Synthetic v. Grass: The Numbers

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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)

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

Concept to Active Practice: Fraze Mowing Bermudagrass Makes Debut

FCDallas

On Jan. 30th, we shared in a discussion about the “concept” of fraze mowing bermudagrass w/ the new Universe® rotor for the new Koro Field Topmaker.  The feedback and idea exchange was absolutely fantastic!  It seemed we were onto a potential breakthrough for bermudagrass thatch management.

Last Saturday, March 23, the “concept” became reality as the Universe® made its world debut in Dallas, TX at FC Dallas Park.  The results speak for themselves:

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

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

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

The rye grass overseeding was removed, along with the thatch, organic layer, and weed seed bed.  Left behind is a mat of stolons and rhizomes that will immediately re-generate leaf blades and begin to grow laterally across the ground.  In bermudagrass weather (FC Dallas bermuda is primarily dormant for a few more weeks), the plant tissue remaining will push out leaves in 4-7 days.. immediately giving the field surface a green appearance again.  Then within 14-21 days, active growth will have the field surface nearly completely re-covered with strong, durable plants ready to sustain heavy traffic.  Fraze mowing also smoothed any undulations in the surface, making the fields as smooth as pool tables.  Overall, the results were absolutely spectacular!!

During the weekend demonstration, FC Dallas Park had 3 fields receive the Koro Renovation Process (Fraze mowed to clean out the thatch, organic layer, ryegrass, and weed seed/ recycle dressed/ smooth drug).  1 field was fraze mowed w/ the new Terraplane rotor, making its USA debut…  then 2 fields were cleaned out w/ the Universe® ,making it’s world debut.  Once the fields were cleaned out, the KORO Recycling Dresser ameliorated the sand… allowing air to be infused back down through the profile.  The topdressing the Recycler created covered the stolons and rhizomes, allowing them to be protected and encouraged re-generate even faster.  Mr. Allen Reed also became the 1st high level professional stadium groundsman in the USA to run the Recycling Dresser on a stadium field, following the likes of Mr. Paul Burgess of Real Madrid’s Estadio Bernabeu.

KORO Recycle Dresser on FC Dallas Stadium

KORO Recycle Dresser on FC Dallas Stadium

THANK YOU to Mr. Miles Studhalter, Mr. Allen Reed, and Mr. Tom Jones of FC Dallas Park for believing in the concept of fraze mowing bermuda w/ the Universe® enough to be the 1st to have it demonstrated and performed.  Their belief and feedback has been essential in bringing the concept into real life.  They were convinced that the practice of cleaning out the rye grass, thatch, organic, and weed seed would provide a stronger, more durable playing surface going into the future.  Thank you again to them.. they are the best of the best!!

Also, thank you to Mr. Joe Pemberton, Head Groundsman of Manchester United’s Carrington Training Ground, for providing feedback during the process.   Joe, in the USA on a short holiday, stopped in to observe the Universe® debut.  It was a privilege to see Mr. Pemberton, he absolutely is one of the world’s very best Field Managers.  Thank you to him for allowing us to ask so many questions!

And finally, a very special thank you to Imants BV (@ImantsBV) of Reusel, Netherlands and Campey Turf Care Systems (@CampeyTurfCare) of Manchester, UK for the development of such a fantastic, forward thinking tool in the Universe®. Imants leadership, along with Mr. KO Rodenberg (KORO) and Campey Turf Care Systems are completely changing sports field maintenance around the world.  Mr. Simon Gumbrill of Campey was essential for the debut of the Universe® in Dallas, thank you to him for taking the time to come across to the USA to lead, teach, and enlighten us to new ideas!  Simon, Thank You!

Overall, the weekend demonstration trials were a complete success.  Fraze mowing bermudagrass w/ the Universe® is no longer a “concept”.  It is now a developing maintenance practice.  Cheers to those who helped make it possible!

The Demo Team!

The Demo Team!

Ideas for Drying Out Wet Winter/ Early Spring Fields

Is it just me, or has the winter just flown by?!?  Here in the USA, the spring sports season is upon us:  College baseball and lacrosse season is open, professional baseball spring training baseball is underway, and professional soccer pre-season is nearing the end with the season opening in 2 weeks.  Are you sensing faint hints of freshly cut grass yet??

