Role Reversal… Grass More Durable Than Synthetic!!!

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Through the 1st year of this blog, we have explored many different and new ideas about maintaining and renovating high traffic athletic fields.  The results that many high traffic grass field managers are producing are amazing. So with the advancement of ideas…  with developing new concepts… with creating better grasses… is it not possible to create a world in which GRASS FIELDS CAN SUSTAIN AS MUCH TRAFFIC AS SYNTHETIC??

Have you ever even imagined such a world????????????????

Over and over we hear about how grass fields are inferior to synthetic fields from a durability stand point.  There never seems to be any defense for it either!  Even though so many fields and so many sports field managers are having tremendous success with high traffic.  Forward thinking sports field managers are producing fields to the highest quality under demands that just a few years ago we thought were impossible to succeed under.  American football fields are surviving without needing sod work.  Soccer and baseball fields are hosting multiple sports and concerts.  Even park and recreation fields are seeing improved vertical drainage and stronger grass under constant traffic.  Amazing, amazing results.

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So when are we going to start hearing about the possibilities of high traffic, natural grass athletic fields instead of hearing about how “grass fields can’t take more??

I say the time is now!!!  What do you think????  Can we change the way the world thinks about grass to where they believe grass fields CAN sustain more???

I think we can!  But its going to take positive thinking and someone asking some hard questions even of our own industry.  Its funny, I remember vividly as a college student when a STMA Officer stated in a workshop that “we are Sports Field Managers, we have to accept all sports fields”.  That was over 10 years ago. Back then (wow, I sound OLD!!), synthetic turf was just coming onto the scene as a real “threat” to low maintenance fields.  The marketing machine known as the synthetic turf industry was just establishing firm.  Well now our trade magazines and conferences are filled with synthetic turf maintenance information.  Even our major universities are being underwritten by and researching synthetic turf improvements. During those 10+ years, industry leaders have felt that it important to supply information for our members who have to maintain synthetic fields just as we do grass.  But in 10 years, how many synthetic fields have replaced grass fields that really just needed maintained correctly  v. grass fields that replaced synthetic fields?  That STMA officer that made the statement 10 years ago himself has even lost fields to synthetic.

But….  is it bad to say what everyone else is thinking?!?! ITS CARPET!!! You drag it, you sweep it. I do not go to seminars to learn how to groom my living room carpet…  why should I for synthetic fields?  Plus each vendor of synthetic has different methods of maintenance..  Why don’t we not just allow them to dictate what their specific fields need for maintenance??  The grass field industry’s argument against synthetic has been that synthetic is “not maintenance free”.  Well, it doesn’t seem that argument has stopped a single synthetic field from being put in… but it seems to have convinced ourselves that they are complicated!!  Lets face it-  compared to grass, its simple!!   GRASS maintenance is a science- it is NOT SIMPLE.

So I ask, over the last 10 years with all the dollars and time and research spent on the industry accepting synthetic turf, WHAT IF?!?!?

What if all the seminar classes filled with synthetic information were filled with positive, forward thinking, creative experts on grass?  Would bermudagrass genetics that are 30 years old still be the core of sports fields in the south?  Or would newer, stronger, more cold tolerant bermudas be taking over fields and have them growing nearly 12 months a year so they are not as easily replaced w/ synthetic?   Would we know that there is currently an entirely different approach to field maintenance in Europe than we have in the USA?

What if all the publication space used on synthetic was dedicated to new grass field construction ideas and the education of sports executives about how strong natural grass can be?   Would there an increased amount of respect and appreciation for specialized sports field managers? Would facilities have sand fields with fibrelastic or more fields with advanced grass genetic technology? Would only 4 of over 120 grow light applications be in the USA?

What if all the research time used for synthetic was dedicated to creating methods and ideas for natural grass? Would there be outdated information from academia like what I read recently in an article that states that it takes “14-28 days for Kentucky bluegrass to germinate, and it takes 6-9 months for it to fill in”… yet there are multiple bluegrasses that germinate in 7-10 days and this blog featured a field grown-in in 35 days?  Would there be research on new root zones w/ more stability and less compaction potential instead of research on synthetic infills?  Would there be creative new ideas for grass fields that we could never even imagine right now instead of worry about trying to make plastic and rubber not reflect heat from the sun?

Would all of this information and time and effort combine into monumental steps towards GRASS FIELDS BEING THE ANSWER TO HIGH TRAFFIC INSTEAD OF SYNTHETIC!?!?!  Or even creating ways to GROW GRASS ANYTIME, ANYWHERE!?!?!?

