SPECIAL FEATURE: Mr. Casey Montomery “An All Star Effort; Preparation for the 2013 MLS All Star Game”

SPECIAL FEATURE:  This blog is privileged to have a guest share with us on the recent experience of the Major League Soccer All Star Game in Kansas City, KS at Sporting Park.  Mr. Casey Montgomery is the Assistant Sports Turf Manager for Sporting Kansas City tasked with managing day-t0-day maintenance at Sporting Park.  Directed by Mr. Justin Bland, Sporting Kansas City’s sports field management program sets an entirely new standard for high traffic, professional field quality in the United States.  Sporting Park is the jewel of not only soccer stadiums in the Western Hemisphere, but for all sports venues in the United States.  The playing field is a reflection of the quality that Sporting Park was built too. THANK YOU to Mr. Montgomery for sharing about his experience!  

Also an FYI:   Major League Soccer does their All Star Game different from many other sports.  Instead of splitting the league into two teams, the All Stars of MLS match up again a major International club.  The 2013 opponent was AS Roma, an Italian power club from Rome.  

“Preparing for the 2013 MLS All Star Game” provided by Casey Montgomery

2013 MLS All Star Game

2013 MLS All Star Game

Background:  
In 2012 when all of us at Sporting Kansas City were first told Kansas City would host the MLS All Star game, everyone in the organization was thrilled.  There was no better way to show off Sporting Park and Kansas City, the city that we feel is the greatest soccer city in America, than to host the biggest match of the year!  During the 12 months leading up to the All Star Game, everyone in the entire organization worked extremely hard to make sure the match was first class.  However the overall preparation of the stadium and the pitch for the big match wasn’t much different from preparing for any match.  We strive to have the best game experience possible, and with that comes the best playing surface possible game in and game out.

On the pitch we worked with MLS to add some extra classic touches to commemorate the uniqueness of the All Star Game.  MLS All Star Game logos were painted off both touchlines and 7 stars were added in the grass going through the middle of the pitch.  6 of the starts were 30 feet point to point and the 7th star was in the center circle measuring 60 feet from point to point:

Adding Stars For the MLS All Star Game

Adding Stars For the MLS All Star Game

Spraying On Boundaries for MLS All Star Game (Note MLS All Star Logos Behind)

Spraying On Boundaries for MLS All Star Game (Note MLS All Star Logos Behind)

Mowing Pattern Attempted to Turn Attention Towards Stars

Mowing Pattern Attempted to Turn Attention Towards Stars

Water Hose Was Also Used to "Blast" in Stars... But 3" of Rain During 2 Days Prior to Game Limited Effectiveness

Water Hose Was Also Used to “Blast” in Stars… But 3″ of Rain During 2 Days Prior to All Star Match Limited Its Effectiveness

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Game Day Prior to Pre Game Half Time Rehearsal; All Star Touch Coming Together

Game Day Prior to Pre Game Half Time Rehearsal; All Star Touch Coming Together

Adding the stars was an exciting addition, but it ultimately turned into a major challenge! It became apparent after the first lay out and mowing on Saturday morning prior to the game on Wednesday that we would have to work on the stars daily to get them to stand out for the match.  Our maintenance and plant feeding regiments encourage our Kentucky bluegrass mowed at 7/8″ to be very rigid and upright in order to be more durable and strong under high traffic.  Trying to get the grass to lay down to lay down to illuminate the stars was completely opposite of that approach.  We received much needed assistance from Mr. Trevor Vance, Head Groundskeeper of the Kansas City Royals.  Mr. Vance was gracious to let us borrow an 80 lbs tile roller that we used instead of brooms.  The roller was great help, and was less abrasive on the grass than continual brushing.

Chronicling Game Week:

Monday
Rain!  Sporting Park received 1″ of rain on Monday, keeping us from accomplishing many tasks prior to Wednesday’s match.  Our crew waited out the rains to paint the pitch boundaries at 8pm for Tuesday when both the MLS All Stars and AC Roma would train

Tuesday (Training Day)
Rain!  Sporting Park received 1.9″ of rain Monday night into Tuesday mid-morning, bringing the total rainfall over the 2 days to nearly 3″.  We didn’t let that dampen our excitement though!  Tuesday morning prior to the first training session at 9:30am, we mowed the pitch and rolled in the 7 stars.    Both teams then proceeded with their training sessions followed with a 7.5 hour pre-game ceremony rehearsal.  When the rehearsal ended around 10pm, we again mowed the pitch and rolled in the stars again.