Winter and early spring play creates a vast challenge for sports field managers. Grass is either dormant or slow-growing, soils are freezing and thawing, and cold temperatures and/or snow can eliminate getting work done all together.  But for every challenge there is a creative solution.  Today let’s share together some different ideas and techniques to solve the challenge of preparing wet fields for spring time play.

Why Do Fields Stay So Wet in the Winter/ Spring?

Wet fields are challenging in the winter/ early spring for several reasons. 2 of those are:

  1. Sun Angle Is Lower:  Summer is the only time that the earth is tilted directly towards the sun.  Then during the spring and fall, the tilt is more intermediate.  Then In the winter the earth is tilted completely away from the sun in the winter hemisphere.                            http://www.windows2universe.org/earth/climate/cli_seasons.html                      Because of the tilt, evaporation/ evapotranspiration and atmospheric heating are greatly reduced.  The result: much slower surface drying for wet fields
  2. Temperature fluctuation:  Temperature (and climate) can also be traced back to the tilt of the earth as well.  But ups and downs are more dramatic during the winter.  This weekend Florida is experiencing un-seasonably cool temperatures.  Last week the GIS Convention experienced cold, rain, and overcast in San Diego.  Up and down temperatures inhibit drying and lead to soils freezing and thawing.  Then a thawing top layer on a field is soft and wet, especially if the profile below is still frozen.

Solutions to Drying Fields:

We have defined some of the reasons for wet, spring time fields.  Now lets explore some possible solutions.  Please share some of your ideas as well!

  1. Soil Penetrants:  Moving water off of the surface is Step #1 to getting a wet field dry.  Because the field surface is unstable, mechanical means of drying are impossible.  Liquid soil penetrants provide an option for these surfaces.  Soil penetrants contain negatively charged particles that repel the negatively charged soil colloids to open up pathways through the soil for temporary drainage.  An application of a soil penetrant can expedite the movement of water by up to 40%.  Soil penetrants have no environmental impact and have no long-term effects on the field surface, so using them is 100% safe.  They are generally economically priced as well.
  2. Drying Agents:  Soil drying agents such as calcine clay and ceramics provide an option for wet surfaces.  The ability of these products to work on wet grass surfaces is mixed, especially with possible detrimental long-term issues for grass if over used.  But drying agents are extremely effective on drying infield skinned areas/ bare dirt areas, so creative uses can be attempted if budget is no object (can be expensive)
  3. Rolling:  A roller can be used to “seal off” the surface of a field to make it playable for a competition.  This certainly isn’t a long-term solution, but can provide a quick fix to get the field to a point that a competition can take place and prepare it for mechanical means such as aeration to take place to work towards drying the field.
  4. Aeration/ Venting:  Venting the surface can encourage the field to begin to dry.  Rapid tine aerators w/ solid tines set to 1-2” can work very well, specially since the front roller can smooth our tractor tracks.  The RotoKnife, slicers, aerway type aerators, and dimple or needle tine seeders can also work to run across a surface that needs vented to promote drying out.  Hollow tines can also be used if you are comfortable with being able to get the plugs cleaned up.  Again, 1-2” is all that is needed to encourage/ speed drying out.
  5. Topdressing:  Topdressing sand can be used to assist in creating air space to dry and firm the surface, especially in cooperation with aeration/ venting.  Filling the open holes with sand allow them to remain open longer and provide more drying ability.
  6. Grow Tarps:  Using grow tarps doesn’t directly help dry out a field surface, it actually can trap in moisture without sunshine.  But when used w/ sunshine, a grow tarp not only magnifies sun to dry a field surface.. it also promotes grass growth and establishment.  When grow tarps are used correctly (off and on when needed), they can create early spring growth and drying to have a field playable nearly daily.  Any high level (high traffic) field that is depended on for early spring play should consider grow tarps to ensure success for playability (in combo with these other ideas)

These are just a few ideas and thoughts about getting wet fields open in the spring time.  We will build on this and have a more extensive discussion on drainage options for fields (especially heavy soil) in the next week with some examples from drainage work we are doing at  Maryland SoccerPlex.  But in reference to today’s discussion, please sure any ideas/ thoughts with us that you might have in order for Sports Field Managers to better meet the challenge of wet fields this spring!!

