Eight benefits of natural grass: From Lawn & Landscape Magazine

From Lawn & Landscape Magazine on April 8, 2016:     Eight benefits of natural grass

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After celebrating Earth Day just a few days ago, we return to the subject of environmental protection and improvement by looking at the benefits of natural grass.  

By: Jerad R Minnick

Turfgrass can be found on lawns, athletic fields, golf courses, parks, roadsides and many other natural and recreational areas. It accounts for over 50 million acres of maintained, irrigated natural grass in the U.S. alone. Ongoing research continues to uncover previously unidentified environmental, economic, health and safety benefits of natural turfgrass.

Below are eight benefits of natural grass:

1. Air quality
Turfgrass is a living organism. Each plant takes in carbon dioxide and converts it into simple sugars to use as food through the process of photosynthesis. As a byproduct of photosynthesis, oxygen is released into the atmosphere.
A turfgrass area measuring 2,500 square feet produces enough oxygen for a family of four to breathe. An average sized healthy lawn can capture as much as 300 pounds of carbon per year and a golf course fairway can capture 1,500 pounds per year. One soccer field can offset the carbon produced by a car driving 3,000 miles.

Because of this, Dr. Thomas Watschke of Penn State University states in “The Environmental Benefits of Turfgrass and Their Impact on the Greenhouse Effect” that “the strategic use of turfgrass is the most sensible and economically feasible approach to countering the greenhouse effect in urban areas.”

In addition to reducing carbon dioxide, turfgrass traps an estimated 12 million tons of dust and dirt released annually into the atmosphere.

2. Pollution filter
In 2013, an EPA Chesapeake Bay Program panel of experts concluded, based upon a review of extensive research, that a “dense vegetative cover of turfgrass” reduces pollution and runoff. More precisely, the average soccer field can absorb 50,000 gallons of water before runoff occurs. The fibrous root system stabilizes soil to reduce erosion and prevents the movement of sediment into creeks and rivers.

Additionally, studies have found the noise absorptive capacity of turfgrass is a significant part of how landscapes are effective in reducing noise pollution.

3. Stormwater management
Landscaped areas reduce pollutants from leaching through the soil into the water supply or from entering surface water runoff. Turfgrasses filter stormwater excess and reduce sediment and pollutants from entering water bodies. Turfgrass plants also redirect the flow of water, slowing it and allowing more water to be absorbed by the soil, which aids in preventing soil erosion and flooding.

Did you know a healthy, sodded lawn absorbs rainfall six times more effectively than a wheat field and four times better than a hay field?

4. Heat
Environmental heating is reduced by turfgrass. On a hot summer day, a well maintained turfgrass area will be at least 30 degrees cooler than asphalt and 14 degrees cooler than bare soil.

The overall environmental cooling effect of turfgrass can be understood by comparing it to air conditioning. The average home has an air conditioner with a three or four ton capacity. The California Energy Commission has found the cooling effect of an average size lawn is equal to about nine tons of air conditioning. A single high school baseball field provides up to 70 tons of air conditioning. This cooling effect is beneficial for athletes and for reducing electrical needs for buildings and homes.

5. Wellness and stress
Green spaces have been shown to improve wellness and reduce stress. There is growing evidence that horticulture and natural grass found on sports fields and lawns is important on a human level. Plants lower blood pressure, reduce muscle tension related to stress, improve attention and reduce feelings of fear and anger or aggression.

In 2002, The University of California – Riverside conducted research to support that hospital stays are positively affected by turfgrass and green spaces. Patients in hospital rooms with a view of nature and lawns recover more quickly than similar patients in rooms with a view of building walls.

Similarly, people who live and work in an environment with a view of lawns and nature compared to an urban view, were found to recover from stress more quickly. Employees with a view of landscaped areas experience less job pressure, greater job satisfaction and fewer headaches than those who do not have a view or can only see manmade objects. Green spaces are also proven to increase work productivity.

Also related to wellness and stress, two surveys on Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder have shown that children active in green spaces, such as lawn areas, experience less severe symptoms. Another study published in “Environment and Behavior” indicated green spaces can enable children to think more clearly and cope more effectively with life’s stress.

