The first step in any successful project should be a concept plan.

Done right, a good concept plan helps set the priorities for the project, gives owners a realistic picture about how money will be spent, and identifies potential obstacles—all before the specifications of the project are set.

But depending on who you talk to, a concept plan can mean many different things and too often the result of the concept plan for a sports field or court doesn’t include the detail needed to fully consider all aspects of a project. Now don’t get us wrong, pictures of a project can be extremely important—often they can help create buy-in from key stakeholders and help build excitement—but a concept plan without any depth sets a project up for problems and struggles later.

For example, consider a baseball field. It is not uncommon for concept plans to include beautiful fencing, top-of-the-line dug-outs and synthetic turf infields. But in order for the owner to work within a budget and decide if those elements are truly priorities, the plan should also consider practicalities like how much will need to be spent to create a consistent elevation across the field or how the field will drain to prevent puddles or flooding.

While baseball fields often have quirks that make them unique, most people don’t want a left field that is higher than right field to be one of those quirks, and want to know what the costs associated with creating an even surface will be before beginning the project.

A good concept plan identifies those potential problems ahead of time and identifies realistic costs to fix them. Then it is up to the owner of the property to consider all the information, set their priorities and figure out where to spend their money.

By bringing in a civil engineer early in the process, a concept plan can address costs associated with:

  • Utilities
  • Grading
  • Drainage
  • Elevation

Although a more detailed concept plan can cost a few thousand dollars more up front, it can prevent the owner from signing up for a project with tens of thousands of dollars worth of headaches later and ensure the project truly meets the owner’s goals.