly unacceptable to the community.
Our iPhone app helps sports players!
Download our iPhone app to have a GPS-map to find your sports field, and to have real-time sports field status updates in your hand. Perfect for seasonal and casual sports participants alike!