Yes, it seems crazy…  but if our lives can all run on devices in our pockets that not that long ago was merely a device on the wall that was at the mercy of switch board operators and long distance charges… WHY NOT!?

So now I ask…  What will change it!?  When will it change??  What comes next??  Where is the action point even to start to defend and promote grass fields as actually being HIGH TRAFFIC FIELDS??  Action was warranted following the gross attack from the Synthetic Turf Council against natural grass in an article a couple of months ago.  That was evident by the 100 social media shares, 500 views on this blog in 24 hours, and 0ver 50 emails and texts in reference to my  letter to the editor about the article.  Then recently an opportunity to take action again presented itself again when Abby Wambach, the world’s best female soccer player, set out on her own campaign against FIFA’s relationship with synthetic turf for the next Women’s World Cup. Read Here  .

WHEN SHALL WE TAKE ACTION?!?!

I firmly believe that the industry currently possess an arsenal of techniques, ideas, and tools to make GRASS TAKE AS MUCH AS SYNTHETIC.  Now with the support of our industry organizations to educate field managers and the entire sports world…  with our trade publications searching far and wide for unfound information and the presentation of new ideas…  and with our research universities working with the creativity that only they as researches have…      THE  SKY IS THE LIMIT!!

There are great, great things happening all around us right now with grass fields, and those great things are going to continue to spread.  My bold prediction, is that within 5 years we WILL HAVE A NATURAL GRASS ALTERNATIVE for synthetic (at a fraction of the cost, environmentally friendly, and sustainable w/out needing replacement).  Come and join… IT IS A NEW AGE FOR GRASS FIELD MANAGEMENT!!

BE A PART OF THE GRASS FIELD REVOLUTION

“Changing the Answer is Evolution.  

Changing the Question is a REVOLUTION!”

Center of Field Post Rugby Match

Center of Field Post Rugby Match

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Concepto de practica activa: Fraze Mowing pasto Bermuda

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En 30 Enero 2013, hemos hablado de la concepto de “Fraze Mowing”  pasto bermuda con la nueva máquina Universe® rotor de la nueva Koro Field Topmaker. ¡La reacción y el intercambio de ideas fueron absolutamente increíbles! Nos parecía que estábamos en un potencial avance para el manejo de thatch.

En 23 Marzo, el concepto se ha convertido en una realidad como el Universe® hizo su debut mundial. Los resultados hablan por sí mismos…

Universe® Koro Field Topmaker Rotor Makes It's World Debut
Universe® Koro Field Topmaker Rotor Makes It’s World Debut
Modern Fraze Mowing w/ Universe® Field Topmaker rotor at FC Dallas Park Fraze Mowing w/ Universe® Field Topmaker rotor at FC Dallas
Rye Grass and Thatch Removed.. Stolons and Rhizomes Exposed to Put on Leaves and Grow Laterally Rye Grass & Thatch Removed. Stolons & Rhizomes Exposed to Put on Leaves and Grow Laterally

El ryegrass (Lolium perenne) fue eliminado, junto con el thatch, capa orgánica, y las semillas de mala hierba. Dejo atrás una capa de estolones y rizomas que inmediatamente generar hojas y comienzan a crecer lateralmente. El tejido de la planta restante, se crecen nuevas hojas en 4-7 días…inmediatamente mostrando una superficie verde. En un periodo de 14 a 21 días, el crecimiento activo tendrá la superficie del campo casi completamente cubierto con fuerte y durable plantas, lista para mantener tráfico pesado. “Fraze Mowing” aplana las ondulaciones  en la superficie, haciendo la cancha plana como una mesa de billar. ¡En general, los resultados fueron absolutamente espectaculares!

Las demostraciones que fueron durante el fin de semana en el FC Dallas Park, había tres canchas recibir el proceso de renovación Koro, (corte para limpiar el thatch, capa orgánica, ryegrass, semillas de mala hierbas/ suelo reciclar/ buen arrastre). Un campo “fraze mowed” con la nueva Terraplane rotor, haciendo su debut en EE.UU., los otros dos campos fueron limpiados con el Universe®, haciendo su debut mundial. Una vez que los campos se han limpiado, el KORO Recycling Dresser (suelo reciclar) permite que el aire a permear el perfil del suelo. El topdressing o topeo que la máquina de reciclar  hizo, cubrió los estolones y rizomas muy bien y apoyo  la regeneración más rápido. Sr. Allen Reed se hizo el primer director de campo de estadio profesional de alto nivel en el EE.UU. para usar el KORO Recyclying Dresser en un campo de estadio, siguiendo los gustos de Sr. Paul Burgess, director de campo para el Estadio Santiago Bernabéu (Real Madrid).

