Day 5: Final Day in the UK, Manchester!

Day 5 in the UK was in the city of Manchester, home of 2 EPL powers.  Mr. Simon Gumbrill was kind enough to return as the tour guide, thank you to him for the continued hospitality and kindness!!

Our 1st stop of the day was to see Mr. Lee Jackson at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.  Mr. Jackson, one of expert group member on pitch management for ESSMA, was gracious with his time and communication.  Many thanks to Mr. Jackson for that.  And even after a heavy stretch of use, the pitch was absolutely fantastic.  Kudos to him and his staff for the hard work!

Mr. Lee Jackson

Mr. Lee Jackson

Leaving the Etihad, we traveled over to the training ground of the other team in Manchester, Manchester United.  Great to see Mr. Joe Pemberton at his own facility after he dropped in to say hello on holiday when we were fraze mowing bermudagrass for the 1st time ever this spring at FC Dallas Park.  Mr. Pemberton and his staff have the ground looking fantastic.  When we visited last spring, much of the facility was still under construction.  Wow the results are impressive!  Thank you to Joe for taking the time to show us around and to share some of his thinking around large facility management and pitch maintenance.

Mr. Simon Gumbrill and Mr. Joe Pemberton

Mr. Simon Gumbrill and Mr. Joe Pemberton

As the week in the UK closes, I can’t thank Simon Gumbrill enough for his time and guidance around the country.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Simon’s personable nature and British charm is single-handedly drawing the worlds of US and UK groundsmanship together.  THANK YOU Simon for putting up with my questions all week.

And THANK YOU to all the UK Head Grounds Managers who took time out of their day to talk with me.  I commented to someone earlier today, the warmth and openness of the UK Grounds Managers is amazing.  My last trip over the pond left me thinking the same thing.  Steve Jobs, in an award speech to the Academy of Achievement in 1982, stressed the need for different experiences in life to make new connections with reality to feed innovation.   The Grounds Managers that spent time with me discussing even the most basic of issues are laying the ground work for innovation, with both themselves and with us in the US.  THANK YOU to them for allowing me to be a part of their experiences!

Off to Madrid, Spain for the weekend before Porto, Portugal next week for the ESSMA Head Grounds Managers seminar.  Cheers to all of you for a fantastic weekend!

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Day 3: Go, Go, Go!

Day 3 in the UK started at St. George’s Park, Home of the English FA.  Having hotels in the center of a soccer facility is unique and very convenient for us!

As mentioned, the training ground is absolutely fantastic.  Many thanks to Mr. Alan Ferguson and Mrs. Carol Ferguson for their hospitality and kindness.  With studying reinforcement, in particular Desso, the 1st couple of days of the trip.. it was fitting that the Desso sewing processes was taking place on a field for us to observe.  Very interesting and thought-provoking stuff!

Desso Sewed Into Sand

Desso Sewed Into Sand

The 2nd stop of the day was at the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI).  Know for their research and consultancy around the world, visiting STRI was even more interesting than I could have ever expected.  Many thanks to Dr. Christian Spring and Mr. Ian Anderson for the tour and the in-depth discussions.  The research trials at STRI were eye-opening on a few different topics related to high traffic grass fields… topics that we will be discussing in the future on this blog.

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Upon leaving STRI, we next stopped in at Headingley Carnegie Stadium.  Home of Leeds Rugby.  Unique to anything I’ve ever seen, Leeds Headingley is back to back with the Leeds Cricket Ground, actually sharing a stand with it.  Fantastic environment for both sports!  Also fantastic is the pitch produced by Mr. Jason Booth & Mr. Ryan Golding.  Wow.  What great information they shared with me and an even more fascinating story on reconstruction that is a bold elimination of the difference in US and UK groundsmanship.  Many thanks to them for their time.  Great great stuff…  Obviously more to come on that!

