KING OF PRUSSIA, PA - The Proving Grounds, Conshohocken's newest facility for field hockey, soccer and lacrosse, is often the site of local pick-up games after work, according to Kimberly Lyman, Sports Facility Coordinator. These informal competitions are a popular means for local professionals to blow off steam and get some exercise, and the hours of 5-11:30 p.m. can be extremely busy.
But there's no need for Lyman to stick around after hours to power down the massive lights.
"I turn them off from my phone," she says. "So yes, there's an app for that."
The Proving Grounds has become a boon to the marketing and direct sales efforts of the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board, which leverages its Valley Forge Sports platform to bring tournaments to Montgomery County, Pa.
This year alone, the initiative has produced nearly 50,000 room nights, a 23 percent increase from 2015, resulting in $20 million in economic impact.
The Proving Grounds is one of 18 Montgomery County sports facilities promoted by Valley Forge Sports, highlighting competitions from basketball to bowling.
Paul Tornetta, Proving Grounds' Chief Executive Officer, is understandably proud of the field used by the Villanova Girls' Field Hockey Team. It resulted in part from a $1.3 million gift from parents and friends of student athletes at the university.
"This field is the only one in the country certified by the International Hockey Federation," Tornetta says. "The donation represents the largest ever made to Villanova's women's athletics program."
Tornetta describes the meticulous detail that went into creating the field and the high-tech advantages that were designed into it.
"The surface is a very short, synthetic turf fiber," he explains. "It's the same product used at both the Beijing and Rio Olympic Games. It has been laid on a three-quarter-inch foam, similar to what's used on a track for competitive running. Under that is a foundation of porous asphalt laid with a laser paver. It is pool-table flat. The goal was to provide a surface that was flat, fast and true - and we accomplished that."
In addition to the app that can remotely control the lights is a robotic watering system that rises from the sidelines to coat the entire field.
"The field hockey ball is dimpled," says Tornetta. "So a thin sheen of water on the turf causes a slight suction that maintains contact with the turf. This leads to steadier control and faster play. It also provides a safety feature, lessening turf burns for players."
The sprinkler is so efficient, it can soak the turf before games begin and once again at halftime, without delay.
The high-tech Villanova field hockey field is augmented by four traditional fields that opened in phases beginning in 2013. Another four fields will be added over time, into 2018. The land repurposes the former site of the Allenwood Steel Plant.
The ongoing development of the Proving Grounds increases the VFTCB's opportunities for larger tournaments that generate overnight accommodations. This business grows economic impact in Montgomery County, Pa.
"We are so proud of our relationship with The Proving Grounds," says Lisa Karl, VFTCB Vice President of Sales and Strategic Partnerships, under whom Valley Forge Sports operates. "Visionary Paul Tornetta and his staff are incredibly forward-thinking and innovative, and his business model aligns perfectly with our innovative approach to marketing Montgomery County.
"This premier space for field hockey, lacrosse and soccer is supported by Conshohocken's great restaurants and five nearby hotels, providing an appealing environment for athletes and families who come to Montgomery County to play and stay. And our expert sports sales staff is on hand to see to every detail to make every tournament a complete success," she concludes.
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The Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB) is a nonprofit, membership-based sales and marketing organization that actively promotes Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pa., as a convention site and leisure visitor destination by encouraging patronage of its 400-plus member hotels, restaurants, attractions and services. The Board's award-winning website, valleyforge.org, serves visitors, meeting planners, tour operators and residents, as well as hosts The Pursuit, a nationally recognized blog. The VFTCB oversees a portfolio of brands that include Valley Forge Sports, Montco 360, Destination Montco Weddings, Patriot Trails, Destination Shop Montco and Destination Montco Golf. It is also the publisher of the new dining magazine Crave, issued twice yearly.