Building an Effective Outdoor Sports Field Complex:
Berrien Springs Public Schools

Jul 14, 2021 | Athletics

Berrien Springs Sylvester Stadium - Artifical Turf - Blog

Sylvester Stadium directly results from a campus-wide master plan study and the desire to organize common uses more effectively. Before this development, the District had a soccer field and running track in one location and a football stadium in another. Combining all outdoor track and field activities opens up the heart of campus for future development.

Master Planning

An expansive development such as a sports field complex is indeed a small master plan study – balancing spatial planning for approximately 10 acres, circulation, and site utilities.

Berrien Springs Master Plan - Property Acquisition

More Real Estate Needed

From the moment we began to lay out the many components of this project, we knew the lack of real estate was an issue. The CARMI Design Group team immediately asked the District to consider property acquisition contiguous with the proposed project site. Since property acquisition was a key master plan consideration, Berrien Springs Public Schools purchased three properties to facilitate adequate space for track field events (i.e., discus and shot put).

Berrien Springs Master Plan - Property Acquisition

Foot and Vehicular Traffic Flow

As you can imagine, circulation is always a key design element when attempting to segregate pedestrian and vehicular traffic safely. Pathways, fencing, and gates allowed us to maintain day-to-day student traffic and game-day spectator traffic, especially ticket management.

Berrien Springs Master Plan - Circulation

Drainage System and Artificial Turf

The faithful spectator watching a final regional game on a brisk fall night doesn’t realize that beneath the artificial turf field, rubberized running track, and parking lot, a series of stormwater collection structures and piping transports a tremendous amount of rainwater.

As with many stormwater systems, the collected water ultimately needs to empty somewhere. In this case, it is the St. Joseph River via the Village of Berrien Springs’ municipal system.

Be sure to involve your local city, township, and county governments early in the process to verify their infrastructure can accommodate your development.

As with any project, the architect identifies and prioritizes all owner design program items and then establishes a budget to ultimately determine what’s included or excluded. Money always has a way of humbling the process. Some decisions, however, have to do with life cycle costing and maximizing the value for dollars spent.

An artificial turf field was one of those decisions giving all outdoor athletics and the marching band unlimited access to the field without the worry of deterioration. Getting on the field in the early spring, during the wet season, is no longer an issue with a well-draining field surface.

Berrien Springs Sylvester Stadium - Artifical Turf - Blog

All Sports Considered

Optimizing all sports at the outdoor sports complex was a priority, so we selected a double bend running track to offer the width required for a competition soccer field. Instead of one radius at each end of the field, two radii at each end (one at each corner) offer a wider field within the limits of the running track.

Berrien Springs Sylvester Stadium - Double Bend Running Track - Blog

Small Scale Stadium Comforts

Since the Stadium is separate from other facilities on campus, the District had a desire to combine the home side spectator seating with a Team Building beneath the bleachers to accommodate team/locker rooms, restrooms, concessions, and storage.

Symmetrically designed, the Access Tunnel or Vomitory divides the building into a home/visitor or male/female arrangement for athletic lockers and restrooms. Attendees can access concessions and community restrooms from the Tunnel or the Entrance Plaza. A Trainer/Laundry Room is accessible from The Tunnel or the South Locker Room.

Berrien Springs Sylvester Stadium - Tunnel - Blog
Berrien Springs Sylvester Stadium - Locker Rooms - Blog


The District included an elevator for the Press Box to assist with handicap accessibility concerns. We recommend involvement from an elevator consultant throughout the design and construction of your project to help you with the many mechanical, electrical, and technology systems required to satisfy state elevator plan reviews and inspections.

Berrien Springs Sylvester Stadium - Press Box - Blog

Technology is an Absolute

Thirty years ago, technology was often an after-thought during the design process. But now, if you don’t involve your technology consultant early in the process, you can expect to be left with exposed low voltage conduit running aimlessly throughout your building.

Berrien Springs Sylvester Stadium - Digital Sign -Blog

The “Remote World” of High School Sports

No one ever thought we’d see a pandemic in our lifetime, nor did we think a pandemic would so impact our businesses or construction projects. But, as with everything in life, something good often comes from something bad.

The “remote world,” as we came to know it taught us how to interact effectively – remotely. Sylvester Stadium only had two home football games last fall due to state mandates concerning COVID-19. With the uncertainty of in-person spectator involvement, the District decided to invest in live feed cameras to broadcast their games remotely to local “Shamrock” fans or those alumni located across the country.

The combination of live feed broadcasting with door access control, security cameras, and a multi-sport interactive digital scoreboard makes you realize projects are not held together by bricks and mortar anymore – it’s low voltage wiring.

The success of this project has everything to do with an owner with a clear vision and a collaborative master plan process with all local stakeholders. You must be resilient during some very precarious times. If you are interested in developing an outdoor sports complex and require an exceptional design partner who thoroughly understands the many moving parts of this type of development, don’t hesitate to contact CARMI Design Group.