6. Therapeutic
The care of turfgrass and plants can have a positive, therapeutic effect and is included in many rehabilitation programs. These programs have been successfully used to treat certain illnesses, aid in the recovery of disabled people and help the elderly stay mobile. Programs have even been successfully implemented in prison systems, allowing inmates to acquire new, marketable skills that they can use when they return to civilian life.

7. Community appeal
Turfgrass and green spaces increase community appeal and improve property values. SmartMoney magazine indicates that consumers value a landscaped home up to 11.3 percent higher than its base price. Additionally, it says one of the most cost effective ways to boost a home’s curb appeal is by attractively landscaping the yard. Well-manicured plots of land are one of the most important factors individuals and families consider when deciding where to live.

Green spaces create close-knit communities, which increases safety. Residents in landscaped areas tend to know their neighbors better, socialize more often and have stronger feelings of community when compared to residents living in more barren areas. Communities with trees and green spaces have lower crime, decreased police calls for domestic violence and decreased incidences of child abuse.

8. Recreation and sport
Turfgrass is used extensively for recreation and sport as well as providing places where adults, kids and pets can spend time outside the home. About 80 million people in the U.S. over the age of seven play sports on turfgrasses. The majority of professional athletes prefer to play on natural grass surfaces.

Providing places for recreation and encouraging activity is especially important with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting over one third of U.S. adults and 17 percent of American children and adolescents as obese. Recreational activities also provide children and adults leisure time in a positive and safe environment.

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Highlights: Celebration Technical Management School

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Solutions and possibilities. These were the theme for the first ever Celebration Bermudagrass Technical Management School last week. Celebration Management School took place in 3 locations in Florida and featured extensive information exchange and idea generation. The Management School was based around the expanded possibilities of Celebration bermudagrass and how the unique varieties helps meet the demand for high traffic natural grass fields.  The school curriculum focused in on specific protocols and approaches for maintaining Celebration under high traffic and limited rest time.  It was a privileged for me to join Mr. John Chapman as one of the teachers for the school!

Each day’s venue provided a unique perspective.  Each has a unique venue for an athletic field school and a different perspective on high traffic Celebration bermudagrass.  The South Florida event was held at the Spanish River Library in Boca Raton, followed with a tour of de Hoernie Soccer Complex in Boca.  The west Florida event was held at the Sarasota Polo Club in Sarasota, FL.  And the central Florida event was held in the City of Orlando City Council Chambers with a tour of the high traffic public park/ open space at the Dr. Phillips Performance Arts Center.  Soccer, polo, and public space for all activities.  The high traffic, challenging demands that we all were able to observe Celebration sustaining growth and recovery under were all very unique.

Some of the initial highlights from the school included:

  • Encouragement to think outside the box and try new things, with Celebration maintenance and with natural grass field maintenance overall
  • Introduction to multiple examples of Celebration bermudagrass performing as the strong, durable, reduced input grass that meets the demand even under high traffic
  • Exploration of why and how Celebration bermudagrass has set itself as the standard bermudagrass to meet the demand of high traffic fields in the South

 

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Advancing into the technical information of the Celebration Management School, John Chapman and myself (along with unprecedented group participation) explored:

  • The simplicity and importance of mowing 2+ times per week at 1” or below to promote density, increase durability, reduce thatch accumulation potential, and provide natural weed control
  • A wide range of aeration techniques for meeting the demand for high use and promote Celebration’s ability to root up to 5’ in 1 year. Video examples supported the explanation of each aeration type to create a demonstration environment for participants.
  • How surface aeration and de-compaction aeration are 2 very different types of aeration. Real world data was supplied to illustrate how GMax reduction and infiltration rate increase differs with each.
  • Multiple cultivation tools to reduce/ remove thatch accumulation and promotion of lateral growth to increase density and durability. The tools range from simply brushing with a tow behind brush or brushes on the front of reels or decks to verticutting and even Universe® Fraze Mowing.
  • The importance of planning and combining aeration and cultivation practices to ensure maximum benefit with each and every practice that takes place.
  • Understanding that June, July, and August are the prime time to encourage and establish bermudagrass strength and root depth to support against high use all year round.
  • Soil testing results and why having data for plant available nutrients is as important as overall nutrient content in the soil.
  • Fertilizer technologies and techniques to promote consistent, healthy, strong Celebration growth nearly all year round.
  • Reinforcement of why durable, strong Celebration growth requires a maximum of 3-5 lbs N/ year and how most of that N should come from a slow release source of N
  • Potassium’s importance, leading to the need to keep yearly N:K ratios and 1:1 or 1:1+
  • Foliar feeding and how during periods of stress, especially fall, winter and spring, foliar feeding will act as a medical IV to support for Celebration growth and recovery.
  • How humic acid supports soil health and the battle against soil compaction from high use

