Site Construction at Gilman Field / Notes and Images

After months or years of digital abstraction, witnessing a material’s properties in person is a wonderful learning opportunity built into the design and construction process.

The Tom Bates Regional Sports Complex in Berkeley, California – locally known as Gilman Fields – is undergoing a much-needed renovation of its two multi-use synthetic turf fields. Few materials laid out over acres creates a simple demonstration of a material’s interaction with local conditions.

Building this knowledge can contribute to a better landscape practice and landscape performance.

For example, synthetic turf carpet shrinks and expands in response to temperature. In the early morning of a worker’s day, the synthetic turf carpet is rolled out across the field. As the sun passes overhead, the carpet heats and expands. This produces subtle ripples across the field. Night temperatures dip into the 30’s and the carpet tightens again.

Thoughtful timing saves resources. Expansion and tightening would continue if it weren’t for sand infill working as a ballast and nails. In the early morning, sand infill is added on top of the carpet at its tightest. The carpet is nailed at its most expanded in afternoon heat.

Below are images from the past two months of construction.

The field's old synthetic turf rolled up for recycling.
A percolation test studies the quality of site drainage.
Installation of striping material.
Striping almost complete.
In contrast, a worn goal post shows years of play.
Natural grass and synthetic turf neighbors.

Site Visit

San Rafael High School Stadium / Carducci Associates Gives New Life to Marin's 80-Year-Old-Field

What began in 2008 with an anonymous donation has come to full realization in 2017: the renovation of Marin’s oldest playing field. Miller Field was constructed during the 1930s and has been improved over decades; today, it is the county’s only playing field with sports lighting. Yet the site endured persistent challenges due to resource-intensive natural turf maintenance, a lack of universal accessibility, and neighborhood sound and light pollution.

Carducci Associates led the renovation of Miller Field to resolve these issues by introducing cutting-edge athletic facility design that also serves the community as grounds for physical education, graduation, fairs, training, and performances. Additions and upgrades include: a new all-weather, 9-lane track for 3-way track meets, a synthetic turf field (comprised of a natural cork infill and a pad for player safety and drainage), a new home team grandstand, scoreboard, and visitor’s bleachers, an energy efficient, state-of-the-art LED stadium lighting and sound system, and new restrooms, concession stand, parking, and stadium entry plaza. The San Rafael City Schools Bond Program shares photos and information about the projects current status.

Many stakeholders have been involved in the eight-year process. More than two-thirds of voters approved Measure B, a $161 million bond to be spent on San Rafael City Schools. The first Measure B project is the renovation of the San Rafael High School Stadium. Parent volunteers, neighbors, athletic team boosters, teachers, district staff, coaches, and the Principal and the Athletic Director, have all contributed time, insight and fundraising to the project’s success. In our office, the project is known for its league of contributors: Principals Bill Fee and Vince Lattanzio, Senior Associates Alvin Tang and Tim Skinner, and associates Lee Streitz, Philip Dinh, Karly Behncke, Jihwan Kim and Joel Franceschi.

Synthetic turf offers a safe and level playing field, extension of the seasonal use of the field, savings in water use and maintenance costs, and elimination of noise and air pollution associated with mechanical mowers. Removing the need for chemical fertilizer and pesticide application, the high school’s neighboring San Rafael Creek and the greater San Francisco Bay will benefit from a reduction in water pollution. In collaboration with Van Pelt Construction Services and Robert A. Bothman managing the construction process, the stadium is scheduled to open in Spring 2018—ready for the community and fans of the San Rafael Bulldogs to gather for traditional Friday Night Lights football games.

Groundbreaking at Miller Field in May 2017.
Six months into construction at Miller Field, November 2017.

Press Release / Site Visit / Event

San Francisco’s First Bay-Friendly Rated Park, Designed by Carducci Associates / A Visit to the McLaren Rain Garden

Bay-Friendly Landscaping practices and design have been a consistent feature in Alameda County cities, and the movement championed by ReScape California is expanding state-wide. San Francisco Rec and Park adopted Bay-Friendly practices in 2014, and Carducci Associates is proud to announce that we were selected as Bay-Friendly designers for the team producing the first Bay-Friendly Rated SF Parks project!

McLaren Rain Garden is a series of terraces at the eastern edge of this large City park. The rain garden intercepts street and landscape water that formerly flooded city streets. Planting is 100% native, pollinator-friendly, and uses grey water harvested from within the park for irrigation. Abundant native flowering plants support the City’s new directive as a pollinator city.

