Windscreens spruce up Babson athletic fields
Sometimes bringing a fresh look to your athletic facilities doesn’t require a major renovation. With a little creativity, the task can be much less daunting.
Babson College, a Division III school located in eastern Massachusetts, is in the planning stages of a new project that will bring two new buildings to campus, but completion is likely a ways off. In the meantime, leaders in the athletic department took steps to make aesthetic improvements to other facilities, including windscreens at five different locations across campus.The simple upgrade might go unnoticed by the college’s casual sports fans, but to student-athletes and others associated with Babson athletics, the windscreens were a significant improvement. Josh MacArthur, director of athletics and recreation, said the school had a tight budget for the project, but he wanted to dress up the facilities and highlight some of the school’s brands.
The windscreens, purchased from BigSigns.com, include the school name and the Beavers logo. MacArthur said they were hung at the baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse/field hockey fields as well as the tennis courts.
“We had seen through the publications some of the work that Big Signs had done so we thought that using their marketing and design folks might be a good fit,” MacArthur said. “We’re also getting a new graphic on the wall in one of our weight rooms and we wanted to create a consistent look with the windscreens. That’s why we contacted Big Signs, because they knew the concept we were looking for.”
In the near future, Babson College hopes to erect two new buildings. One would house varsity locker rooms, a training room and an equipment room, and the other would be a new general student and community fitness/recreation center. It’s safe to say the windscreens project didn’t rise to the level of planning that will be necessary for a major capital project, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t come with obstacles.
The first was gathering accurate measurements. MacArthur said his department initially used a measuring wheel similar to what would be used by a track program to record the dimensions for BigSigns.com. It turned out the measurements weren’t exactly precise enough, so the school needed to go back with a tape measure and do it all over again.
MacArthur also didn’t realize the back of the windscreens were a blank white, so the school had to buy additional windscreens to cover it.
“Hindsight is 20/20 and we didn’t know those things, but we figured out ways to work through the challenges,” he said. “Outside of that we didn’t really have any problems.”
Babson College offers 22 programs and has around 400 student-athletes, MacArthur said. The Beavers have claimed a number of conference championships in sports like hockey, women’s basketball, soccer and tennis.
The response to the new features has been positive, and MacArthur said he received a fair amount of feedback from student-athletes, coaches, alumni and fans. There were some spectators who used to stand along the outfield fence to watch softball games, but that became impossible with the new windscreens.
Macarthur said if he could go back, he would have created some room to allow fans to continue to observe from the outfield, but the windscreens were a necessary upgrade.
“Obviously, the wind factor was what this is for, but as soon as people noticed it we received a lot of terrific comments right from the start,” he said.
Funding is often a significant hurdle for cash-strapped programs trying to make improvements, whether they’re equipment purchases or facilities upgrades. That wasn’t the case at Babson, where MacArthur was able to get approval for the windscreens and new chairs for the basketball court.
The windscreens were a priority with the athletic department. The school was also forced to install a new fence after NCAA rules required that they be six-feet high, so MacArthur said they needed windscreens that would appropriately fit the outfield fencing. Another had been destroyed in a windstorm and for others it was just time to get something with an updated look. The weight room graphic has not yet been completed, but MacArthur expected that project to be finished soon.
Overall, athletic administrators are satisfied with the way the project turned out. Windscreens may not be the most prominent feature of a college’s athletic facilities, but at Babson it helped improve the atmosphere for a number of its programs.
“It’s not like the windscreens really cut down on the wind,” MacArthur said, “but it does create a different feel.”