 

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Celebration Management School students shared many examples of success with each topic. The interaction between participants and we as teachers was nearly the best I have ever experienced. Because of that, multiple points were created and raised:

  • Approaches for using growth regulators to 1) increase density and durability along with 2) decreasing mowing.
  • Using a moisture meter to track soil moisture to better manage irrigation and to track to what depth proper soil moisture is being reached during different times of the year. That moisture meter can also be used to create a standard for field closure protocols for rain.
  • Celebration has a strong ability to sustain growth in a wide range of soil pH conditions
  • Flushing during times of drought in Florida is vital to wash down salt and/or bi-carbonate build ups that come from poor quality irrigation water in the state.

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The end section of Celebration Management School shared ideas and featured dialogue between students in reference to Celebration’s ability to sustain winter growth and recovery:

  • Celebration is a “shade tolerant” bermudagrass. Shade tolerance indicates Celebration micromole requirement for light is lower than most all other bermudagrass. Thus winter’s short day length (example, Dec. 21 is the shortest day of the year) and low sun angle (sun is low on the horizon) do not cause Celebration to go dormant like other bermudagrass varieties
  • Because Celebration can survive low light conditions, tools like dye and paint can be utilized to absorb heat and promote growth
  • Grow tarps/ blankets, used regularly on fields in the central and northern part of the USA but not in Florida, can be excellent tools to generate heat and regeneration for Celebration during cooler winter months.
  • Results were share and examined from a University of Florida trial on the impact of a range of colors of topdressing sands to promote heat and growth. Those results are dramatic, and the trial is ongoing. The information is very valuable for supporting winter growth.
  • Re-visit to points made previously on foliar feeding in the winter to support Celebration plant systems.
  • Also re-visiting fertilizer technology and explanations of organic fertilizer/ mineral fertilizer blends work well in the winter to encourage soil microbes and generate heat
  • Overseeding: To overseed with ryegrass or not overseed with rye grass. Celebration’s aggressive nature allows it to transition back to 100% bermuda faster and with less inputs.
  • Celebration’s winter tolerance allows can allow for reduced overseeding rates

The discussion about deciding to overseeding or not to overseed was excellent. Ultimately, a Sports Turf Manager must balance what is best for the grass with what is best for the playability of the field. The majority of the group decided (with encouragement from the teachers) that playability and safety come #1, ahead of our desires to do what is best for the grass. With Celebration, overseeding is possible because it transitions quickly and aggressively.

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In closing the Celebration Technical Management School, participants were challenged with case studies for Celebration natural grass fields. Two scenarios of specific situations, time, and traffic demand were supplied. Participants split into groups where they worked to create their own management suggestions in reference to 1) mowing 2) cultivation 3) plant feeding and 4) additional comments for overall maintenance to meet the challenge. The case studies allowed participants to interact much like they do with them maintenance supervisors and staff each day  while at the same to provided us as teachers with an assessment tool to ensure the participants would be able to utilize information ASAP in their own maintenance plan.

THANK YOU to all participants that joined us for Celebration Technical Management School. Ultimately, we hope each participant was able to take a a minimum of 1 actionable idea back with them to utilize immediately with their maintenance routine. THANK YOU for your positive attitudes and open minds. The possibilities for Celebration are amazing, no doubt you will continue to see amazing results and be able to build on those through this growing season!

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Share With Us. Natural Grass IS the Answer!

NBC News ran a story last Wednesday evening and Thursday morning that exposed fears on artificial turf to the general public. Here is the original story:    NBC Investigation

NBC News Artificial Turf Investigation w/ Gorgeous Grass Field at U of Portland's In The Background

NBC News Artificial Turf Investigation w/ Gorgeous Grass Field at U of Portland In Background

With this story and many of the follow up stories, the call is for better research on rubber crumb and organic infills for artificial turf fields.

