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Published April 22, 2019

Turning obstacles into opportunities

Sparks Reed’s innovative designs help Putnam City West HS obtain a versatile, unique athletic complex

Putnam City West High School will soon claim one of the most versatile sports complexes in Oklahoma. 

Designed by Sparks Reed Architecture and Interiors and built by Globe Construction, the 12-acre PC West athletic campus will host football, baseball, softball, track, and soccer competitions at adjoining facilities just south of the main campus. The new 250-seat baseball stadium stands finished immediately south of the existing softball stadium and parking lot, while the 3,500-seat football stadium construction to their east is more than 70-percent complete. 


"It really is a cool site, and it really does say athletics and school spirit," said Cecil Bowles, chief operations officer of the Putnam City Schools district. "You have a group of facilities that are truly multipurpose." 

All three venues are clad in Putnam City West Blue, distinguishing the group from the brown brick that dominates the academic campus. 


"That is a very important point," said Bowles. "That color scheme shows our pride in our sports programs."


The steel and concrete football stadium helps tie these facilities together through a second-story balcony and hospitality suite overlooking the new parking lot that connects all three facilities. That lot offers an ideal place for pep bands, cheer functions, tailgating, festivals, assemblies, or other large outdoor gatherings.


"You can see everything from up here," said Globe Construction Superintendent Mike Nessman, who enjoys watching his work crews from that balcony. "You could put the band up here and some drummers and cheerleaders and cheer on the fans as they come to the football game. I think that's unique.


"Once the district and students realize what they have here, they're going to fall in love with this place," said Nessman. "Who else has an athletic complex like this?"


Putnam City Schools gained this asset due to several cost-effective design solutions to difficult site issues, said Sparks Reed principal and co-founder David Reed. These solutions delivered everything the district needed without extending its construction budget or sacrificing quality in amenities, meeting the needs of each sports program.


"This gives the Patriots first-class facilities to be proud of and compete at the highest levels within their district," said Reed. "It provides great opportunities for their student-athletes to excel."


Bowles credited Sparks Reed for figuring out how to squeeze these construction projects onto the available space. To maximize available funds, the football stadium was designed around an existing practice football field and track just east of the softball stadium. Sparks Reed then fit the baseball field onto vacant land south of the softball stadium and parking lot.


"They were innovative problem-solvers," Bowles said of Reed and his team. "They took some things that were obstacles and turned them into opportunities.”


Aerial photograph of the Putnam City West High School sports complex, with its softball, football, and baseball stadiums. The gridiron appears white as general contractor Globe Construction prepares to place a new field of artificial turf. Aerial photos provided by Globe Construction Co. and High Res, LLC


Site issues

Those obstacles came primarily from the chosen site. It presented drainage, visibility, and traffic challenges that Sparks Reed's team solved.

  • The tight location contained features – the softball field, a locker room building, and a small utility building beside the practice field – that the new structures and construction crews would have to work around. 


  • To center the gridiron on the new press box, Sparks Reed had to slide the practice field turf nine yards south and keep it inside the track. 


  • One sideline of that practice field abuts a thriving residential area of one- and two-story houses. That limited the potential for having traditional visitors seating on the opposite side of the football field. Sensitive to that surrounding neighborhood, Sparks Reed came up with a creative press box design: a long, horizontal unit rather than a tall, vertical structure. That kept the stadium from dominating the residential skyline or intruding on its homes. 


  • The planned baseball diamond ran up against its own busy neighborhood along the right-field fence. At the edge of the area also lives a beautiful 100-foot-tall pine tree that everyone wished to protect.


  • The football practice field lay eight feet above Eagle Lane, the primary vehicular traffic artery bordering the west side of the campus. The planned baseball field added to this elevation problem, sloping 10+ feet from east to west. 


  • A small access road ran across the chosen area.


Sparks Reed attacked these design issues organically to save district funds. The site’s squeezed quarters forced all vehicular traffic to Eagle Lane. The access road was taken out to allow the baseball field to fit inside the property line adjacent to the neighborhood.


The sloping ground forced Sparks Reed and Globe to regrade the area so that water drained to a large retention pond south of the football gridiron and east of the baseball field, away from the residential areas and Eagle Lane. Sparks Reed used dirt scraped from the east side and retention pond to raise and level the baseball field and provide optimal drainage. This also saved the district from having to remove or add earth.


