STMA Conference 2014: Share #ThinkDifferent

Excitement abounds in the sports field management industry as preparations take place to ascend on San Antonio, TX next week for the National STMA Conference and Trade Show.  The annual networking and education event agenda is jammed packed with speakers and exhibitors who believe grass fields CAN take more!  It is jam packed with people who “Think.Different”!

STMA Digital Brochure

There is no doubt new possibilities for natural grass athletic fields will be created through interaction and discussion next week.  Growing Green Grass will be in San Antonio with updates and sharing great ideas from the STMA event. Will you be there too?

For those of  you who are in attendance in San Antonio for the STMA event, please join Growing Green Grass in sharing the possibilities for natural grass fields!  When in seminars, having conversations with your colleagues at networking events, or listening to vendors on the trade show floor…  share with everyone great ideas that encourage to “Think.Different”!!

Tweet those ideas to Growing Green Grass @GrassRevolution with the hashtag #ThinkDifferent.  Make sure to include the speaker’s twitter address to make sure to give credit where credit is due!  Speakers… share your twitter handle to start your presentation to encourage the sharing of #Think.Different!

Additionally on the social media/ idea sharing front, Harrell’s is hosting the 1st ever STMA Trade Show Tweet Up!  See more on Mr. Waldo Terrell’s (@waldo_terrell) “Front Porch Blog” to learn what a “Tweet Up” even is!!  Harrells to Host Tweet Up  .  Growing Green Grass will be there.  Hope to see you there too!

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Fall Summary: Bermudagrass Performance Test

Summary of Fall Results of Maryland SoccerPlex Bermudagrass Performance Test

SoccerPlex Grounds & Environment

Welcome to 2014! SoccerPlex Grounds & Envrionmental Management is updating you on the fall results of the Bermuda Performance Test taking place on Fields 14 & 17.  Announcement: Bermudagrass Performance Test gives a few more details.

SoccerPlex Fields 14 & 17 were re-constructed from their native soil/ heavy clay base into sand soil rootzones in August, 2013.  The sand rootzone allows the fields to never close during rain and to sustain more use from matches, trainings, events, etc.  Late summer heat during the field installation and heavy traffic being put on the fields only 6 days after installation made bermudagrass the grass of choice for the fields.

The challenging question to answer was which variety of bermudagrass fit the challenge of high traffic fields to be maintained at a professional quality?  Four varieties of bermudagrass are viable for heavy traffic and cold winters in the Washington, DC region; Patriot…

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California Renovation Grow-In Week 4

The Chivas USA training field at the world famous Stub Hub Center (formerly Home Depot Center) is progressing nicely.  The field was renovated and re-seeded 1 month ago on Nov. 5.  Read more:   KORO Renovation Methods Reach California

Nov. 2:  Renovation Start Day

Nov. 2: Renovation Start Day


Progression to Oct. 25 during Week 3 of the grow in:

Nov. 25:  Week 3

Nov. 25: Week 3

Nov. 25:  Week 3

Nov. 25: Week 3

After Week 3, the edges still show some thin areas along with a few other imperfections.  But over-all grow-in is right on schedule to be able to have the field back in play 5 weeks after the renovation

Dec. 2:  Week 4

Dec. 2: Week 4

Dec. 2:  Week 4

Dec. 2: Week 4

Week 4 is showing progressive growth and fill-in as the new plants start to mature.  With the bermudagrass base for stability beneath, the field could be played on now.  And with 1 more week of good weather and growth, the field will be established enough to sustain regular play.


A Personal Reflection from Growing Green Grass founder Jerad Minnick:


I want to share with you all about a fantastic experience I had the privilege to be a part of Wednesday of last week.  It was one of the most empowering days of my grass field management career.  Mr. Simon Gumbrill of Campey Turf Care, Mr. Paul Burgess of Real Madrid, and myself spent the day in the Seattle, Washington region with Mr. Kevin White of Seattle University as our tour guide. We had the opportunity to visit Mr. Scott MacVicar at University of Washington, Mr. Sean Vanos and Mr. John Wright with the Seattle Seahawks, Mr. Tim Wilson and Mr. Leo Liebert of the Seattle Mariners, and then ended the day at Seattle University with Mr. White and the tremendous men’s soccer coach Mr. Peter Fewing.   Mr. Casey Montgomery, new Head Grounds Manager at the University of Portland also joined us.

WOW.  What An Amazing Day.

Never in a single day have I experienced so many open-minded, positive, and PASSIONATE grounds managers.  And of all the locations in the USA!!  The general consensus is that natural grass fields have the least chance of survival in the Pacific Northwest.  The cool damp weather certainly was a vast change from the California sunshine we had previously experienced from the renovation and demo days we had just left in LA.  But from the managers to their staffs… smiles, happiness, positive statements… EXCITEMENT!  Not to mention the magnificent grass fields we got to see!! It really made all of us step back and say WOW.  What a special, special experience.  THANK YOU to each of those people for that experience.  The empowerment was intoxicating!  Their work is fantastic!