But instead of waiting for more research for artificial, instead we can all lead the call for better quality NATURAL GRASS fields!!

Artificial turf came into being because of a problem: Grass fields weren’t being maintained or were not taking the heavy use. The general public now thinks that is just always the case: Grass fields just can’t take it heavy play or can’t be used in the rain.

Well now we know that is just not true!! This is the era of better maintenance tools and techniques.  Innovation and creativity is expanding.  YES, NATURAL GRASS FIELDS CAN TAKE MORE USE!! Always!! 

This weekend Turf Republic published a piece by Growing Green Grass founder Jerad Minnick wrote with that theme:  A recommitment to natural grass can meet the field needs!  Grass IS The Answer!  (Also find it below)

Growing Green Grass encourages YOU to take this opportunity to help re-establish positive public thinking towards natural grass fields. Right now around you there are parents, coaches, administrators and lawmakers talking about the concerns of artificial with no idea that natural grass IS the answer. Can you help let those people know the possibilities of grass?

How you ask? Just simply share the positive possibilities of natural grass with people not in the turfgrass/ sports field industry!  NATURAL GRASS FIELDS CAN TAKE MORE!

Some things to consider to get the word out to people:

– Share the NBC news story on your social media platforms and through email w/ neighbors, family, friends, school board members and AD’s. These people are not in the turfgrass industry and do not get regular information like you.  However, we recommend not to give commentary.   Just share the story.  Remember that there are people suffering. And there are good people on the other side of this that sell, distribute and market artificial.  Additionally, many of your are currently maintaining some artificial turf.  Let NBC tell the story, not you.

– Follow up the story from NBC to all of the same people and share the POSITIVE MESSAGE about the possibilities of grass!!!  NATURAL GRASS CAN TAKE MORE!

– In your sharing, pass your personal passion and support for the possibilities of grass!! Your passion makes it real for others.  They can connect with you and will appreciate your unique skills and experience as part of the natural grass industry.

So SPREAD THE WORD!  Remember…  STAY POSITIVE

Always feel free to use anything coming from Growing Green Grass (www.growinggreengrass.net) to support your passion.  Employ the hashtag #GrassCanTakeMore via social media. TPI and the Lawn Institute have excellent resources on the good of grass as well  Lawn Institute Website

THANK YOU for using this opportunity to share the possibilities of grass and shape the bright future of the natural grass sports field industry.

And THANK YOU for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

The Team at Growing Green Grass


Grass IS the Answer!

by Jerad Minnick • 3 days ago
A commitment to the existing grass fields around us can meet the immediate needs for safe, quality playing fields.

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TURF REPUBLIC:  http://www.turfrepublic.com/2014/10/11/grass-answer/

The unknowns of synthetic turf safety have burst into the limelight this week. The call is for additional research on synthetic turf rubber crumb infills or a change to organic infills for new fields being installed.

But instead of waiting years for research, the answer already exists! A commitment to the existing grass fields around us can meet the immediate needs for safe, quality playing fields. Here is how that can work:

Less Cost:
With an existing field, as little as 1/10th of the amount of money needed for 1- synthetic field is needed to improve and maintain that grass field over 10 years. In a world of tight budgets, spending to improve and maintain 10 existing grass fields correctly instead of building 1 synthetic will make a significant difference.

Additionally, to build and maintain a quality grass field that is rainout proof, 1/3 to 1/2 of the monetary investment of a synthetic field is required over 10 years. See more basic expense figures here: Grass v synthetic, The numbers

Playability:
Natural grass fields can be built and maintained to meet playability needs based on level, demand, and budget. Grass can be maintained to fit the level of surface that is needed. Slow, fast, soft, firm, wet, dry. All factors can be controlled.

On maintained grass the ball always “rolls”, allowing players to predict ball movement. Skin burns and abrasions aren’t common with grass. That fact allows players to attack aggressively and naturally without fear of injury. And that same grass surface has a temperature below the outdoor temperature, naturally cooling the area for players. See more thoughts on playability: Artificial turf makes no sense for soccer

Environmental/ Health impact:
Natural grass is just that… natural. The environmental benefits of grass are many. And all-natural, natural grass that needs no EPA approved pesticides is near because of improved grass genetics, evolving maintenance practices, and new technology for pest control.