"It's very expensive to haul off dirt, and even more expensive to haul it in," said Reed. "You don't want to spend $200,000+ just hauling in or moving dirt. You want to spend those dollars on the building. The ability to balance the site was a big cost savings in the project budget."


Sparks Reed and Globe also saved district monies by installing all utilities for both projects while contractors moved the earth, said Nessman. 



The steel and concrete football stadium helps tie these facilities together through a second-story balcony and hospitality suite overlooking the new parking lot that connects all three facilities. That lot offers an ideal place for pep bands, cheer functions, tailgating, festivals, assemblies, or other large outdoor gatherings.

Height opportunities

These grading efforts left the ball diamond three feet above the baseball stadium concourse. Sparks Reed turned this height difference into an asset by:


  • Raising the bleachers, which provided spectators a unique field-level perspective rarely found at high school ballparks.


  • Installing sunken dugouts – a beloved feature of classic baseball stadiums that's usually missing at the high school level. 


"We wouldn't have had the dugouts otherwise," Reed said. "With our unique site conditions, we were able to design the dugouts with ADA access from the concourse, along with gravity drainage from the dugouts. Those factors usually prevent most ballparks from having sub-field dugouts."


Sparks Reed augmented these touches with several consumer-oriented aesthetics. 


  • A tension cable system upholds the backstop netting, providing the ballpark audience a less obstructed view than the typical high-school backdrop. 


  • The Patriots stadium boasts 75 chairs with backs behind home plate under a shade canopy that extends from the press box. 


  • Another roofline covers the concession and bathroom entryways, allowing patrons to stay under cover while getting a hotdog and drink or going to the bathroom.


Like the football stadium, the baseball field features a low-profile press box to not intrude on the neighborhood skyline, Reed said. It also employs a 30-foot-tall net above its right field fence to keep homers from reaching or damaging residences. 


For its part, the football stadium uses a security fence and tree clusters to help buffer backyards from game activities. The scoreboard also was placed along this line, facing away from homes. 


"This complex was designed to protect the integrity of the neighborhoods while enhancing the Patriots' game-day experience," said Reed. "It fits the high school campus as well as the surrounding neighborhoods and will not overpower the homes."


With the east sideline unavailable for the traditional visitor grandstand, Sparks Reed designed the PC West football stadium with three sets of bleachers. Small 1,000-seat aluminum units rise behind each end zone, one for visitors and their band, the other for PCW students and their band. The main grandstand seats 1,500 behind the home team's west sideline.


"We came up with a design more like a NASCAR track, where the bleachers run from the center point of one end zone to the center point of the other end zone," said Reed. 


Bowles considers this a major asset.


"It allowed us to have a stadium that basically faces east, with a big overhanging, cantilevered roof," he said. "You're never going to be staring into the sun, and the main grandstand seats are always going to be in the shade."


The first floor offers concessions and restrooms on each side, along with a separate visitor and home ticket booths and locker rooms. That allows easy access to and from the facility without mixing opposing fans.


"The grandstand's second floor has a hospitality suite as well as coach boxes, a box for the announcers, video board operator, and press," said Reed. "There's also an exterior balcony that oversees the parking lot, so those folks in the hospitality suite and press box can watch the fans arrive."


Solutions for elevation and drainage issues  allowed Sparks Reed to work sub-field dugouts into the PCW design.


Sparks Reed designed these structures for easy winterizing and shutdown when not in use. Wet areas operate in close proximity whenever possible to minimize plumbing and maintenance costs. The football stadium's visitor locker room contains a roll-up door, allowing its division into two separate facilities when needed, with a common wet area for greater efficiencies.

"That's been a design concept Sparks Reed's developed for years," said Reed.


Bowles said he really appreciates the design integrity of this complex.


"None of the structures really looks that much bigger than the other," said Bowles. "They all look very unique and important, which is good to me as we don't appear to favor one sport over another."


He praised Sparks Reed and Globe for obtaining this creative result while working through unusually wet weather, ongoing school activities, and personnel changes in four key Putnam City Schools positions that brought some design and philosophy adjustments.


"It wasn't a challenge because they handled it well," Bowles said of Nessman and Reed. "For all practical purposes, we're still pretty much on schedule. For a multimillion-dollar project, that's good."


Reed thanked Nessman for Globe's flexibility and efficiency. Nessman echoed Bowles.


"David Reed and his whole team, they've done a wonderful job," said Nessman. "They respond quickly, they're willing to work with us, and they listen to new ideas. They work with the contractor and customer to get a job done and completed as soon as possible."

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