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.

UPDATED: IMPRESSIVE RESULTS: Fraze Mowing Bermudagrass

The impact of fraze mowing bermudagrass is beginning to show.  Fields that were “cleaned off” at Maryland SoccerPlex and at FC Dallas Park are all setting themselves apart.

Maryland SoccerPlex fields that were “cleaned off” are illustrating improved wear tolerance, even just 6 weeks after fraze mowing.  During a lacrosse tournament last weekend, SoccerPlex Patriot bermudagrass fields hosted 34 lacrosse matches per bermudagrass field in rainy, humid conditions.  The durability from the fraze mowed fields was far superior.  The treatments have been the same; no fertilizer and 1 pass w/ 3/8″ hollow coring tines on 1″ centers; accept that the non-fraze mowed fields were scarified to promote recovery. The results follow….

Fields Not Fraze Mowed:

Bermudagrass Field That was Not Fraze Mowed

Day 1: Bermudagrass Field That was Not Fraze Mowed

Day 7 of Recovery on Fields Not Fraze Mowed

Day 7 of Recovery on Fields Not Fraze Mowed

UPDATED

Non Fraze Mowed:  Day 14 of Recovery From 34 Lacrosse Matches

Non Fraze Mowed: Day 14 of Recovery From 34 Lacrosse Matches

Because bermudagrass is so quick to recover, it is accepted before such a lacrosse event that the bermudagrass will nearly be completely worn away.  The bermuda is able to recover completely within 2-3 weeks even at this pace.

Then that is compared to the fields that were fraze mowed 6 week prior to hosting 34 lacrosse matches in 4 days.  Results:

Field That Was Fraze Mowed 6 Weeks Prior to 34 Lacrosse Matches

Day 1:  Field That Was Fraze Mowed

Day 7 of Recovery on Fraze Mowed Field

Day 7 of Recovery on Fraze Mowed Field

UPDATED

Day 14 of Recovery:  Fraze Mowed Field from 34 Lacrosse Matches (W/ Soccer Camps/ Clinics All 14 Days)

Day 14 of Recovery: Fraze Mowed Field from 34 Lacrosse Matches (W/ Soccer Camps/ Clinics All 14 Days)

The results speak for themselves.  Yes, in both pictures the field is extremely worn initially on Day 1.  However, look closer and compare the amount of green tissue remaining on the ground in the fraze mowed picture compared to the field not fraze mowed.  The field not fraze mowed is nearly all dirt where new bermuda will need to push back up through the soil or have sprigs added to the area.  The fraze mowed field still has nearly 75% cover, so the plants can quickly grow back in the worn area.

Keep in mind that fraze mowing took place only 6 weeks prior on 3 fields:

Fraze Mowing w/ KORO Universe Field Topmaker

Fraze Mowing w/ KORO Universe Field Topmaker

Field Comparisons In 6 Weeks Before 34 Lacrosse Games

Field Comparisons In 6 Weeks Before 34 Lacrosse Games

Because of the increase in durability of the fraze mowed bermudagrass, it is recovering in only 1 week.  Not only does this allow the field to recover faster, but it can allow for the fields to sustain even more play.  Win. Win.

So WHY is the difference so vast already?

1)  Re-growth is more durable:  Just 6 weeks after the field was cleaned off completely, the re-growth back up through the soil is much stronger.  The number of growing points has multiplied and the cleats go into the soil instead of thatch to reduce shearing/ tearing/ increasing traction.

2) Organic removal reduces moisture and compaction potential:  During the 4 day lacrosse tournament, wet and rainy conditions prevailed.  The drying speed of the fraze mowed fields was much faster than the non-fraze mowed fields, and the 3 fields that were “cleaned off” historically hold water the longest.  WHY?  The organic layer was removed, so water was not held in the organic layer as long and allowed to soak into the native soil faster.  The organic removal also reduced the compaction potential at the soil surface.

The FC Dallas Training Field is also experiencing similar superior wear tolerance:

FC Dallas 1st Team Training Field:

Organic/ Thatch Build Up in 2012

Organic/ Thatch Build Up in 2012

Thatch/ Organic Build Up AFTER Fraze Mowing in 2013

Thatch/ Organic Build Up AFTER Fraze Mowing in 2013

The pictures also illustrate the difference in the quality of the bermudagrass re-growth.  Without having to grow up through thatch and having more growing points, the picture illustrates how much stronger the bermudagrass is after fraze mowing.  Additionally, the poa is removed as well.

