A Whole New Ballgame

Elevated Athletic Fields & Parking Garage, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester, Massachusetts

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) presented SMMA with a unique opportunity to colorfully transform a raised athletic field and parking garage concept into a single, multi-functional concept. The design needed to get creative: it strove to maximize space usage while remaining stylish, thoughtful, and sustainable — words typically not associated with parking garages.

The end result was a synthetic turf field placed over a 525-car garage, in a visually inviting structure that blends into the lush, green backdrop of WPI’s campus. The design takes advantage of the existing topography to minimize the impact of parking requirements on both the campus and in the surrounding neighborhood. Upon completion, this unique rooftop athletic field became the first of its type in Massachusetts.

Hidden Features

Although it is now a campus showpiece, many of the structure’s most innovative design considerations are not readily seen by casual observers. For example, the field needs to drain quickly in a rainstorm, but the garage must remain dry. Therefore, SMMA plumbing engineers assisted in the coordination of the storm drainage system to ensure that, regardless of the weather conditions, the garage stays unaffected and no pooling occurs on field-level.

The incorporation of on-field drinking fountains, bottle-fillers, and subtle sanitary plumbing vent termination points were among additional design contributions made by the engineering team. The facility also houses visiting team lockers, concession areas, and field equipment storage for the adjacent competition fields. Its drop-off area has become a primary campus entrance for visitors and staff alike.

Raising the Bar, Elevating the Field

The single story, 660-foot long by 250-foot wide precast structure features a brick façade and is capable of accommodating 300 spectators. Field lighting allows evening games, and perimeter netting provides containment for stray balls from any field activity. Stairs and elevators facilitate accessibility between the parking garage and fields.

The benefit of accommodating parking and multiple sports fields and support spaces under a common footprint has been invaluable to the University’s sustainability and development.

Alfredo DiMauro, Assoc. AIA, Assistant Vice President, Office of Facilities

Keep It Clean, Keep It Green

Sustainability was a central focus for the project. To quantify the project’s green attributes, SMMA conducted a facility assessment using the nascent Green Garage Certification guidelines from the Green Parking Council. Evaluated items fell into the categories of management, programs, and technology and structure design. Although the decision to move forward with certification was tabled for future consideration, due to the uncertainty associated with the start-up certification program, preliminary analysis results were a testament to sustainability being ingrained in the structure’s design.

"The idea of conceiving the project in section, the layering of programmatic requirements of the existing fields and expanding campus parking, and how the resulting architecture is integrated with the campus community's brick of the old and the modernity of the new deserves special recognition."

AIA Central Massachusetts, 2016 Design Awards Jury