“If you design and build it, they will come…”

October 18, 2022

Located in south suburban Burbank, Illinois, St. Laurence is the fastest growing Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of Chicago. With well over 900 students in the 2021-22 school year, St. Laurence has experienced significant enrollment increases in each of the last six years.

It's not hard to see why. In addition to a tradition of academic excellence, including an innovative, project-based STEM program, students can access a variety of extracurricular offerings, including over 20 sports teams, one of which is a state powerhouse baseball program.

WT Group has had a relationship with St. Laurence for more than 15 years. The firm was first engaged by a landscape architect to work on a variety of sports assets, including synthetic turf fields and the design of a football and track stadium. So, when St. Laurence decided it was time for a changeup on the school’s natural grass infield, the WT Group made the top of the batting order.

The challenge was that the natural grass infield was inherently flood prone after significant rainfall, with underlying clay material that holds moisture. Facing the same environmental challenge, this condition is why major leagues will roll out tarps over an infield during a rain delay. This is because pitchers’ mounds and batters’ boxes are particularly vulnerable to damage when saturated.

For St. Laurence, getting to first base on the school’s plan to replace natural grass with more durable synthetic turf meant overcoming a variety of challenges. As is often the case, permitting was the biggest challenge, with a stringent permitting process and associated requirements taking several innings. And because baseball is a spring sport, construction had to be done over the fall and winter months, with the first pitch of next season coming on fast. And because St. Laurence is a Catholic school receiving no state funding, alumni and students’ families came together to fund the project, making it even more critical for WT Group to have the right game plan in place to meet budgetary and target date requirements.

A winning team!

Throughout the planning and construction process, WT Group’s Jason Green and the Civil Engineering team worked with St. Laurence Athletic Director Tim Chandler in the design, material selection and execution of the project.

“Jason and his team at WT were great to work with,” said Tim. “From the initial diagnosis and design to fix the drainage, to gaining approval from the MWRD (Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago), to vetting and selecting vendors, Jason and his team were on top of everything. They were also on-site constantly during construction to make sure everything was being done properly.”

WT Group designers abutted the brown synthetic turf up against the natural grass outfield to make the combination more seamless and less obvious.  Because batters’ boxes are areas that take on extreme wear, they were designed and constructed in such a way that synthetic turf can be easily replaced.  To minimize damage to the turf and avoid injuries to players, turf seams were minimized at the approaches to bases and home plate where players are likely to be sliding.

Because the infield surface is as much a participant of a game as the players fielding the ball and running bases, the “infill” under the artificial turf is a very important facet of the design, impacting the bounce and roll properties of the ball. Hence, it is important to select an infill that closely mimics the performance of natural grass.  A variety of options were explored before a winning material was selected based on the school’s goals. Overlaid on the infill material is Turfbase® - a durable, all-rubber construction that features mesh reinforcement and specially designed pegs molded into the underside. This provides better grip to the turf and infill material, minimizing lateral movement and enhancing stability and durability.

“We couldn't be happier with the services WT Group provided,” said Tim. “As a result, our student-athletes have a beautiful new field.”

Thanks, Coach!  Put us in!

For additional project details, click here.