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First-year Minor League field hits home run

September 5, 2009  - By

By: Cindy Grahl Greenwald

he Lake Erie Crushers players adjusted well to their new stadium and synthetic turf playing field and earned a spot in the Frontier League playoffs

AVON, OH — The City of Avon has grown from a farming community in north central Ohio into a progressive city with amenities without losing its small town charm.

The Lake Erie Crushers players adjusted well to their new stadium and synthetic turf playing field and earned a spot in the Frontier League playoffs

As part of this change, the city was able to attract a new minor league team, Lake Erie Crushers of the Frontier League, who are now playing baseball at the newly constructed All-Pro Freight Stadium. Chris Wynn, whose firm Osports (Osborn Sports Architecture) was selected as the design architect and architect of record, explains that the $13 million, 32,000-sq.-ft. baseball stadium was designed to seat 3,500 fans, with another 1,500 on a grassy field beyond the outfield fence. The facility consists of 11 private suites, 2,600 box seats, 100 4-person terrace tables, picnic and patio areas, along with full concession stands on 8.5 acres.

The new playing surface

Sports Construction Group (SCG), headquartered in downtown Cleveland, got the contract to install its SCG Signature synthetic turf as All-Pro Freight’s playing surface at the stadium. Synthetic was selected for several reasons, says Matt Hogg, SCG regional sales manager and a former professional football player.

Playing baseball in spring in northeast Ohio is an iffy proposition because of the weather. “For a Minor League baseball team, revenue is important so they can’t afford to have rainouts because of poor field conditions,” says Hogg. “Also, Minor League teams don’t have the budget for a field maintenance staff like in the Major Leagues. If it rains most don’t have the manpower to roll out a tarp and cover the field. More and more baseball fields are going to (synthetic) turf,” says Hogg,

SCG, using six union crewmembers, worked through April to install the synthetic, crumb-rubber infill playing surface and finished May 13. Besides being secured and fused together with seaming tape and hot glue, the 15-ft.-wide panels of monofilament material was attached to the inside perimeter of the stadium for additional security.

Hogg says the installation of synthetic playing surfaces at all levels of competition has increased dramatically the past three or four years, but demand for turfgrass fields remains strong, too. SCG, which specializes in high-performance fields, installed the turfgrass playing field at the new Yankee Stadium and at several Minor Leagues ballparks this past year or two and has bids out for several similar installations now.

All-Pro Freight Stadium is only part of Phase One of an Avon parks and recreation master plan. Another is the $13.5 million, 65,000-sf French Creek YMCA recreation center under construction on 122 acres adjacent to the stadium and planned to be open by December 2009. Designed by Doty and Miller, it will include two swimming pools and two exercise areas. Both projects are being funded through a 0.25% income tax passed by voters Nov. 2008.

Root for the home team

Avon mayor Jim Smith explains that city and Lake County needed a recreation center, but it couldn’t afford one to serve a population of 17,000 people without partnering with the YMCA. The city will provide 60% of the construction costs, with maintenance and operations handled by the Y and the maintenance of the ballpark handled by the Frontier team. “We could have only afforded 40,000 square foot by ourselves,” says the mayor.

In addition, 27-acres of the site is seeing $4 million worth of infrastructure, with new roads, and lighted parking for 1500 cars. According to Wynn, future projects include the western edge of the site (which will be the community playing fields built in the next few years and parking), while the

Even the brown warning track is a monofilament synthetic

ballpark, YMCA and a potential ice rink, could complete the civic buildings. The eastern part of the site would be commercially developed with a hotel, restaurants, office buildings, etc., also in the next few years. The overall site was bought by the City of Avon for future economic development use. “Besides being an economic tool for development, the ballpark becomes a proud symbol of Avon’s evolution, under Mayor Jim Smith’s direction,” Wynn says.

So much is going on that the city is working with RWL Architects as the executive architect serving as the client’s representative to handle the specifications and construction administration services on all three projects. Ronald Landig of RWL Architects says the planning stage began with Osports during the fall of 2007 and included programming, design and construction documents to 100% completion. The project was advertised for bid in May 2008 and was awarded in June 2008 to Infinity Construction of Warrensville Heights. Infinity had completed other City of Avon facilities, including the Avon fire station, police station and post office, previously.