Mr. Ryan Golding & Mr. Jason Booth of Headingley Carnegie Stadium

Mr. Ryan Golding & Mr. Jason Booth of Headingley Carnegie Stadium

The day ended with spending time with Mr. Carl Pass, owner of Premier Pitches. Many thanks to him for his time and hospitality! Premier Pitches is one of the most specialized field contractors in the world for field renovation.  Mr. Pass’s unique and special Desso renovation tools aided in the birth of many of the renovation techniques discussed on this blog.  Many thanks to Mr. Pass for his time and his hospitality.

Premier Pitches Renovating Desso at St. George's Park This Past Spring

Premier Pitches Renovating Desso at St. George’s Park This Past Spring

2 more days left in the UK before heading off to Madrid for the weekend…  Day 3 absolutely was eye-opening and has aided in many, many new ideas being created.  I am looking forward to more great things to come!!

Arrival & Exploration

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The 1st day of exploring the UK was absolutely superb all around.  Superb and eye opening observations.  Superb and in-depth discussions.  Superb weather and travel conditions.  Many, many, many thanks to the man I consider the UK/ USA grass field ambassador…. Mr. Simon Gumbrill.  Simon single-handedly is bring 2 very different worlds of groundsmanship together.  As always,  his hospitality, graciousness, and ideas are 1st rate.  Thank you to him for taking the time to take me around the country!

One of the exploration and idea collection points of this trip focuses around stability and reinforcement of rootzones for heavy use.  The UK climate brings large amounts of rain and cold winters, yet most high level stadiums/ field in the UK never fight divoting and sand stability issues like American fields.  Why??

Mr. Anthony Stones of Wembley Stadium, and Mr. Paul Ashcroft of Emirates Stadium (At Wembley)

Mr. Anthony Stones of Wembley Stadium, and Mr. Paul Ashcroft of Emirates Stadium (At Wembley)

With that in mind, our 1st stop on Monday was Wembley Stadium.  Wembley hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers & Minnesota Vikings Sunday night,  just 12 hours prior to our visit. Many, many thanks to Mr. Anthony Stones and his staff for hosting us the morning after such an event.  Absolutely 1st class to take the time to see us, talk with us, and to be so open with us.

And the Wembley pitch was fantastic as well.  Reinforced w/ Desso, American football had barely nicked the field.  But the NFL game is only part of the story.  Wembley had perviously hosted Roger Waters  “The Wall” concert 2 weeks prior on Sat. Sept. 14.  (Yes, the same “The Wall” concert that toured the US last summer, decimating stadium fields across the country and leading to hundreds of thousands of square feet of sod replacement).  Yet even with it 2 weeks before an NFL game, Wembley sodded 0 sq ft following the concert.

Even more remarkable is that the field had sustained multiple rugby and soccer matches prior to the NFL and concert following a seeding renovation to repair the field from a month of concerts in June.  Absolutely amazing!!  More to come on HOW this was possible in upcoming days…..

Mr. Steve Braddock at Arsenal's Training Ground

Mr. Steve Braddock at Arsenal’s Training Ground

Our 2nd stop of Monday was at Arsenal’s Shenley Training Ground to see Mr. Steve Braddock.  Mr. Braddock is truly an artist, as the pitches were as strong as ever. Thank you to Steve for taking the time to talk about so many topics and to trade so many different possibilities.  With over 10 fields, the training ground is a large facility… but that doesn’t keep Steve and his strong staff from producing amazing results. More to come on observations… in particular from seeing 5 more Desso sewed fields.

Water Across the Perfect Emirates Stadium Pitch Before Training

Water Across the Perfect Emirates Stadium Pitch Before Training

Lastly on Monday, Mr. Paul Ashcroft allowed us to pay him a visit at Emirates Stadium late in the evening to see his masterpiece known as the Emirates Stadium pitch.  With Napoli FC training for their Champions League match against Arsenal, their work during a fast paced training session on the Desso pitch highlighted some of the strong points Mr. Ashcroft was kind enough to share with us.  Thank You to him for taking the time to see us, even being busy!