Wednesday (Game Day)
Sunshine! Sporting Park was blessed with a gorgeous day for the 2013 MLS All Star Game.  Our staff mowed and re-painted the boundary lines and MLS All Star logos, then rolled the stars to brighten them up.  At 3pm, another rehearsal for the pre-game ceremony  was held for 3 hours.  That allowed us about 45 mins to touch up the stars on the pitch before the gates opened and warmups began for both teams followed by the pre-match ceremonies.  An exciting match saw the MLS All Stars fall to AC Roma 3-1.  But it absolutely was a match full of excitement from start to finish!

Roma remained after the match for a 30 minute training session for their players that did not see action.  Being that their team was in pre-season competition, it was important for all of their players to get work in even if it added a few more hours to our day.

Challenges of the Week Equal Reward
With an event like the MLS All Star Game, we began brain storming and preparing for the challenges months before the match.  So the biggest challenge of the week was the one most out of our control:  The Rain.  We were well prepared to have 2 trainings as well as 2 days of rehearsals.   And the heavy rainfall is something that can be expected from the unpredictable Kansas City climate.  The rain on Monday just came on the day that was most important for our preparation.  Fortunately at Sporting Park we are provide with excellent tools do deal with such conditions.  Our Sub-Air system works wonderfully in vacuum mode to pull rain water out of the sand profile of the pitch.  Yet water still holds around our sod layer, causing the surface to compact quickly from excessive foot traffic like that came from the 500 people on the field for the 10 hours of the pre-match ceremony rehearsals.  Aeration will be our most popular practice through the end of the season in preparation for what is hopefully an even bigger match at the end of the season, the MLS Cup!

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Hosting the 2013 MLS All Star Game in Kansas City was an exciting time for our city and especially the fans and employees of Sporting Kansas City.  Being able to show off the finest soccer stadium in the country not only to AS Roma but to the world was very rewarding.  I was glad to be part of such a historic match!  Kudos to our grounds staff lead by Justin Bland, along with Ryan Lock, Chad Homan, and Shane Montgomery on the tremendous effort to overcome the challenges to create a successful experience for all!

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Join the Revolution

From Mr. Waldo Terrell of Harrell’s “Front Porch Blog on August 1, 2013:

http://www.harrells.com/blog/jtgr

Every month or so it seems Sports Turf Managers are being inundated with information regarding the viability and cost effectiveness of artificial turf. This information is often disseminated by those who have the most to gain from such information, the artificial turf manufacturers themselves. There is a growing group of Sports Turf Managers led by Jerad Minnick at the Maryland Soccer Plex who are proving time and again that “Grass Fields CAN Take More Traffic”. Jerad maintains a blog Growing Green Grass that chronicles the innovation going on in our industry. The latest and most intriguing of them is the concept of Fraze Mowing.

Below are a handful of practices that if implemented will allow grass fields to take more traffic.

  1. Aerification/ Cultivation. I’m already on the record as being a huge proponent of aerification (see the Harrell’s May 2013 Front Porch Blog) but there is a lot more to it than just core aerification. Slicing, spiking, solid tine or even fraze mowing, which I’ve never actually done, but the pictures I’ve seen speak for themselves, as often as possible will also help a field hold up to heavy traffic.
  2. Nutrient Management including the use of controlled release fertilizers, like Polyon, and plant growth regulators. These tools when used properly will maximize the turf’s ability to take up nutrients and use those nutrients to synthesize the carbohydrates needed to withstand traffic.
  3. Field Rotation. Moving or resizing fields to spread wear will greatly increase a grass field’s ability to withstand heavy traffic. Manage the wear, don’t let me manage you.

Sports Turf Managers are doing revolutionary things to insure that their grass fields CAN take more. Is it time for you to join the revolution?

Innovation Announcement: Bermudagrass Performance Test

Innovation Announcement  

Bermudagrass Performance Test SoccerPlex to Administer Real Time Performance Test of Four Bermudagrass Varieties 

Details:  Maryland SoccerPlex to test four varieties of bermudagrass on two re-constructed sand base fields.  NorthBridge and Patriot on Field 14.  Latitude 36 and Riviera on Field 17.