More positives from natural grass are:
– Filters pollutants from storm water as it soaks back into the soil
– Reduces noise pollution by up to 40%
– Cools the ambient air temperature
– Produces oxygen (1 field/ yr produces enough to supply up to 128 people)
– Reduces CO2 (1 field/ yr removes the equivalent emitted by a car driving 6,000 miles)
With acres of park and stadium fields around the world, the good of grass has a huge positive impact on players and society. See more details: Healthy lawn, healthy environment

Innovation for durability and player safety:
The tools used for grass fields improve daily. Creative thinking and technology offer a wide range of innovation for grass fields.

Grass breeding and genetics: Grasses, both warm & cool season, are now available that grow twice as fast and are double as durability as standard, accepted grasses.

Technology for plant feeding and health: Environmentally friendly fertilizers have been developed for healthy grass growth. These products are created in cooperation with government regulations to protect the environment. The friendly fertilizers help produce thick, strong grass that the EPA has endorsed as important for ground-water filtration.

Development of safety and durability tools: A wide range of safety and durability tools are available to be used on grass fields. Systems to absorb energy and reduce surface hardness and injury potential are available. Products that provide surface stability to eliminate slipping and divoting have been developed. No longer is it just grass and dirt. Innovation is advancing possibilities of grass fields.

Human Element:
Natural grass is economical, player friendly, good for the environment, and continues to improve with innovation. But ultimately the biggest advantage grass fields have is the human care they receive from dedicated turfgrass managers. Existing turfgrass managers, provided with a few tools, can produce a low-cost, environmentally friendly field. In an age of needed job creation, committing money to maintain grass fields instead of building synthetic will create numerous new environmentally friendly jobs in the sports & park industry.

There is an immediate need for safe, quality playing fields. The fields needed ALREADY EXIST! But “if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten”. It’s no longer acceptable to spend little to no money to maintain an existing grass field but then turn to a million dollar synthetic field. Yes, a simple commitment to improvement and maintenance of natural grass fields can provide the answer!

Transcript of Keynote: ESSMA Head Grounds Manager Seminar

PPT 16 10

Jerad R. Minnick

ESSMA Head Grounds Managers Seminar
Estadio do Dragao, Home of FC Porto

SEE PRESENTATION HERE:  

ESSMA Keynote Presentation

#Think.Different

(Slide 1) Welcome to the 2013 ESSMA Head Grounds Managers Seminar!  Thank you to Ricardo Carvalho, Stadium Manager FC Porto, and all of FC Porto for hosting us.  Let’s all give FC Porto a hand to say Thank You again!  (Applause)

(Slide 2) And Thank You to Dimitri (Huygen.. Managing Director of ESSMA) for the introduction.  I am Jerad Minnick from the Maryland SoccerPlex in the USA

(Slide 3) Maryland SoccerPlex is a 22 field, 160 acre park on the northwest of the Washington, DC metropolitan area.  (Slide 4) DC, the capital city of the USA, it approximately 4 hours south of New York City by car. (Gov shut down joke… its Day 2 of the shutdown)

(Slide 5) Amazingly, to illustrate how large the USA is, the place I grew up and started my career is 16 hours to the west of Washington, DC by car.  That would be the equivalent of driving from here (Porto) to somewhere like Frankfurt, Germany.  Yet that is barely only HALF WAY across the USA.  Absolutely we are a big country, with a wide range of challenges when it comes to grass fields and stadiums.

(Slide 6) Speaking of American stadiums, the place 16 hours to the west of DC is where my management career started… at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City w/ Head Grounds Manager Trevor Vance.  (Slide 7) I then had the privilege to work with Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer in establishing their training ground and working towards building their magnificent new stadium.  The challenges and lessons of those experiences prepared me for current roll at the Maryland SoccerPlex (Slide 8).

More about SoccerPlex…  Our facility boasts 22 full size fields.  (Slide 9) Of those fields, 10 are Kentucky bluegrass.  (Slide 10) 5 Kentucky bluegrass fields are on a native clay soil w/ topdrain, 4 are native clay soil w/ no drainage, and 1.. SoccerPlex Stadium.. is a full sand based field w/ the American version of fibresand.