In observing 12 immaculate fields on my 1st day, even following American football/ nearly 2 months into season training/ immediately follow a hard working training session, I quickly was reminded again how different our thinking and quality is in the USA is compared to the top facilities in the UK.  With all the fields being high traffic,  7 of the 12 fields reinforced with Desso, and none ever getting sod work…..  the number of additional questions for me to get answered grows.  Much, much more on the amazing things seen are to come!

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ESSMA & European Exploration: The #Revolution is Growing!

With the arrival of fall there are so many fantastic fields around the world being showcased on television and on social media.  Kudos to each and every hard-working Grounds Manager out there who is setting the example that grass CAN take more traffic!  The grass field #revolution is growing!

In the search of new ideas and different perspectives, Saturday I set off on a new trip to Europe to observe and learn from some fantastic Grounds Managers.  Managers across the big pond are currently maintaining fields under heavy use and preparing for winter play as well.  Observations and conversations start in the UK, advance through Spain, and end in Porto, Portugal on Oct. 11.

In Portugal I will have the privilege to present the keynote address for the ESSMA Head Grounds Managers Seminar at FC Porto. The keynote revolves  around the components of the natural grass field #revolution and the possibilities of high traffic natural grass that each of you that read and share around this blog are individually creating every day.  Kudos to all of you! Evolution is changing the answer.  Revolution is changing the question!!

What an honor to be able to take part in the event while representing our fantastic, positive minded team at Maryland SoccerPlex.  SoccerPlex becomes the 1st American member of ESSMA as part of the event, something we are very, very proud of as well.

ESSMA, the European Stadium & Safety Management Association,  in close cooperation with its field management partners CampeyImants, EVERRIS, DESSO GrassMaster, SGL and TERRAPLAS is presenting its second Head Grounds Managers Seminar .  The seminar focuses on the established field management cases of ESSMA, grounds managers sharing their concepts and practical visit to the stadium field and training centre at FC Porto.  The 2012 event was held at FC Barcelona.

On the education program are Jonathan Calderwood (Paris Saint-Germain), Ricardo Carvalho (FC Porto); Lee Jackson (Manchester City); Sebastian Breuing (VfL Bochum; Bochum, Germany); and Maxim Kobzin (Donbass Arena; Donetsk, Ukraine).   There is no doubt that the exchange of ideas and possibilities created at the event will be many!

And ultimately, that is the key to the #revolution.  The continual exchange of ideas between managers around the world builds innovation by promoting outside the box thinking to meet the demands and needs of natural grass fields.  We have questions and we have answers.  Our peers have questions and answers.  They have answers to other questions that we might not even realize we need to ask!!

Keep up with and engage in the exchange during the trip here…  The possibilities are endless, but your feedback is required!  To have notice of updates, click the FOLLOW up in the top left corner of this post… or follow me on twitter at @JeradRMinnick

Best wishes to a successful end of the week… and CHEERS to the continuing spread of the #revolution!

Field Maintenance Survey: Have 5 Mins?

Happy Wednesday!  This morning GrowingGreenGrass has the privilege to assist a friend of the #revolution, Mr. Chase Straw.  Mr. Straw is a graduate student at the University of Georgia.  He is collecting some field maintenance information as part of his thesis research via an online survey.

UGA Field Maintenance Survey

From Mr. Straw:

“The purpose of the survey is to gather data to get an idea of cultivation practices implemented at all levels (professional, park and rec., etc.) of athletic field management. Then (the study) will look at each level and determine the frequency of cultivation practices, reasons as to why or why not they cultivate, concerns about managing natural turfgrass fields, etc.”

With the data, Mr. Straw will be able to get a better idea of what the concerns are of managing athletic fields at each level then use this data to brainstorm future research projects and also justify the projects they have currently going on.

Absolutely wonderful stuff!  Please take a couple of minutes and fill out the survey if you can, and even pass it along to our peers.

The link again is:  UGA Field Maintenance Survey

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!

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?