Associate Principal Wesley Bexton designed the rain garden following the Bay-Friendly documentation process. Having participated in the requisite training, Carducci Associates has two additional Bay-Friendly Qualified Professionals (BFQPs), Senior Associate Alvin Tang and Associate George Chacon (bios here), with specific training in the unique regional aspects of landscape design, construction and maintenance in the Bay Area.

Panoramic Shot of McLaren Rain Garden, McLaren Park, San Francisco
Lighter and brighter plants used in the foreground contrast against the background's dark-leafed and evergreen trees.
Foreground: Diplacus aurantiacus (Sticky Monkey Flower). Background: Juncus patens (California Grey Rush) and Epilobium canum (California Fuchsia; the plant formerly known as Zauschneria californica).
Foreground: Salvia sonomensis (Creeping Sage). Background: Juncus patens (California Grey Rush) and Muhlenbergia rigens (Deer Grass).
Achillea spp. (Yarrow) and Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage).

Press Release / Site Visit

Notes on the Power of Maintenance / Carducci Associates Principal Bill Fee Reflects

“The design and construction process is a short term solution, maintenance is the long-term improvement.”

Maintenance is an ambivalent figure in all landscape projects, an unsung hero, a menace, a practice unsightly or celebrated; regardless of its specific disposition, it is powerful. The designs of landscape architects are ultimately a temporal product of an interaction between numerous agents, within and beyond the agency of the site owner: development in and around the site, climate change, plant diseases and invasive newcomers. Maintenance practices insert an element of control over the original design and guide its form and function over time, whether the design is meant to remain as visually similar as possible to the initial design or to evolve in a specified direction.

“Those who maintain the landscape have the final word on how the landscape looks.” A 17th Century vegetable garden at Versailles still has its central fountain scrubbed clean, 300 years later. In contemporary California, water-loving plant shrivels quickly here without adequate irrigation. Labor, time, money (usually), and tools are central to both. “Synchronizing” with those who maintain landscapes, and accounting for maintenance practices and resources from the start of a design process guarantees a higher-quality site for the long haul. Carducci Associates Principal Bill Fee shares his thoughts on this, quoted throughout this article.

Maintenance and Synthetic Turf

“A balance of synthetic and natural turf allows for more maintenance resources to be committed to natural grass fields.”

Healdsburg High School now has an outdoor classroom and surrounding plaza grounded with synthetic turf. The absence of mowers quiets the learning environment.

For athletic fields withstanding rigorous use - especially public multi-use sports fields and school fields accessible by the public under joint-use agreements - the endurance of the material is critical. Daily use will test a material. We design with synthetic turf in these cases to minimize the cost and time of high maintenance demanded by a living, organic turf grass.

Maintenance and Public Agencies

“Optimally, we design for maintenance by including the maintenance personnel as part of the project team.”

For the City of Millbrae, Carducci designed Taylor Middle School’s multi-use athletic fields, which are a publicly shared resource under a joint-use agreement. The Parks Division supervisor and superintendent responsible for maintaining the fields were included from the beginning of the design process as owners. Eight years later, the Division continues to maintain the fields in good condition.

As demand grows for Taylor and Millbrae’s other joint-use school district sports fields, we continue to work intimately with the Parks Division in a broader Parks and Facilities Master Plan Update. Maintenance is “the backbone of American parks. Historically, they are trees and mowed grass. The modern park is trees and mowed grass, with shrubs and groundcovers, and stormwater treatment.” Knowledge from those maintaining not only these joint-use athletic fields, but also public medians, parks, street trees, and trails, is fundamental to all aspects of the planning process: an inventory, evaluation, vision, goals and recommendations for the next twenty years of the city’s landscape elements.

Simultaneously, shifting the burden off of athletic fields allows for those maintenance resources to be allocated across often tightly-stretched cities. Public agencies not only care for highly visible sites like parks and fields, but also medians, street trees, and other in-between spaces.

For city on-call services, Carducci recognizes maintenance as a driver of the landscape experience. Working with cities, including Berkeley, Hayward and Oakland, we discuss habits and aesthetics. Today we advocate for landscapes that “look natural, not manicured.”

Principal Bill Fee inspects the joint-use Millbrae Scool District athletic fields with Millbrae's Parks Superintendent Ken Crosetti.
Planning for high-quality, high-use public recreational facilities requires simultaneous planning for medians and other small spaces. Here, a map of Millbrae's maintained landscape.
Strategic use of synthetic turf for an outdoor classroom at Healdsburg High School replaces the noises and emissions of natural turf grass mowers.

Site Visit