(Slide 11) 9 more of the SoccerPlex fields are bermudagrass.  (Slide 12) 7 of those bermudagrass fields are on native clay soil and the 2 other fields are newly constructed on pure sand.

Why the 2 kinds of fields?  DC is in the middle of the “transition zone” where both grasses grow actively for about 6 months.  Temperatures range from -18 C (0 F) in the winter to 40 C (105 F)  in the summer.  So in the DC region, we are able to use each grass as a “tool” for extra events.  In the heat of the summer, bermudagrass is nearly indestructible and can be played on and played on and played on.  Then in the spring and fall, we can equally load up the Kentucky bluegrass w/ extra events such as trainings and clinics in addition to the regular scheduled matches.  All fields are always open, but the stronger grass in its prime season allows for extra use above and beyond.

So as we talk about events (Slide 13), currently our facility hosts somewhere around 8,000 events per year.  That is an average of 350 matches/ trainings/ events per field equating into about 700 hours.  With the amount of traffic, we all (management staff AND grounds staff) feel that we are still only at about 75% of our available capacity.  Our grounds staff goal is to reach a total of 500 matches/ trainings/ events per field per year by 2015.  That equals 11,000 total events.

OK… obviously this is an AGGRESSIVE goal!!!  I can see the look on your faces! haha

(Slide 14) And via industry accepted thinking and historical data….  THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE!!

(Slide 15)  RIGHT?!?!

(Slide 16) Just like it was IMPOSSIBLE to sail around the world because the WORLD WAS FLAT!!

This IMPOSSIBLE word reminds me of a story that is told in the USA about a college student who showed 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.  But the student didnt give in.  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.

Turns out the student, in his tardiness, had missed the announcement that the last 2 problems were extra and might be “impossible”.  Knowing no different… the student found a way to answer them both.

Amazing what can be accomplished when the negative thinking is kept out.

(Slide 17) “IMPOSSIBLE is not something that can not be done.  It is actually just something that has not been done YET.”

An example from my childhood:  I illustrated how I started my career 16 hours west of the Washington, DC area in Kansas City.  Well until I was 18, I grew up/ raised by my parents in a farm village called Lock Springs, that is about 2 hours north of Kansas City.  Back home, and all across the heartland of the USA, farms operate nearly independent of any major piece of society support.  There is never “won’t” or “can’t” when it comes to a challenge, farmers are forced to find a way to make the impossible possible.  Their livelihoods depend on it.  Without facing challenges, the crops don’t succeed and/or they do not eat.   Never in my 18 years of home life did I hear “impossible” or “can’t” from my grandfather or father’s mouths.  Even today as we speak, my dad is out there on the farm “finding a way!”. Nothing is impossible when there is no other option!   

(Slide 18) So for us to achieve 500 matches a year on a field at Maryland SoccerPlex (or on any field in the world), we must abandon historical inside the box thinking…. and #THINK.DIFFERENT.

So then I ask the group.  When/ who decided anything in life is IMPOSSIBLE?  Who decided that grass fields can’t take more? (Slide 19) Are they the same negative people in the early 1980’s told Steve Job, the co-founder of Apple, that people do not need a personal computer?  That computers never will be popular/ useable?  Well who today has one of these? (pull out my IPhone and show the group… and every hand goes up) SURPRISE!! (Slide 20) Personal computers are rather popular!!!

Are the people who decide grass fields can’t take more the same people who told Henry Ford that horses were an acceptable means of transportation?  (Slide 21) Ford commented that when he asked people what they needed, they responded by saying “we need a faster horse”.  Well that’s a fast horse!! (Slide 22).  Not only did thinking leave the box of a faster horse… we advanced to airplanes (Slide 23), space shuttles (Slide 24), and even a car on the moon!!! (Slide 25).  (Slide 26)… is that the original Ford car on the moon?!? haha.

WOW that advanced QUICKLY!!  All because of thinking outside the box and not accepting the “normal” thought that something is IMPOSSIBLE.

