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.

MORE SUCCESS: Fraze Mowing Bermudagrass In North Carolina

On Tuesday of last week, KORO Universe® fraze mowing was introduced to bermudagrass in northeast eastern  North Carolina.  The results of the process continue to be amazing:

Celebration Bermudagrass Cleaning w/ KORO Universe at Shallowest Depth

Celebration Bermudagrass Cleaning w/ KORO Universe at Shallowest Depth

Celebration Bermudagrass Cleaned Out 2 w/ KORO Universe

Celebration Bermudagrass Cleaned Out Deeper w/ KORO Universe

Mat of Thatch & Organic on 419 Removed to Expose Stolons & Rhizomes

Mat of Thatch & Organic on 419 Removed to Expose Stolons & Rhizomes

Mr. Sam Green, Director of Business Development at Aqua Aid, set up the demonstration in North Carolina.  Mr. Simon Gumbrill of Campey Turf Care (Manchester, UK) and Mr. Hans DeKort of Imants (Reusel, Netherlands) were both in attendance, along with Mr. Andrew Green from McDonald Design Group to evaluate the potential of the process.  The potential for the golf market is very big, for de-thatching/ durability/ and for cleaning up to prepare for overseeding.

More updates to come on the re-establishment of the bermudagrass!

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….


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


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.


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*: 


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

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)


Mr. Simon Gumbrill and Mr. Jerad Minnick Share at Demo Day

Simon Gumbrill & Jerad Minnick Share at Demo Day

THANK YOU to everyone that took part in the demonstration at Maryland SoccerPlex on Monday, June 3rd.  Heavy rains Sunday night limited to the amount of work that was able to take place, but that did not limit the discussions and information sharing between the nice sized group that gathered.

Special thanks to Mr. Simon Gumbrill of Campey Turf Care (Manchester, UK) and Mr. Hans DeKort of Imants (Reusel, Netherlands) for taking the time to be with us.  And special thanks to them for building and providing the turfgrass market with such well build and precision machines.  The relationship between Campey and Imants is absolutely “Perfecting Play”.  

Also, thank you to Mr. Niels Dokkuma from SGL Concept (Netherlands) for joining us.  The age of growing grass year round w/ lights for even non-shaded fields is coming… and SGL is leading us there.  Exciting things ahead!!

And additionally, a thank you for Mr. Yousef Bagdady for joining us from Garden & Farm (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).  Garden & Farm is one of the finest turfgrass equipment distributors in the world, and Mr. Bagdady being with us illustrates why.  The idea sharing was beneficial for us all!

IMG_3271More to come w/ the re-growth of the fields.  We are absolutely on track to re-open by 1 week from today…  June 15th.  A sneak peak at the results so far:

Patriot Bermuda Greening 5 Days After Cleaning Off

Patriot Bermuda Greening 5 Days After Cleaning Off

Patriot Bermuda Coming Through at 6 Days After Cleaning Off

Thinnest Area Prior to Patriot Bermuda Being Cleaned Off 6 Days Before



Evolving the Practice: Fraze Mowing Bermudagrass Comes To Maryland SoccerPlex


Fraze mowing bermudagrass w/ the KORO Universe® Field Topmaker rotor became an active practice on dormant bermudagrass at FC Dallas Park in March.  Now for the 1st time, the practice has been used on bermudagrass greening up and starting its summer growth at Maryland SoccerPlex (NW side of Washington, DC).  The Patriot bermudagrass on  7 fields at SoccerPlex has been actively growing for about 3 weeks…  so fraze mowing is taking place right at the time of transitioning the rye grass overseeding out of the bermudagrass.

Fraze mowing 2 fields took place on Thursday of last week, May 30.  The top 1/2″ of the field was removed w/ the benefits being:

1) rye grass removal

2) poa annua and weed seed removal

3) thatch/organic build up removal

4)  smoothing the surface of the top of the field

With all the removal, the bermuda stolons and rhizomes were exposed to the sunlight to be allowed to green up completely and actively grow across the field instead of fighting to get up through the shade of the thatch/organic and competition of the rye/ poa.

Fraze Mowing w/ KORO Universe Field Topmaker

Fraze Mowing w/ KORO Universe Field Topmaker

Bermuda Plants Exposed w/ Removal of Rye, Poa, Weed Seed, and Thatch/ Organic Build Up

Bermuda Plants Exposed w/ Removal of Rye, Poa, Weed Seed, and Thatch/ Organic Build Up


Stolons & Rhizomes Exposed

Stolons & Rhizomes Exposed

Following the “cleaning off” via fraze mowing, the fields were scarified at 1″ deep w/ a verticutter in 2 directions to cut the stolons and rhizomes to increase the number of plants and promote lateral and leaf growth.  Each point the bermuda is cut will promote growth and increase density as the fields fill-in.

Results of Fraze Mowing w/ KORO Universe & Double Scarifying

Results of Fraze Mowing w/ KORO Universe & Double Scarifying w/ Verticutter

Following fraze mowing and scarifying, the fields were put into a heavy watering cycle to keep the bermudagrass soaked down in the soil… much like sprigs would be soaked when they are planted from sprigging.  The water will help the remaining dormant plants to green up and start to grow.. and reduce the stress of the fraze mowing.

In 5-7 days time when leaves have re-generated and can be foliar fed, foliar bio-stimulant will be applied to promote more leaf and shoot growth.  Because the leaves were removed from fraze mowing, the photosynthetic surface has been removed.  Thus the additional of carbohydrates, amino acids, and plant hormones will provide food and energy to promote quicker regeneration .  1/2 lb of ammonium sulfate will also be applied, along granular polymer coated nitrogen (N) to release at 1/10th lbs N a week for the next 18 weeks and polymer coated phosphorous (K) to also release at 1/10th lbs K for the next 18 weeks.

The 2 fields clean off on May 30th re-open on June 15th to full play.  (so closed 16 total days) Stayed tuned to track the re-establishment!