That experience got me thinking. In 2012, this blog was founded to share and create new ideas for grass field maintenance as part of tour of several European grass sports field facilities.  Growing since its inception, we have spent time-sharing, exchanging,  creating, and globalizing the grass field management industry… all with one theme:  Grass Fields Can Take More.  One of the highlights of sharing ideas about the positive possibilities of natural grass fields came last month when I had the privilege to present the keynote address for the European Stadium and Safety Management Association Head Grounds Managers seminar.  Held in Porto, Portugal, the event solidified something for me:  We Are All In This Together!!  There were 10 languages being spoken by Grounds Managers from as far west as Russia and as far south and east as Brazil. In every language we are were saying the same things and facing the same challenge with our natural grass fields:  Increased traffic demands with the expectation of increased quality in deteriorating conditions (less time between events, bigger stadium roofs, shrinking construction budgets that impact field construction, etc).

But there was so much positive.   Just like the amazing positive we experienced in Seattle last week.  Even as we are all faced with similar challenges around the world, Grounds Managers are using new creative and forward thinking ideas to meet the demands of their situation.  Many Grounds Managers (like the ones in Seattle), at home and abroad, are making things happen that before have been see as IMPOSSIBLE.

Impossible.  Where did that word come from?   Why is something impossible?

Many said it was IMPOSSIBLE to sail around the world because the world was flat… Christopher Columbus had no trouble sailing around the world!

Many told Henry Ford that it was IMPOSSIBLE for the car to replace the horse.  Hhhmm…. I didn’t see anyone riding their horse to work today.  Did you?

Many laughed at Steve Jobs and told him it was IMPOSSIBLE for the world to accept or want personal computers…  Reading this blog would be tough then eh?

Many told us on staff at Maryland SoccerPlex last year that it was IMPOSSIBLE to seed a field from Kentucky bluegrass and play on it in 35 days…  How does 35 days look to you?

SoccerPlex Stadium, Oct 6, 2012- 35 Days After Seeding

SoccerPlex Stadium, Oct 6, 2012- 35 Days After Seeding

I used a story in my keynote speech for the ESSMA conference (ESSMA Keynote Transcript) from well-known author and motivational speaker Mr. Harvey Mackay that illustrates a special point with IMPOSSIBLE:

“A  college student who shows up late for his math final exam… The student rushes in, grabs his test, then sits down and diligently goes to work.  Only being a few minutes late, the student is alarmed as other students were wrapping up and turning in the test with several minutes left in the class period.  Yet he was having a bit of a struggle with the last 2 problems on the test.  The student didn’t give in though, he worked and worked until the time ran out though he was the only person left in the class.  The next day, the professor phoned the student and proclaimed “Congratulations!! You are a genius!!! You answered the last 2 questions!!”.  Confused, the student asked the professor what he meant.  The professor explained that the last 2 questions on the test were “brain teasers” for extra credit… that they might not have had an answer.  Yet the student had answered both when no one else in the class even made an attempt at answering them.”

Now think about that story for us currently in the grass field industry.  From our 1st day as students in turfgrass school or our 1st day on the job working on grass fields, we immediately are hearing about the limitations of grass fields.  Then we advance to managers and continue that same discussions about limitations to our new generation of grass field managers.  Many of our turfgrass teachers are teaching the same curriculum they were teaching 10 years ago.  Researchers for natural grass are also researching synthetic turf.  The professional organization for grass AND synthetic has an index on playing field quality that is designed to measure a field as “poor” if it has had heavy play on it… even if it is in perfect condition.  All of these things revolve around the thinking that it is IMPOSSIBLE for natural grass fields to take more traffic.

All of these factors are NEGATIVE.  Couldn’t all of these factors be limiting the creativity and open-mindedness of our own generation of grass field managers?    Do we want to be the other students in that math class that turn in our test without even attempting to answer the “impossible” questions?

But with positive attitudes, improving technologies, a better understanding of plant responses, plant genetic advancements, evolving cultivation practices and techniques…   Impossible is changing.

“Impossible is not something that can not be done.  Impossible is just something that has not been done YET!”

As we go into the winter education season, I invite you to join us in carrying on the example of our friends in the Pacific Northwest to THINK DIFFERENT.  Instead of focusing on limitations and boundaries, instead think about trying and testing new things. Instead of complaining about more events and more work, instead highlight the growing number of high quality, high use grass fields.  Cut back on CAN’T, Increase the CAN.

