LET’S GO BIG
Florida produces some of the top baseball and softball talent in the country, however, the town of Bradenton only had facilities with one or two batting cages. Jason Howald saw an opportunity to create a larger facility and he teamed up with On Deck Sports to design and furnish Square Up Academy, an 8-batting cage facility that features a shell net with retractable dividers nets.
“I chose to work with On Deck Sports because I have done business with them in the past, buying equipment when I was a college baseball coach,” said Nolan Neiman, Square Up Academy’s general manager. “I knew what On Deck was capable of, they have the best price and quality, so I had full trust to use them for a big project like this.”
COLUMNS? WHAT COLUMNS?
The project began in July 2017 and finished in March 2018, meeting Square Up’s desired time frame, despite some uniqueness to the structure – the building contained three structural columns inconveniently located in the middle of the building. On Deck Sports’ facility expert, Mike Kalell, worked closely with Square Up at each step of the process and suggested Neiman and his team put custom padding around the columns and in between the netting of the cages, so as not to interfere with a batter hitting inside the cage. (see below for 3D design layout)
Neiman loved the design suggestion and the 3D layout Kalell provided because it gave a realistic idea of what the facility will look like, allowing him to make final design changes before installation began.
NETTING AND TURF TO MEET DESIRED USAGE
Neiman chose #36 gauge netting. “I knew it was the most common netting, the cost was good, and the quality was good. I didn’t want to spend too little and get bad quality, but I also didn’t want to spend too much.” He also chose a shell net, so he could open the cages and create a full field experience for drills, games, and more.
Square Up Academy also features 5mm padded, GT34 turf. Because the building was formerly a grocery store, the concrete floors were not suitable for athletes, so the padding was essential. “Some indoor facilities you go to, you stand on the turf for a little and then want to sit down for the next week because your back hurts,” said Neiman. “The 5mm padding helps diminish that pain completely.”
Furthermore, Neiman liked that the maintenance for GT34 turf would be minimal – he says he only has to vacuum the surface from time to time.
LAST STEP – EQUIPMENT FOR THE CAGES
Along with the netting and turf, Square Up Academy rounded out their facility and purchased equipment from On Deck Sports, including batting mats to extend the turf’s shelf life, an Iron Mike MP4 pitching machine, two Hack Attack pitching machines, portable pitching mounds and much more. Neiman said the portable pitching mounds are durable, pitchers don’t skid, and they are lightweight so moving them is a “one-person job.”
Neiman and his team were excited when they saw the finished product and they have identified even more opportunities to expand within the building. Asked if he would work with On Deck Sports for those future projects, Neiman said, “I hope and plan to.”