 

Thank You STMA Participants

THANK YOU to the Sports Field Managers who spent time with us on Wed and Thursday morning discussing the concepts around maintaining high quality, high traffic athletic fields.  Also, THANK YOU to those who participated Wed morning in the discussion about the 6 Step Process for Transitioning Cool Season Fields to Bermudagrass.  Both topics received fantastic feedback and have led to a wide variety of additional possibilities.  It seems the warm Florida sunshine added to the creativity!!

The revolution of 2013 is off to strong start for sure.  Stay tuned for many, many more ideas to come.

 

Cheers to 2013 Being A Year of Revolution!

With the end of 2012, there are numerous “year in review” segments surrounding us.  From sports to business to celebrity stunts…  we have the “best of” and “worst of” for nearly every aspect of life for the past year.

In that festive “reviewing” spirit, lets summarize the 4 main themes this blog has worked to create and cultivated ideas around in 2012 through our discussions together.  Highlights include:

  1. Documentation and discussions surrounding an eye opening and idea creating trip to the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain

Summary:  Our European field management colleagues are absolutely tremendous.   Their aggressive approaches push natural grass fields to a higher level.  The fields I had the privilege to observe in early May were all perfect, even with the challenging climate and at the end of the all winter playing season.  The fields provided lessons for me to expand our techniques and improve our grass fields in order to enable them to sustain increased traffic.

With their aggressiveness, the European sports field industry continues to grow their techniques and ideas.  Field Management Professionals are supplied with new equipment and technologies from ground care equipment companies that are focused on making fields better.  Aggressive aeration equipment, grow lighting, improved cultivation equipment, different options for mowing, synthetic reinforcement for rootzones… all are examples of ideas developed in the European market to improve grass field quality.  And all of these are things we can begin to utilize to improve grass fields so that they can sustain increased traffic.

On December 9th for Sunday Night Football, Lambeau Field gave a Prime Time demonstration of just how good some of these ideas are.  Mr. Allen Johnson’s field, which utilizes some European techniques, performed flawlessly in a driving snow storm.  Mr. Johnson and his crew are to be commended for their tremendous work and for their open minded utilization of new techniques.  Lambeau’s fantastic condition and playability serves as a shining example of why high level sports in Europe are played on grass surfaces, not synthetic, even through the dead of winter.

2013:  Maryland SoccerPlex plans to continue to employ more and more of these new European ideas and techniques in a “hybrid” approach to field maintenance, fusing together American and European ideas.  Look for demonstration days to exchange ideas with you and our other colleagues for brain storming, a Sports Field Academy, and a week long trip to Europe that you can join us on to explore and exchange ideas with our European colleagues.

2. Discussions Involving Maintain High Traffic Athletic Fields

 Summary:  During 2012, we discussed many concepts on a quest to improve the quality of grass fields while they sustain an increased amount of traffic.  But with our discussions also came stead fast results.  With the end of the 2012 event season, our native soil, cool season grass fields wrapped up with well over 300 events on each field.  Native soil bermudagrass fields hosted over 450 events each.  The fall soccer league and tournament season went 13 weeks without fields being closed for an entire weekend because of rain… even with the fall severe thunderstorms and a hurricane.

This success of maintaining high quality, high traffic athletic fields is based on 3 Keys:  1) Aggressive Aeration 2) Nutrient Management 3) Traffic Management.  These 3 Keys were discussed on this blog and in the October issue of SportsTurf (which also featured the Maryland SoccerPlex Stadium Field of the Year award).

2013: The 3 Keys of Maintaining High Quality, High Traffic Athletic Fields will be shared 2 times during the Sports Turf Managers Conference in Daytona in a couple of weeks.  Please join me there as we brainstorm and search for new ideas to help all of our athletic fields increase in quality in order to be able to sustain more traffic.  Also in 2013, stay tuned for more sharing and brainstorming as we all work together to develop even better methods for grass field maintenance so our fields can withstand increased traffic without being replaced with synthetic turf.  If you haven’t engaged in the conversation in 2012, please join us in 2013!!

      3. Documentation of a Stadium Field Renovation 

Summary:  The SoccerPlex Stadium renovation was the highlight of 2012 for outside the box thinking and sharing ideas on this blog.  In 40 days, the stadium field was completely renovated.. reseeded w/ Kentucky bluegrass… and open again for play.