KORO Recycle Dresser on FC Dallas Stadium
                        KORO Recycle Dresser on FC Dallas Stadium

MUCHAS GRACIAS a Sr. Miles Studhalter, Sr. Allen Reed, y Sr. Tom Jones de FC Dallas Park para creer en el concepto de “Fraze Mowing” pasto bermuda con la maquina Universe® que fueron los primeros en haber demostrado y funcionar. Su creencia y reacción ha sido esencial trayendo el concepto a la realidad. Eran convencidos que el practica de limpiar el rye grass, thatch, capa orgánica, y semilla de mala hierba  provea una superficie más fuerte y más durable. ¡Muchas Gracias de nuevo para ellos, son los mejor de los mejores!

Además, gracias a Sr. Joe Pemberton director de campo, instalación de entrenamiento a Manchester United, para proveer la reacciones durante el proceso. Joe estaba en le EE.UU. en una vacaciones breve y paso para observar el debut de la maquina Universe®. Fue un privilegio para ver a Sr. Pemberton, es completamente uno del mejor director de campos. ¡Gracias a él para permitir que nosotros hagamos tantas preguntas!

Y definitivamente, unas gracias especiales a Imants BV (@ImantsBV) de Reusel, Holanda y Campey Turf Care Systems (@CampeyTurfCare) de Manchester, Inglaterra para el desarrollo una herramienta fantástica y creativa, el Universe®. El liderazgo de Imants junto con Sr. KO Rodenberg (KORO) y Campey Turf Care Systems está completamente cambiando el mantenimiento de campos de deportes alrededor del mundo. ¡Sr. Simon Gumbrill de Campey fue esencial para el debut de la maquina Universe® en Dallas, Tejas, gracias a él para tomarse el tiempo para venir a los EE.UU. para dirigir, ensenar, y nos ilumine a las nuevas ideas! Simon, ¡Muchas Gracias!

En conjunto, las demostraciones de fin de semana fueron un éxito. “Fraze Mowing” pasto bermuda con la maquina Universe® ya no es un concepto. Se ha convertido en una práctica de mantenimiento. ¡Gracias a todos por hacer posible!

Traducir por John Torres

The Demo Team!
                                          The Demo Team!

THANK YOU For An AMAZING 1st Year!!!

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WOW it really is amazing how time flies.  The cliché statements and idioms about time passing quickly are all so, so true.  1 Year ago today this blog launch w/ its 1st post….  it really does seem like it was just yesterday!!  My initial goals were (2)

1.  Have the ability to share my experiences from a 9-day field fact-finding trip to Europe with all those interested (my staff, family, friends, colleagues, leadership, etc)

2. Create a public forum for the greater good of all grass fields by providing a glimpse into new ideas that I might discover in Europe, that we discover on a daily basis at our 22-field, “living laboratory” at Maryland SoccerPlex, that I have discovered over my special sports field management career, and that others in the industry discover through their daily trials and challenges.  

 Because if you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got” (Einstein).

So THANK YOU to everyone who has taken part in the 1st year of sharing ideas.   The places we have been together have been far and wide, the pristine fields we have seen have been many, and most importantly the new friends we have made will be everlasting.  In 1-year, this blog has received 15,000 views from 89 countries.  In 1-year, we have been introduced to very different approach to maintenance from the biggest/ best sports teams in the world.  In 1-year, we have changed old perceptions w/ renovating a field from Kentucky bluegrass seed in 35 days.  In 1-year, we have explored nutrient management in order for cell walls to be thicker and plants more durable.  In 1- year, we have created an entirely new maintenance practice for bermudagrass management.  In 1- year, we have spread the word that GRASS FIELDS CAN TAKE MORE!!!

THANK YOU for your participation…  and PLEASE, come and share more!!!!!

It is exciting, all the amazing work taking place around the world with high traffic fields.  Forward thinking sports field managers are producing fields to the highest quality under conditions that a few years ago we thought were impossible to succeed in.  American football fields are surviving without needing sod work.  Soccer and baseball fields that are hosting multiple sports and concerts.  Even park and recreation fields that are seeing improved vertical drainage and stronger grass under constant traffic.  Amazing, amazing results.

KEEP IT UP!!! A NEW AGE OF GRASS FIELD DURABILITY AND MAINTENANCE IS UPON US!!!