Read more of the announcement:   Innovation Announcement: Bermudagrass Performance Test.

Support of Wimbledon; A New Standard?

The grass tennis courts at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, or better known as Wimbledon, were in the sports headlines last week.   Some players exiting early to defeat took some parting shots at the slickness of the courts.  The rebuttal, support, and the education about grass that followed those negative headlines reached a standard never seen before in grass sports surface maintenance.

Wimbledon’s CEO immediately issued a statement about the courts:

STATEMENT FROM RICHARD LEWIS, CEO, ON PLAYER WITHDRAWALS

London, UK: “There has been a high number of withdrawals at The Championships today and we sympathise with all the players affected. The withdrawals have occurred for a variety of reasons, but there has been some suggestion that the court surface is to blame. We have no reason to think this is the case. Indeed, many players have complimented us on the very good condition of the courts.

“The court preparation has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years and it is well known that grass surfaces tend to be more lush at the start of an event. The factual evidence, which is independently checked, is that the courts are almost identical to last year, as dry and firm as they should be, and we expect them to continue to play to their usual high quality.”

Richard Lewis, Chief Executive
The All England Club

The “factual evidence” that Mr. Lewis is referencing comes from a strict and regular testing program that the Wimbledon Grounds Department is on in conjunction with the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI).  The testing data allows the Wimbledon to ensure the courts are consistent and prepared every day for their own players and for the players at the Championship.

Then following the Wimbledon CEO statement, the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) also issued a statement.

WIMBLEDON PLAYING SURFACES: STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE INSTITUTE OF GROUNDSMANSHIP FROM CHIEF EXECUTIVE GEOFF WEBB

“The highly-professional and experienced All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) grounds management team works year-round preparing the world-renowned Wimbledon grass courts with the Championships very much in mind – as the annual showcase of playing surfaces that represent the ultimate in top-class playability as well as appearance.

“The considerable expertise of the AELTC grounds management team is underpinned by a multi-million pound turf care industry where companies spend many years developing high-performance turf grass seed specifically for sport. Alongside this, the very best in turfcare machinery and equipment is also on hand to ensure that by the time the tournament starts the courts are in the very best condition possible.

“Independent scientific testing on the courts is regularly carried out and the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) is in no doubt that this year’s playing surfaces at Wimbledon are of the same usual high standards, as evident at last year’s Olympic and 2012 Championships”

END

Then in what has to be a completely unprecedented move by Mr. Geoff Webb, IOG CEO, Mr. Webb. went on CNN News to discuss the facts with the general public about what was happening at Wimbledon.  Mr. Webb also reiterated the professionalism, the specialization, and the meticulous nature of the Wimbledon Grounds team (and all grass sports surface managers for that matter).

WATCH:        Why is Wimbledon so slippery?

The Wimbledon Grounds team received much and well deserved credit last year as they set a new standard for quality with keeping the courts immaculate through the Championships followed by the Olympics only 16 days later.  As the Wimbledon Championships wrap up this weekend for this year, they have done yet another miraculous job of proving that grass CAN take more.  And inadvertently they have created yet another new standard of support and education about the specialization of the natural grass sports surface industry.  Kudos to them for another job WELL DONE… and kudos to all those who supported them with facts and education about the possibilities of natural grass.

MORE SUCCESS: Fraze Mowing Bermudagrass In North Carolina

On Tuesday of last week, KORO Universe® fraze mowing was introduced to bermudagrass in northeast eastern  North Carolina.  The results of the process continue to be amazing:

Celebration Bermudagrass Cleaning w/ KORO Universe at Shallowest Depth

Celebration Bermudagrass Cleaning w/ KORO Universe at Shallowest Depth

Celebration Bermudagrass Cleaned Out 2 w/ KORO Universe

Celebration Bermudagrass Cleaned Out Deeper w/ KORO Universe

Mat of Thatch & Organic on 419 Removed to Expose Stolons & Rhizomes

Mat of Thatch & Organic on 419 Removed to Expose Stolons & Rhizomes

Mr. Sam Green, Director of Business Development at Aqua Aid, set up the demonstration in North Carolina.  Mr. Simon Gumbrill of Campey Turf Care (Manchester, UK) and Mr. Hans DeKort of Imants (Reusel, Netherlands) were both in attendance, along with Mr. Andrew Green from McDonald Design Group to evaluate the potential of the process.  The potential for the golf market is very big, for de-thatching/ durability/ and for cleaning up to prepare for overseeding.

