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. 

Thank You Georgia STMA

This week I got to spend some time with the fantastic people of the Georgia STMA during the EDGE Conference just outside of Atlanta. A sincere THANK YOU to them for having me share with the group. My hope is that we were able to create some new ideas and positive thinking for the challenges that surround us all. I know I personally came up with some new ones!

With that, there are some interesting and exciting research taking place currently at University of Georgia I encourage everyone to look for. As part of the program at EDGE, Dr. Jared Hoyle from UGA presented to the STMA group about the happenings around their research and education programs. They (UGA) have some very interesting and cutting edge thinking taking place that will certainly benefit the industry. Kudos to Dr. Hoyle and his team (2 whom I also had the privilege to meet, PhD students Mr. Chase Straw and Ms. Robin Landry). They are leading the way in creative thinking for the betterment of sports fields around the world.

Thank you again Georgia STMA… I look forward to sharing more ideas with you all hopefully very soon!!