Take me out with the crowd

Wynn explains that Osports was selected to design the main ballpark building, clubhouse and storage buildings, keeping the seating bowl and concourses separate, using the city’s design guidelines for traditional architecture featuring red brick masonry incorporated on all civic buildings. They also had to keep in mind the intimacy of minor league ballparks, the need to hold 7,000-plus patrons for concerts, and the importance of a family-oriented facility with affordable pricing. Landig explains that their architects came up with the design after much research and existing stadium visits in Ohio and out-of-state.

The ballpark is clearly visible from the highway, adding to the city’s luster, with a mesh net to protect traffic from foul balls. But the entryway for the ballpark faces the rest of Lorain County, to welcome citizens. “The ballpark is an evolution of the Frontier League’s facility program and is the new benchmark for the league,” Wynn says. The league’s signature program elements are shown in the combination seating bowl and wide concourse behind it, wrapped around the field. Also, the ballpark building on the concourse level includes the team shop with offices and ticket sales, concessions/commissary, toilet rooms and support areas, while the suite level includes 11 suites, a press box, two open suites for groups, toilet rooms, food service and the executive team offices.

Lastly, the site amenities include a custom scoreboard, Kid’s Zone play area and continuous walkway next to the homerun fence that connects to the concourse. “Osports is known for doing this kind of work and knowing how to provide just what is needed,” says the mayor. “Infinity Construction, which saw full overview of the project, has worked with the city on a lot of other projects.”

If you build it

The site contractor was selected by the city to prepare the site to grade so that Infinity Construction could begin constructing the foundations and utilities in July, 2008. “Site conditions were a challenge, since the infrastructure leading into the project was underway at the same time and was being handled by another vendor directly with Avon. Since all roads and utilities leading to the

The Crushers wore pink uniforms this particular game to publicize breast cancer awareness

stadium were being constructed while the stadium was being built, coordination between contractors was critical to maintain access for materials and workers,” says Mark Vega, project manager for Infinity. “The other issue was trying to complete an entire stadium from the ground up thru an Ohio winter and be ready to play ball in 10 months.

Another key element was getting submittals and engineering completed upfront in an expedited format. This task was handled and coordinated by Vince Notarberardino, project engineer. “It was a great job by all subcontractors involved. They and Bill Belloma of RWL Architects, who was on-site daily reviewing submittals with me, enabled us to make quick release of materials needed in the early parts of construction,” notes Notarberardino.

All MEP items were installed underground he explains, because of the unique design of a separate clubhouse building from the concourse area. The front wall of the seating bowl was poured 1′ above the baseball field grade and the rear wall 7′ above exterior grade. This area was then filled with over 12,000 cu. yd. of compacted clay to form the seating bowl and concourse area. The clay was a cost-effective way of bringing the concourse area up to subgrade as it was available from a nearby site. At the time of steel erection, the early winter weather began to become a factor in constructing the masonry and interior portion of the project.

In early November, the roof was installed, and the early arrival of heavy snow. Infinity installed a temporary enclosure over the entire front and rear portion of the stadium, allowing work to continue as propane heat was used to maintain 45-50 degree working temperatures. This enclosure, designed by Infinity, was used through the record cold in January and February.

“We had to delay our masonry work to construct winter protection. After a delay of almost three weeks, Infinity resumed masonry work and continued with other areas of construction until the middle of April when the enclosure was removed so exterior work could be completed,” says Mark Busta, project superintendent overseeing field coordination.

There’s always something going on between innings at a Minor League game

It was the middle of March when major underground field preparation began. The drainage system is comprised of contoured subgrade with #57 and #10 stone over a complicated underground drain piping system that can handle a 3-in. rainfall in only an hour and a half. The installation of the drainage system lasted approximately five weeks and was immediately followed by the installation of the artificial turf. Avon’s field is one of the first baseball fields to use the artificial turf in this area. The field contains approximately 220 tons of rubber pellets, which become part of the base and grass playing field. “We went to see the facility in Florence, KY, and decided to have a turf surface at the ballpark,” explains Mayor Smith, due to the wide uses the stadium will be used for.

The seat installation began in the middle of April with completion during the second week of May. With the interiors 75% complete and the exterior finishes starting the same time as the turf and drain system, the protection was removed in the middle of April and the exterior facade was completed, moving the balance of the project being completed by middle of May which was a few weeks ahead of the original schedule.


“The construction of the ballpark was fast and furious! Infinity Construction did a tremendous job working in challenging winter conditions and they are on board to complete the facility by the June 2nd opening game. There were no real significant events or setbacks along the way,” Mayor Wynn says. “I believe this ballpark will be a great asset to the city and will be an economic development tool to complete the 133 acres available at the site. The ballpark sets a high standard for design and construction.”

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