In Year 2, this blog is dedicated to continue to introduce ideas and spread information for the grass field industry.  Guest sports field managers will share their ideas and additional languages are to be introduced so the information can be used by our colleagues around the world.  Come and join us!!!

BE A PART OF THE GRASS FIELD REVOLUTION

“Changing the Answer is Evolution.  

Changing the Question is a REVOLUTION!”

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UPDATE- Concept To Active Practice: Fraze Mowing Bermudagrass Makes Debut

Modern Fraze Mowing w/ Universe® Field Topmaker rotor at FC Dallas Park

Modern Fraze Mowing w/ Universe® Field Topmaker rotor at FC Dallas Park

Its been 5 weeks since the Universe® KORO Field Topmaker rotor made its debut “cleaning out” bermudagrass in Dallas, TX.  The weather could not have been more challenging for re-growth w/ the continued cold and prolonged bermuda dormancy period in the south.

But that challenging weather makes the results of the re-growth even more amazing.  The hypothesis is that bermuda that is “cleaned out” during active growth will be green within 4-7 days.  The field will then become playable again within 14 days.  But even for low maintenance fields, they technically are “playable” on Day 1…..  Yes, there is little to no green, but the stolons and rhizomes remaining create a stable surface.  Here is the progress:

Mowing For 1st Time on Day 16

Mowing For 1st Time on Day 16

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Re-Growth at Day 24

Re-Growth at Day 24

Bermudagrass Re-Growth at Day 24

Bermudagrass Re-Growth at Day 24

It is to be re-stated that when this process took place on March 24th, the 419 bermudagrass was still dormant. AND since, Dallas has experienced one of its coldest springs ever.  The re-growth process has been slowed by frost several times …  Yet still at 5 weeks w/ nearly dormant bermuda, the fields are to the point they are.  The hypothesis of less than 14 days on active bermuda seems pretty safe at this point don’t you think?!?  Welcome to the New World!!

Case Study: Rugby Comes to SoccerPlex Stadium

Happy Monday everyone!!  Hopefully your week is off to a successful start…

In support of the high traffic sports field discussions on this blog, we have some new evidence to share in the “yes, it is possible for grass fields to take more” category.   The SoccerPlex Stadium field experienced yet another test of durability and strength w/ the University of Maryland v. US Navy in 15 v 15 rugby Friday night.  The field, renovated last fall and grown in from Kentucky bluegrass seed (see “SoccerPlex Stadium Renovation” section of this blog) has hosted 20 soccer events since March 14 (10 youth matches, 5 pro exhibitions, 1 pro team training, & 2-6 hour long clinics) while sitting nearly dormant because of below normal/ near freezing temperatures.  We were very happy to have that weather pattern break last Monday just to allow us to get some green up and enough growth to mow at least a few times at 3/4″.

Because SoccerPlex itself, or any of our field management staff,  had never hosted rugby on grass before, we adopted the 2 matches: 1 on Field 12; 1 of stadium; as a Case Study for field wear.  A common theme amongst those with the old belief that seed can not grow into a strong field as quickly as SoccerPlex Stadium has, and still host American football or rugby.  But our hypothesis has been the opposite… that the field would take rugby (and American football) BETTER because it was seeded.  So the jury was out, and the nervousness ensued….

PREPARATION
In preparation for the matches, 2 weeks prior we invited the Maryland squad out to do a rugby simulation.  With never hosting or seeing 15v15 rugby match live, we had no idea how to prepare for it.  For lacrosse, creases and arches are sand dress to protect the plant crowns from damage.  For multiple soccer matches, the field is deep tined  to soften slightly and watered a bit less to “firm up” the surface.  For rugby, we had no idea!  So the “test” allowed us to witness the sport, see how the field might respond, and create an approach for managing the traffic.  Also with the test, we used a shear strength tool to get a baseline for the lbs/in that is would take to rip the turf and documented root growth and condition.  A picture of the root mass:

Roots on March 16

Roots on March 16

Roots on March 29

Roots on March 29

Overall, the test went smooth and we decided the field, with a good watering the night before, was prepared to take the shearing and digging from the rugby “scrum” without anything special being done to it.  But because of the cold weather and a lack of active growth, we did decide to made a soil nutrient application to feed the cold soil environment along w/ some “liquid oxygen” to stimulate root activity; both in case we needed the plant to recover from damage.

