Project Update: Near West Fields

Plans unfolding for upgrades at the Near West fields

In 2014, students voted overwhelmingly to support the Rec Sports Master Plan for new campus recreational facilities at UW-Madison. The plan includes the reconstruction of the SERF and Natatorium, along with upgrades to two of our fields near the Natatorium. With the Near West fields expected to be completed in 2016, the project is now underway and gaining momentum as it moves through the design phase.smithgroupjjr logo

SmithGroupJJR was selected as the architect and design firm to lead the project at Near West fields. A Madison-based firm, SmithGroupJJR brings experience in outdoor field design and a commitment to sustainability.  “Through multi-discipline, integrated design, we’re committed to delivering sustainable solutions not only for our clients but for the overall health of our planet,” the group states on its website. Sustainability continues to be a priority for us, as well, and we will continue to minimize the environmental impact at each of our locations.

An Environmental Impact Assessment is currently being performed at this site. Results of the study will be included in future posts.


What’s the plan?

The new Near West fields will include a variety of features that improve the outdoor experience for participants:

  • Synthetic turf surface
  • Scoreboards
  • Field lighting (low-energy) enhancements
  • Team benches and spectator bleachers
  • Perimeter fencing with access points
  • Bike racks and moped parking
  • Drinking fountains
  • Wi-Fi
  • Security cameras

Wblog_nearwest_soccerhy do we need new fields?

New fields will offer students:

  • A more durable surface
  • Longer seasons of play
  • Improved player safety
  • Space for more sports

A more durable surface
The current fields at Near West have a natural grass surface. Anyone living in Madison for at least a year understands the unpredictable local weather. After a rainy day or a snowy winter, water collects on the fields and saturates the surface. As a result, we often have to cancel or postpone activities (50% of outdoor activities, including Intramural Sports games, were cancelled this week alone due to saturated fields).

A synthetic turf prevents this type of field saturation and allows more games to be played.

Longer seasons of play
In addition to saturating our fields, the Wisconsin weather also creates short outdoor seasons for Intramural Sports and Sport Clubs. The snow and rain, combined with the amount of daylight, leads to condensed schedules for many student activities.

Low-energy field lighting, in addition to a synthetic turf field surface, provides more opportunities for students to play longer, later, and harder. As a division with a mission to enhance the UW-Madison experience, we look forward to giving students more reasons and opportunities to stay active. “Our role is to enhance the campus experience for students and provide a release from their academic responsibilities,” Chad Schultz, Coordinator of Competitive Sports, said. “The turf will help to better serve the students by providing a better service and lengthening the seasons.  Students invest of lot of resources in their education, and we feel it is important that they get a premium return on that investment.”

Improved player safety
Player injuries may be reduced with a flat, consistent field. A synthetic turf field offers a uniform surface, with fewer holes and divots than a natural grass field. The softer field surface also absorbs more shock during falls, relieving the player from absorbing some of the impact. “For a sport like soccer, having a playable surface is incredibly important,” senior student Tim Garvey said. “Not only does it improve the speed and quality of the game, but it provides a much safer and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.” Garvey is an Intramural Soccer Official for Rec Sports.

Space for more sports
“Not only will turf fields at Near West extend our seasons and nearly eliminate rain cancellations, but they will provide more playable space, which means more room for more sports and activities,” Ashley Lax, Assistant Director of Competitive Sports, said. The new fields will increase our ability to provide space for both our Intramural Sports and Sport Clubs programs.

The area currently hosts Intramural Flag Football games, but the redesigned layout will be able to accommodate even more:blog_nearwest_softball

  • Intramural Sports
    • Flag Football
    • Soccer
    • Softball
    • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Sport Clubs
    • Softball
    • Baseball
    • Ultimate Frisbee
    • Soccer
    • Lacrosse

Who’s paying for this?

The Near West fields will be funded by Rec Sports program revenue.


When can we see it?

As we move through the design process, we will be sharing renderings provided to us by SmithGroupJJR. Stay tuned for more information and updates about this and other Master Plan projects.

Play Hard, Wisconsin!

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