The FC Dallas Training field has been in use daily for nearly 3 months and is illustrating superior wear tolerance, especially through the high traffic areas:

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Demo Day THANK YOU

Mr. Simon Gumbrill and Mr. Jerad Minnick Share at Demo Day

Simon Gumbrill & Jerad Minnick Share at Demo Day

THANK YOU to everyone that took part in the demonstration at Maryland SoccerPlex on Monday, June 3rd.  Heavy rains Sunday night limited to the amount of work that was able to take place, but that did not limit the discussions and information sharing between the nice sized group that gathered.

Special thanks to Mr. Simon Gumbrill of Campey Turf Care (Manchester, UK) and Mr. Hans DeKort of Imants (Reusel, Netherlands) for taking the time to be with us.  And special thanks to them for building and providing the turfgrass market with such well build and precision machines.  The relationship between Campey and Imants is absolutely “Perfecting Play”.  

Also, thank you to Mr. Niels Dokkuma from SGL Concept (Netherlands) for joining us.  The age of growing grass year round w/ lights for even non-shaded fields is coming… and SGL is leading us there.  Exciting things ahead!!

And additionally, a thank you for Mr. Yousef Bagdady for joining us from Garden & Farm (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).  Garden & Farm is one of the finest turfgrass equipment distributors in the world, and Mr. Bagdady being with us illustrates why.  The idea sharing was beneficial for us all!

IMG_3271More to come w/ the re-growth of the fields.  We are absolutely on track to re-open by 1 week from today…  June 15th.  A sneak peak at the results so far:

Patriot Bermuda Greening 5 Days After Cleaning Off

Patriot Bermuda Greening 5 Days After Cleaning Off

Patriot Bermuda Coming Through at 6 Days After Cleaning Off

Thinnest Area Prior to Patriot Bermuda Being Cleaned Off 6 Days Before

 

 

Evolving the Practice: Fraze Mowing Bermudagrass Comes To Maryland SoccerPlex

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Fraze mowing bermudagrass w/ the KORO Universe® Field Topmaker rotor became an active practice on dormant bermudagrass at FC Dallas Park in March.  Now for the 1st time, the practice has been used on bermudagrass greening up and starting its summer growth at Maryland SoccerPlex (NW side of Washington, DC).  The Patriot bermudagrass on  7 fields at SoccerPlex has been actively growing for about 3 weeks…  so fraze mowing is taking place right at the time of transitioning the rye grass overseeding out of the bermudagrass.

Fraze mowing 2 fields took place on Thursday of last week, May 30.  The top 1/2″ of the field was removed w/ the benefits being:

1) rye grass removal

2) poa annua and weed seed removal

3) thatch/organic build up removal

4)  smoothing the surface of the top of the field

With all the removal, the bermuda stolons and rhizomes were exposed to the sunlight to be allowed to green up completely and actively grow across the field instead of fighting to get up through the shade of the thatch/organic and competition of the rye/ poa.

Fraze Mowing w/ KORO Universe Field Topmaker

Fraze Mowing w/ KORO Universe Field Topmaker

Bermuda Plants Exposed w/ Removal of Rye, Poa, Weed Seed, and Thatch/ Organic Build Up

Bermuda Plants Exposed w/ Removal of Rye, Poa, Weed Seed, and Thatch/ Organic Build Up

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Stolons & Rhizomes Exposed

Stolons & Rhizomes Exposed

Following the “cleaning off” via fraze mowing, the fields were scarified at 1″ deep w/ a verticutter in 2 directions to cut the stolons and rhizomes to increase the number of plants and promote lateral and leaf growth.  Each point the bermuda is cut will promote growth and increase density as the fields fill-in.

Results of Fraze Mowing w/ KORO Universe & Double Scarifying

Results of Fraze Mowing w/ KORO Universe & Double Scarifying w/ Verticutter

Following fraze mowing and scarifying, the fields were put into a heavy watering cycle to keep the bermudagrass soaked down in the soil… much like sprigs would be soaked when they are planted from sprigging.  The water will help the remaining dormant plants to green up and start to grow.. and reduce the stress of the fraze mowing.

In 5-7 days time when leaves have re-generated and can be foliar fed, foliar bio-stimulant will be applied to promote more leaf and shoot growth.  Because the leaves were removed from fraze mowing, the photosynthetic surface has been removed.  Thus the additional of carbohydrates, amino acids, and plant hormones will provide food and energy to promote quicker regeneration .  1/2 lb of ammonium sulfate will also be applied, along granular polymer coated nitrogen (N) to release at 1/10th lbs N a week for the next 18 weeks and polymer coated phosphorous (K) to also release at 1/10th lbs K for the next 18 weeks.

The 2 fields clean off on May 30th re-open on June 15th to full play.  (so closed 16 total days) Stayed tuned to track the re-establishment!

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