Moving into the off-season, Growing Green Grass is going to dedicate more time to the possibilities and bright future of grass fields to help promote #Think.Different as well.  Please share with us with your success stories!  Email me directly at:

I leave you with a real life example of reality:  The field at Wembley  Stadium in London finished a month of concerts on July 5.  Following the concert season, the field was fraise mowed off and re-grown from seed.  It re-opened August 11.  Between August 11 and Oct. 27th, the field hosted 6 major soccer matches, 2 international rugby matches, 2 NFL football games, and Roger Waters “The Wall” Concert.

11 weeks =  10 major sporting events (4 being rugby and NFL) AND a concert (the same concert that spent the summer of 2012 bringing nightmares to USA Grounds Managers because of the damage it inflicts)

Result= The field on Oct. 27th for the 49ers v the Jaguars was in nearly perfect condition.

Oh…  1 small detail:  NO SOD WORK TOOK PLACE!!!!!

What Mr. Anthony Stones and his staff did through that stretch is IMPOSSIBLE.

Well it WAS impossible.  It is not anymore, because they did it.  Kudos to them!  And Kudos to our friends in the Pacific Northwest as well.

Welcome to the new world of high traffic sports field management. I am honored to be part of it with you.  Here we go together into the bright future.


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)

Day 4: W/ Premier Pitches

Day 4 of the tour around the UK started w/ more conversations with Mr. Carl Pass, Managing Director of Premier Pitches, and Mr. Russell Latham, Sales Director of Premier Pitches.  Premier Pitches is unlike any sports field contractor in North America.  They specialize in renovation/ pre-season conditioning of fields with many pieces of equipment that I have never seen before.  Thank You to Carl and to Russell for the insights about their methods of improving field quality.

Carl and Russell then were kind enough to take me along to visit a couple of stadiums as well.  Our 1st stop was Nottingham Forrest FC.  Many thanks to Head Grounds Manager Ewan Hunter for taking the time to show us around an absolutely fascinating stadium.  Mr. Hunter also took us out to the Forrest training ground as well.  Kudos to the fantastic work he, his assistant, and their staff do in presenting fantastic fields.

Mr. Ewan Hunter, Mr. Russell Latham, and Mr. Carl Pass

Mr. Ewan Hunter, Mr. Russell Latham, and Mr. Carl Pass

Upon leaving Nottingham Forrest, we drove over to Sheffield to Hillsborough Stadium, home of Sheffield Wednesday FC.   Hillsborough, another old style stadium with character and history, is an amazing place.  And the pitch is equally as amazing.  Thank You to Head Grounds Manager Steve Kiddy for visiting with us and sharing his experiences.

Mr. Carl Pass and Mr. Steve Kiddy

Mr. Carl Pass and Mr. Steve Kiddy

Again, many thanks to Mr. Pass and Mr. Latham for spending time taking me to visit these great Head Grounds Managers, and for exchanging different ideas and experiences  from their work.  With communication and idea exchange like that, all fields around the world can continue to improve!



Day 2: Visiting the National Associations

Day 2 of exploration took us to the home of both England Rugby and England Football (soccer).  And wow, what a highlight both were!

First, in London near Heathrow Airport is the crown jewel of the Rugby Football Union, Twickenham Stadium.  Mr. Keith Kent, Head Grounds Manager for the Rugby Football Union, was kind enough to spend a good bit of time with us.  Many thanks to him for taking time out of his day!  Twickenham is another field reinforced w/ Desso for the rigors of rugby, and the field is tremendous.  Home of the upcoming rugby World Cup, the stadium was all around fantastic!

Twickenham Stadium Staff: Mr. Ian Ayling, Mr. Keith Kent, and Mr. Andy Nuir

Following Twickenham, it was off to St. George’s Park, home of the English FA.  With 2 hotels on the property, we were able to spend the night in the park as well.    WOW how the facility has matured and progressed since our last visit back in May of 2012 when it was still under major construction.  The work the Mr. Alan Ferguson & Mrs. Carol Ferguson have done with the 1st class St. George’s Park Staff is tremendous.  More to come on that tomorrow as well.

Day 2 solidified many thoughts from Day 1, and then set the stage for a very big day on Day 3.  More to come!!