(Slide 27) #THINK.DIFFERENT 

(Slide 28)  An example from my career:  During my time serving with the management team at Sporting Kansas City, we were faced with a challenge.  The existing stadium was no longer available.  But before a new stadium was built, a temporary home had to be found and prepared.  The facility that best matched the organization’s needs was not a soccer stadium:  It was a baseball stadium!  Baseball and soccer had shared the same field at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC… so it had been done before.  But when done, the expense was massive in 2 parts:  1) the field suffered for baseball and for soccer, and 2) sport conversions cost was over $80,000 American dollars.  Neither of these could be an option for us if the team was going to be able to win and organization make any money at all.

So the team Development Vice President, Mr. David Ficklin, and myself hopped a flight to Washington, DC to study and learn from the baseball and soccer set up at RFK.  We studied each of the pieces of the baseball to soccer/ soccer to baseball conversion.  It was never that we “can’t” do this.  It was never considered that the feat was “impossible”.  I can recall vividly how confident and committed Mr. Ficklin was to the fact that we WOULD find an answer to make the conversion cost more affordable AND to make a playing surface where neither baseball or soccer suffered.

(Slide 29) And then the “ah ha” moment came.  You have those right?  The “ah ha” moment where everything just makes sense?  Where the dots all get connected? Well with thinking about what was POSSIBLE… instead of what was IMPOSSIBLE… it hit me.  Starting my management career in baseball, I knew the ins and outs of baseball field maintenance well.  The use of the baseball dirt areas is not as common as it would seem that it is.  Grass repair work on a baseball field generally always takes place because the 2nd baseman and the shortstop both spend a good amount of time playing back on the grass arch of the infield.  Also, the baselines do not get used as much as one thinks:  Watch a baserunner slap a basehit to the outfield.  He is going to round 1st base wide, not using the baseline.

(Slide 30) So the answer to our challenge was clear.  Turning the dirt infield skin into grass with dirt sliding areas around each base.  The concept was being used on multiple fields around the country; though each of them was synthetic.  But still, with aggressive grass maintenance, I was convinced we could make it happen.  The surface would be consistent and smooth.  And we could cut our conversion costs down to around $10,000 American dollars for the field.  Neither sport, or the budget,  would suffer from playing both sports.

The negative feedback from field “experts” for both sports was endless.  “Can’t”.  “Impossible”. Even “ridiculous” are things I heard about the grass infield concept.  Yet in 3 seasons, the field won Field of the Year awards from both baseball and soccer.  The concept not only worked… it worked WELL.  We had hoped that the example would set a trend for baseball fields to go to grass infields across the south US, as the grass would help baseball teams cut down their rain out potential by reducing the amount of dirt needing covered.  But No.  Even with the positive example, the negative thinking was not turned.

(Slide 31) Another example:  Last fall at SoccerPlex, we did a stadium field renovation.  An organic layer build up and poa annua infestation had reduced the field’s ability to sustain heavy use, so it was time to improve the surface.  But as we considered replacing the field, I had 2 concerns.  1) The best bluegrass genetics were not available in sod yet as growers across the US had not started producing the newest and best for sod.  And 2) the introduction of a sod /organic layer limited our ability to use the stability fibers in our stadium sand.  Our fibers, the American version of fibresand, were not being used correctly when sod was unrolled across them instead of seed being sewed into them where the plant roots could weave completely into them and form stability.

During a trip to the UK, France, Holland, and Spain last May, the common question from Head Grounds Managers (many of whom are in this room, and I THANK!) was why sod when you I should be seeding?  Seeding in the USA is not common.  In fact, it NEVER happens.  I spent some time with Jason at Leeds rugby last week and he told me about his field renovation last winter…  the field was re-built, then sodded as it was the dead of winter and in the middle of the season.  Yet when the season ended, their 1st action was to come in and cut out the sod and SEED the field to remove the sod/ sand interface.  WOW.  If Jason told that story in the USA, half the room (Academics and Grounds Managers alike) would get up and walk out of the room as if Jason was claiming he landed on the moon!!  We. Do. Not. Seed. To. Establish. Fields.