MATCHDAY
Game day arrived with the field in fantastic condition, even with hosting 19 prior events this spring already.  To start, 1/2″ of rain was received from a thunderstorm at about 5am.  The heavy rain provided the perfect amount of moisture and allowed us to save water.  Layout and painting of the field took place the day before, so mowing, goal sleeve dig out, and post set up was the game day activity required.

The 15v15 matches were 90 minutes long w/ a running clock for 2- 45 minute halves.  Warm-ups lasted about 45 mins as well.  Ultimately the fields were in play for about 2.25 hours for each. Field 12 is an overseeded Patriot bermudagrass field on native soil, so outside of being too wet there were no concerns with play because the field is nearly indestructible.  The concerns, if any, were with the stability and durability of the sand surface w/ the still young Kentucky bluegrass of the stadium field when subjected to the digging, pushing, turning, and tackling that takes place in a rugby match.

In the end, those concerns were put to rest completely.  Following warm-ups, a thunderstorm passed directly to our north causing a lightning delay for about 45 mins.  When the teams took the field again, we walked the field for any divots or damage.  That turned into a peaceful stroll across a field that showed zero wear or damage to begin the evening.  But again, it was just warm-ups.  The worry of the speed, the hitting, and the digging of the “scrum” was still there.  Here are some of the photos and highlights:

SoccerPlex Stadium Lined for Rugby

SoccerPlex Stadium Lined for Rugby

SoccerPlex Stadium Set for Rubgy

SoccerPlex Stadium Set for Rugby

Maryland v Navy

Maryland v Navy

Maryland v. Navy

Maryland v. Navy

POST MATCH
The durability that the field displayed during warm-ups continued throughout the 90 min match.  A post game inspection of the field found little to no damage to the surface.  1 or 2 small tears were found, but nothing over 3/4″ deep.  Ultimately, the field continued to take the traffic in stride, just as it has since opening on Oct. 6 of last year.  Some of the evidence:

Center of field following rugby match

Center of field following rugby match

Center of Field Post Rugby Match

Center of Field Post Rugby Match

The single damaged spot

A Small Tear Following Rugby

Post rugby match

Post Rugby Match.. Cleat Marks Into Sand

An Additional Small Tear Following a Rugby Match

An Additional Small Tear Following a Rugby Match

Post Rugby Match, Cleat Marks into the Sand

Post Rugby Match, Cleat Marks into the Sand

The Maryland Club Rugby Facebook Page also has some fantastic pics as well:

Maryland Rugby Facebook Action Photo Album

CONCLUSIONS
Following the match and data collecting, we are now creating conclusions of how and why the newly renovated field sustains traffic with such strength and durability.  Some of our thoughts currently are:

1)  No sod/ organic layer:  Because the cleats of the players are digging into the firm sand, the overall stability of the surface is better.  “Divots” that come out of fields are generally at the sod/ sand interface because the roots are not leaving the sod into the sand.  This field does not have that, so divots are impossible.

2)  Superior root density and shear strength:  The new varieties of Kentucky bluegrass from seed that were used to grow in the field  appear to be far superior in creating root density and shear strength.  That is something the damage sustained from play when the seed was 35 days old illustrated immediately as the grass layer just “rolled up” and was stepped back down.  These varieties, even at just 7 months old (only 3 active growing months), are on a different level.

3)  Stability fibers in the sand:  Historically, stability fibers (fibre sand) has had a bad reputation in the USA because of numerous failures.  As a student in college, I was a witness to one of those failures.  But it now is very evident that the fibers themselves were not what was failing, it was us as US managers laying thick cut sod on reinforced sand then expecting the fibers to do their job w/ out aggressively aerating.  Stability fibers provide firmness to the sand and give the seedling plant roots something to wrap around and secure themselves tightly into the sand.  Because of that, “shearing” is impossible.  Leaf blades can be torn off, but the crown and root of the plant remains.

We are continuing to document the field for another week following the rugby match as the field is prepared for the home open for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League this coming weekend.  Monday morning the field was deep tined at 8″ to loosen the reinforced sand and then was aerated with solid tines on 1″x 2″ centers at 3″ deep to soften the surface for soccer.  Ultimately no matter what conclusions we draw in the end…  once the rugby lines grow out (or get greened out), it would seem that the combination of seeding with superior Kentucky bluegrass varieties into reinforced sand has created a surface that the turn around from rugby to soccer is possible over and over again.

What are your thoughts and experiences with the traffic and damage sustained from rugby?  What a fantastic sport to watch… I can see why its so popular across the world now.  It absolutely was a treat to be able to host the event!!