More updates to come on the re-establishment of the bermudagrass!

Synthetic v. Grass: The Numbers

iphone photos 129-1

Recently there have been several high-ranking officials/ executives in soccer making statements about synthetic being the “cheaper alternative” to natural grass.  So it is becoming the overall belief that synthetic is cheaper than natural grass….

THAT ABSOLUTELY IS NOT TRUE.  

Yes, it is no secret where this blog stands on the issue of natural grass v. synthetic turf. Specialized sports field managers around the world are creating new ways for natural grass fields to sustain increased traffic almost every day. And we continue to stand by the idea that in 5 years, natural grass will provide a high traffic option to match synthetic turf.

But at no point has the blog made statements that are not based in fact, nor have we denied that synthetic turf IS an excellent tool for extremely high traffic situations (over 1000 hours in the north, over 1500 hours in the south), for situations w/ space demands (high schools, inner cities, etc) , or for indoors.  Synthetic turf sometimes is recommended.

But w/ conceding that synthetic is a tool for extremely high traffic, the mis-information about synthetic is cheaper than grass “because it doesn’t require maintenance” must be corrected.  Ultimately, those statements are biased and un-informed.  Let’s look at the facts when it comes to grass v. synthetic turf:

Total Over 10 Years For 1 Grass Field v 1 Synthetic Field: 
(There is a complete breakdown of costs below)

Synthetic Professional:  $1,900,000

Synthetic Practice/ Tournament:  $1,700,000

Natural Grass, Professional:  $1,750,000

Natural Grass, Practice/Tournament:  $1,100,000

Natural Grass, Youth:  $650,000

Thoughts:  

At the professional level, the break even cost of grass v synthetic over 10 years is nearly equal.  Certainly much debate is around synthetic being able to sustain higher amounts of concerts, monster trucks, etc.  But with these multiple events, synthetic fields are failing at higher rates as well. And their replacement cost is much higher than grass field replacement costs.  Things like heat and grow lights increase grass costs, but extra padding and heat for frozen synthetic adds equal costs.  So ultimately, the comparison is even.

However, for grass fields, the cost numbers for maintenance decreases exponentially when additional fields are added.  Even just 1, full time/ skilled Sports Field Manager can maintain multiple fields.  The equipment fleet for 1 field can maintain multiple fields as well.  Thus these numbers drop quickly when more fields are added.  So for a professional stadium w/ a practice facility having staff and equipment that are shared, the cost drops quickly.

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In regard to youth soccer….  recently a high ranking and fantastic soccer executive publicly stated that “we don’t have the resources to have grounds crews fixing fields through all these clubs, so it (synthetic) becomes an easy option.”  

Yet clubs have $1.7 million to invest over 10 years to convert an already existing field to synthetic??

A “grounds crew fixing fields” could do ALOT with $170,000/ year!!  The maintenance budget for a professional level sports field comes in at only $115,000 for labor and supplies for a single field.  A well paid grounds crew of 2 could maintain 3-5 fields at a higher level than they are currently being maintained with that $170,000.  And ultimately, cheaply built/ native soil fields are being compared to million dollar synthetic fields.  Not an equal comparison.

March 25: Results of Recycling Dressing Following Dragging

As we look at the facts, synthetic v. grass is not a debate about money.  It ultimately is about high traffic and space.  Synthetic turf is an excellent tool for high traffic situations, it absolutely is needed.  But synthetic is NOT the “future of soccer” as recently stated even by a National Team coach.  Clubs are businesses 1st, and grass is the more efficient $$ answer.  Especially when a specialized Sports Field Manager is involved working diligently to save the club money and produce the best grass fields possible for the lowest cost.

(Breakdown of Costs Below….Let the Debate Continue!)  

1)  How Am I Educated to Address This So Directly & Boldly?
I, Jerad Minnick, (the author of this post) am one of a handful of sports field managers in the world that have built from the ground up and maintained both grass and synthetic fields.  I have, and I will continue, to make recommendations and consultations on the need for both grass and synthetic fields in situations that warrant.  These numbers are conservative & factual.