With that said, we decided to seed SoccerPlex Stadium.  The negative feedback equaled the positive feedback.  “Can’t”.  “Won’t”.  “Impossible”.  It was a common theme… even (Slide 32) people took to social media and publicly voiced their dis-belief.  One day I am going to be giving a talk with this slide in it, and this guy is going to be in there.  Guess I owe him a beer… but ultimately I think he owes ME a beer…  Because 35 Days after seeding, the field was open (Slide 33)

(Slide 34) #Think.Different:  If we keep the thinking of the negative people who publicly proclaim things are impossible, we will never advance.

(Slide 35) The ESSMA Stadium Partners set a fantastic example of #Think.Different and outside the box.  It is why it is an honor for me to be here with you in Porto giving this talk.  Examples:

In the middle 90’s Ko Rodenburg would not accept the fact that poa annua control and seed clean up was not possible.  (Slide 36) Hence the KORO Field Topmaker was born and the KORO Renovation Revolution began!

(Slide 37) Nico van Vuuren knew that he could grow roses inside, year round.  So why couldn’t grass grow inside?!?  Now it can!!! (Slide 38) SGL was born.

(Slide 39) #Think.Different

(Slide 40) Sand base fields are necessary for drainage and compaction.  But stability issues, especially with rye grass, are common on sand.  (Slide 41)  Desso decided stability can just be sewed right into the sand!

(Slide 42) Stadiums of the 21st century ARE multi use venues.  They are entertainment venues.  Not just sports fields. (Slide 43).  Concerts happen the night before athletic competitions now.  (Slide 44). But with Terraplas, that becomes possible!  This photo, from FC Dallas Stadium (the premier soccer surface in the USA) shows damage from a concert the night before.  Wait?  What damage?  (right side shows a small amount of yellow.. look CLOSE though!)

(Slide 45) #THINK.DIFFERENT! 

(Slide 46) GRASS FIELDS CAN TAKE MORE!!!  

ESSMA’s core values are the foundation of how grass fields can take more.  Friendship is at work here in the room today.  Respect is what we have for our colleagues hard work and results.  Excellence describes that work.  Teamwork is base for excellence to gain respect.  And Integrity wraps it all together in an ethical manner.  All of these values build the foundation for positive thinking and communication.  Communication.  Communication.  

(Slide 47) Open communication (taking place right here in this room!) around the world is what leads to innovation. I use a Steve Jobs story again, fittingly as he is the modern world example and founder of #Think.Different:  In 1983 in an award speech for innovation, Mr. Jobs references the importance of experience on innovation.  Experiencing situations outside of our own is how creative thinking is born.  Sharing ideas and experiences just as we are here in this room today with 10 different languages being spoken and a multitude of challenges being faced…  Today we all sit here together as ONE.  As we communicate and exchange experiences, we realize that the person next to us has answers to questions that we have.  We have answers to questions that they have.  And together we all have answers to questions that others may not even know that need to be asked!!!

WOW!!!  Now that is POWERFUL!!!

Think about that...  right now, someone in this room has the answer to a question that before the day started, they didn’t even know needed to be asked.  I have shown examples:  We at SoccerPlex didn’t even think about the question needing to be asked was “what seed”… not “what sod”.  Henry Ford said himself… people didn’t know they needed to be asking for a new CAR, they wanted a faster horse!  Imants invented the new Universe rotor for the Field Topmaker for Desso… but we have found its amazing on bermudagrass.  IDEAS. IDEAS. IDEAS.

(Slide 48) And THAT ladies and gentlemen… is why we are in the middle of  REVOLUTION.  We are no longer changing the answer to the questions.  We are now changing the questions that are being asked.  #REVOLUTION.

(Slide 49) I leave you with a simple conclusion….  We are here discussing the challenges that we all face, all over the world.  But ultimately, none of the challenges go away if we do not change the way we approach them.  “If we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we always got.”

Very, very simple.  #THINK.DIFFERENT.

(Slide 50)  THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT!!! Innovation is happening all around us.  It is evening happening in this room at this very second.  Someone in here could have the next “big thing” when i comes to maintenance and management.  Genetics are improving. Science is evolving.  The human mind is thinking.  We all are communicating as ONE unified industry.  #THINK.DIFFERENT. Grass fields CAN take more.

ESSMA Head Grounds Manager Seminar Keynote

ESSMA Head Grounds Manager Seminar Keynote