The European Pitch: SportsField Management, April 2013

SportsField Management has started a new column called “Simon Says”, as it is written by Mr. Simon Gumbrill of Manchester, UK.  In the column, Simon provides some unique perspectives of the European sports field management industry. Possibly you have seen it… but if not, enjoy the read and the provocative thought that is created from a look at fields from “across the pond”.
SportsField Management:  April 2013

Mr. Simon Gumbrill

Mr. Simon Gumbrill

Written by:  Mr. Simon Gumbrill
I have been asked to write a monthly article explaining the English and European practices for sports maintenances, and renovations, so here goes! I work for a company based near Manchester, England, that is responsible for the import and export from both the USA and Europe of machines and implements that aid the groundsmen in their task to produce perfect playing surfaces at their venues.I have traveled to some of the best-known sporting venues and seen the fantastic results to sports fields (pitches) achieved through hard work and dedication, and also the frustration of overuse, underfunding or the wrath of Mother Nature.At the STMA meeting in Daytona Beach, I had the privilege to meet with a great number of groundsmen from the USA and further afield (mostly in the bar) whose enthusiasm to provide the best playing field is generic throughout the fine turf industry.Our methods of annual maintenance in the U.K. and parts of Europe are dramatically different to the USA, but you come to take for granted your own environment and standards until you meet and discuss with others and hear of their staff numbers, methods, climate, environment and budgets. However, the common denominator in all of the facilities is the health of the grass plant.

The playing surface will survive the rigors of the season if it is fit and healthy at the outset. Football (soccer) in Europe is a winter sport, with the first games being played in August and play lasting through until May. Winter game surfaces suffer, as the plant will, at some point, go in to a state of dormancy. Obvious problems will then occur that will leave a far less than desirable playing surface unless the surface and species are maintained and managed correctly.

With our season finishing in May, we have the opportunity to create a better playing surface for the next season; in years gone by, this was classed as “renovation time.” The biggest problem was that in May, even the worst pitches look good again, so pressure was put on the groundsmen to do minimal work and leave well enough alone. The more aggressive groundsmen would do several passes with a scarifier and try to collect the debris with limited success, and then overseed with their chosen variety of seed. The net result of this labor-intensive and costly renovation was probably a 98 percent Poa annuafield that again will struggle to survive a season of winter sports. (Possibly a waste of time and money.)

Poa annua has to be eliminated from the playing surface to give the field any chance of surviving the period of dormancy that we normally get in late November through to early March. In Europe, to my knowledge, we do not have a chemical to remove only Poa annuafrom a surface, and our chemical usage of any sort is very restricted due to European legislation that has become more widespread and restrictive over the last 10 years, and I believe is now happening in some of the U.S. states.

Nature and technology need to be combined to assist a groundsman to keep his pride and sanity, enable his employer to use the venue in a more lucrative and cost-effective manner, and provide players with a consistent surface. A man responsible for over 180 pitches in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, went a long way to enable this to be achieved; this man is Ko Rodenburg.

Rodenburg was faced with the same winter pitch problem of Poa annua domination and vulnerability, but he invented a tool to remove this problem. He designed the machine that is now the Koro (named after him) Field TopMaker. In Europe, particularly England, we now use the Field TopMaker (FTM) not to renovate, but to prepare and create a pitch. We want a clean Poa annua-free surface with a 100 percent perennial rye sward or, in some cases, up to 20 percent Kentucky bluegrass. With these chosen varieties we have a surface that has a good chance of surviving the dormant period and is more tolerant of heavy play, cold weather, rain or snow, and has the ability to recover at lower temperatures.

KORO Field Topmaker

KORO Field Topmaker

We have also seen many advancements in pitch construction in the last 10 to 15 years, with near sand-based fields with efficient drainage, under-soil heating, surface stabilization using synthetic fibers mixed into the surface (Fibresand), and more recently Fibrelastic to aid both stability and with hard surfaces. Vertical stabilization (Desso) has become a successful and accepted surface at many of the Premier Football stadiums, and those that can afford it will have stabilization of some form at their training grounds, as they will be subject to a higher level of play.

Desso Sewed Into Sand

Desso Sewed Into Sand

Mansfield Sand (UK) FibreSand

Mansfield Sand (UK) FibreSand

Stadiums at the wealthier clubs have seen the introduction and growth in popularity of grow lights. They are used to create an artificial season, meaning it is possible to keep the grass growing and, more importantly, recovering in the winter months. So, for John Torres, “There is a light, and it never goes out!”

Grow Lights (SGL)

Grow Lights (SGL)

Even with all the advancements in construction and equipment, we are totally reliant on the groundsman. He needs a combination of skills and a level of education, desire, pride with confidence to experiment, not just follow the herd, and, of course, he needs financial backing.

In the U.K., we only re-turf (sod) if a pitch has failed or we have not had time to grow in from seed because of concerts or other uses. Preseason, we always clean away the organic matter, thatch, and grub out the Poa annua plant and root system, and down to the growing eye of the ryegrass plant, and this will regrow. We can then prepare the pitch for the next and most important season, the next couple of months we get very busy with the pitch preparation

Simon Gumbrill is sales director at Campey Turf Care Systems, U.K.