A Whole New Ballgame

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

Stylish, thoughtful, sustainable…these are not words typically associated with parking garages. However, in the case of the combination raised athletic field/parking garage at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, they all apply.

Presented with a unique opportunity to creatively maximize space usage and colorfully transform a traditionally spiritless design effort, SMMA developed a parking garage and athletic field into a single, multi-functional concept.  

The end result, a synthetic turf field over a 534-car parking garage, is a visually inviting structure that blends into the lush, green backdrop of the Institute’s campus. SMMA’s design exploits the existing topography to minimize the impact of the parking on both the campus and surrounding neighborhood. The rooftop athletic field is 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 the casual observer. For example: The field needs to drain quickly in a rainstorm, but the garage must remain dry. SMMA plumbing engineers assisted in the coordination of the storm drainage system, ensuring that, regardless of the weather conditions, the garage is unaffected, and no pooling occurs on field-level.

The incorporation of on-field drinking fountains/bottle-fillers and “hidden” sanitary plumbing vent termination points were among the additional design contributions made by our plumbing engineers.

The facility includes visiting team lockers, concessioning, and field equipment storage for the adjacent competition fields, and with the drop-off area, it has become a primary campus entrance for visitors and staff alike.

Raising the Bar, Elevating the Field

The 660-foot-long-by-250-foot-wide, one-story, 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 of our design team, and in an effort 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 SMMA’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