2) Construction Costs

Synthetic Professional:  $1,000,000 (Professionally built, no shortcuts on base construction, fibers, infills, etc)

Synthetic, Practice/ Tournament:  $850,000 (Shortcuts on base construction, fibers, infill, etc.. still a good field)

Natural Grass Professional*:  $600,000 (Professionally built, no shortcuts)
*: 10″ sand profile, drainage, irrigation, sodded.
*: Creates a field that is rain-out proof

Natural Grass Practice/ Tournament*:  $350,000
*: Practice/ Tournament:  6″ sand profile, drainage, irrigation, sodded
*: Creates a field that is rain-out proof

Natural Grass Youth Field*: $150,000
*: Field using native soil, graded level, irrigation, no drainage#
#: Fact: This is the majority of all Parks/ Youth grass fields in the USA

3) Maintenance Costs:
Synthetic (Either construction):  $10,000/ year*
*: equipment for grooming, infill, minor repairs, etc.  Maintenance is simple.

Natural Grass Professional:  $40,000/ year*
*: Average over for equipment, supplies (fertilizer, seed, etc), water, etc

Natural Grass Practice/ Tournament:  $30,000/ year*
*: Average over for equipment, supplies (fertilizer, seed, etc), water, etc

Natural Grass Youth Field:  $30,000/ year*
*: Average for paying landscape contractor to mow, seed, fertilizer, etc

4) Labor Costs:  

Synthetic Professional:  $30,000*
*: Non-skilled, full time to deal with clean up/ set up/ grooming/ etc

Synthetic Practice/ Tournament:  $20,000/ year*
*: Non-skilled, part time to deal with clean up/ set up/ grooming/ etc

Natural Grass Professional:  $75,000*
*: 1 full time, skilled, 1 part time skilled person for growing natural grass on 1 field (or up to 3 fields)

Natural Grass Practice/ Tournament:  $45,000*
*: 1 full time, skilled person for growing natural grass on 1 field (or up to 2 fields)

Natural Grass Youth Field: $20,000*
*: Part time, non skilled labor for clean up, set up, etc.

5) Replacement Costs:

Synthetic:  $500,000 after 8-10 years

Natural Grass:  No need from “regular” use*
*:  concerts, monster trucks, etc not “regular use”

Total Over 10 Years: 

Synthetic Professional:  $1,900,000

Synthetic Practice/ Tournament:  $1,700,000

Natural Grass, Professional:  $1,750,000

Natural Grass, Practice/Tournament:  $1,100,000

Natural Grass, Youth:  $650,000

6) Extras/ Outliers *These Will Bring the Most Debate*: 

Synthetic:

Overall Costs:  Vary*
*: Storm Water Management:  Up to $300,000 (Some States deem synthetic as an “impervious surface”, like a parking lot, & need engineering to reclaim water )

*: Construction Cost Savings:  Can be up to $200,000 (Some states have cheaper labor/ stable soils that reduce costs.  BUT that would be for grass & synthetic)

*: Relationship w/ Vendor:  Different synthetic vendors will make “deals” with different clubs, teams, etc to get their product in.  It is a very competitive market, but w/ few very high quality products (those are much higher quality than the others)

Extra padding to soften synthetic:  $500,000*

*:  Average:  Different companies work different deals.  The “best” synthetic field in America is public to admit they have added nearly $1,000,000 extra

Replacing fields more often than 8-10 years:  $500,000*

*: High profile, multiple event professional synthetic fields are being replaced in shorter intervals than the 8-10 years that fields being used for sports only last

– Irrigation System for Heat Reduction:  $40,000*
*: Piping, heads, booster pump to shoot water long distance

Grass:
Seeding/ Sprigging v. Sodding:  Reduces cost up to $100,000*
*: Seeding/ sprigging grass fields in allowed windows saves money

–  Glycol heating for sand:  $800,000 (plus operating costs)

Forced air heating for sand:  $400,000 (plus operating costs)

Grow Lights:  $100,000 per lighting unit (5 most in USA for soccer)

Re-sodding even without heavy traffic:  $150,000 (has, and does, happen)