Aug. 27 and 28: 4” of existing organic buildup was removed from the field
Aug. 28 and 29: 3/4” of new sand was installed and laser graded
Aug. 30: New sand blended together to expose synthetic sand reinforcement
Aug. 31: Irrigation installation and sand preparation for seeding
Sept. 1: Seeding w/ 2.5 lbs Kentucky bluegrass/1000
Sept. 2: 2nd Seeding w/ 2.5 lbs Kentucky bluegrass/1000
Sept. 5: Broadcast seeding w/ 1 lb perennial ryegrass through the center and broadcast
w/ paper mulch in attempt to protect top of crown from heavy rain moving in
Sept. 8: 1st Kentucky bluegrass germination (7 days from seeding)
Sept. 21: 1st Mowing.  (20 days after seeding)
Oct. 6: Field opens for Discovery Cup, Maryland SoccerPlex’s signature event
Nov. 9: Field Hosts ACC Men’s Championships (70 days after seeding)
Nov. 18: Field closes for winter after hosting 20 matches in 14 days

The renovation was a complete success, even more so than we could have ever imagined.  THANK YOU to all those that supported it, even if you were skeptical!  The field is in perfect condition going into the New Year, its playability superior and wear tolerance already tremendous with new turfgrass genetics and no sod layer to combat.

2013:  A busy 2012 schedule will increase with the addition of the Washington Spirit, of the new National Women’s Soccer League, who will call SoccerPlex Stadium home starting in mid-March.  The addition of rugby is also on tap for 2013, as is more lacrosse than ever before.  With the genetically superior Kentucky bluegrass varieties and no sod layer to compact from heavy use, more play will be welcomed to SoccerPlex Stadium with less maintenance and w/ the use of fungicide nearly eliminated.

Employing the lessons of bringing the field from sand to play in 35 days is the most exciting part of 2013 though.  The overwhelming feedback from the turf grass industry was that such a feat was in no way possible.  Well, not only was it possible, it was actually less complicated than anyone could have ever imagined.  But the lesson for 2013 isn’t that all fields should be seeded…  (though it is obvious that there are opportunities to save money, preserve the environment, and improve long term turfgrass health w/ seeding and sprigging).  The bigger lesson is that thinking outside the box is the only way we can discover new methods and new ideas.  Before 1492 when Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, it was accepted that the world was flat.  We all have the opportunity to be our industry’s own Christopher Columbus as we think outside the box.

  4. Expanding Professionalism:

Summary:  In 2012, we exchanged ideas on professionalism and being “extraordinary” in times of stress.  2012 itself was a year of stress for grass fields.  Increasing event schedules, heat, drought, snow storms, hurricanes… doesn’t it feel like there is always something?!? Well you are not alone… Our industry is being pushed more & more to perform to a higher level and w/ little extra time & no room for error.

2013:  The demands from grass fields will continue to increase in 2013.  Revenue generated from extra events allow our companies and teams to operate successfully and give us Sports Field Managers the ability to build our budgets & expand our ideas.  2013 is going to be an absolutely fantastic year.  In 2013 we have the opportunity improve our grass field quality more than every while those fields take on more events and generate our organizations more revenue.

So as we make our New Years Resolutions for 2013, let’s add something that helps you increase professionalism, build trust, respect, and chemistry with your organization.  Brainstorm an idea new event for your own field to host…  Secure a uniform sponsorship via one of your vendors to improve your staff imagine… Put on a lawn care seminar for the people in your front office to improve their lawns.  The opportunities are endless.  As you brainstorm these resolutions, share them with us too please!!  Let us all work together in supporting each other in 2013 as the Sport Turf Manager industry illustrates how WE and our grass fields can be EXTRAORDINARY!!

In closing, HAPPY 2013 to everyone that follows along with our ideas here on this blog.  THANK YOU for making 2012 absolutely amazing.  A special thanks to all of you that have shared your ideas with us in order for us all to create new ideas going into 2012.  2013 is going to be a wonderful year for everyone involved with grass fields… A year of revolutionary steps.  From vendors to managers who maintain grass fields to the players and coaches who use them, the revolution will reach all levels as we work together to create new, positive ideas to improve grass fields.

Think about this with some bubbly tonight: “Evolution” is changing the answer…. but replacing the question is a “Revolution”.

Cheers to your 2013 being a Revolution.