SPECIAL FEATURE: This blog is privileged to have a guest share with us on the recent experience of the Major League Soccer All Star Game in Kansas City, KS at Sporting Park. Mr. Casey Montgomery is the Assistant Sports Turf Manager for Sporting Kansas City tasked with managing day-t0-day maintenance at Sporting Park. Directed by Mr. Justin Bland, Sporting Kansas City’s sports field management program sets an entirely new standard for high traffic, professional field quality in the United States. Sporting Park is the jewel of not only soccer stadiums in the Western Hemisphere, but for all sports venues in the United States. The playing field is a reflection of the quality that Sporting Park was built too. THANK YOU to Mr. Montgomery for sharing about his experience!
Also an FYI: Major League Soccer does their All Star Game different from many other sports. Instead of splitting the league into two teams, the All Stars of MLS match up again a major International club. The 2013 opponent was AS Roma, an Italian power club from Rome.
“Preparing for the 2013 MLS All Star Game” provided by Casey Montgomery
In 2012 when all of us at Sporting Kansas City were first told Kansas City would host the MLS All Star game, everyone in the organization was thrilled. There was no better way to show off Sporting Park and Kansas City, the city that we feel is the greatest soccer city in America, than to host the biggest match of the year! During the 12 months leading up to the All Star Game, everyone in the entire organization worked extremely hard to make sure the match was first class. However the overall preparation of the stadium and the pitch for the big match wasn’t much different from preparing for any match. We strive to have the best game experience possible, and with that comes the best playing surface possible game in and game out.
On the pitch we worked with MLS to add some extra classic touches to commemorate the uniqueness of the All Star Game. MLS All Star Game logos were painted off both touchlines and 7 stars were added in the grass going through the middle of the pitch. 6 of the starts were 30 feet point to point and the 7th star was in the center circle measuring 60 feet from point to point:
Adding the stars was an exciting addition, but it ultimately turned into a major challenge! It became apparent after the first lay out and mowing on Saturday morning prior to the game on Wednesday that we would have to work on the stars daily to get them to stand out for the match. Our maintenance and plant feeding regiments encourage our Kentucky bluegrass mowed at 7/8″ to be very rigid and upright in order to be more durable and strong under high traffic. Trying to get the grass to lay down to lay down to illuminate the stars was completely opposite of that approach. We received much needed assistance from Mr. Trevor Vance, Head Groundskeeper of the Kansas City Royals. Mr. Vance was gracious to let us borrow an 80 lbs tile roller that we used instead of brooms. The roller was great help, and was less abrasive on the grass than continual brushing.
Chronicling Game Week:
Rain! Sporting Park received 1″ of rain on Monday, keeping us from accomplishing many tasks prior to Wednesday’s match. Our crew waited out the rains to paint the pitch boundaries at 8pm for Tuesday when both the MLS All Stars and AC Roma would train
Tuesday (Training Day)
Rain! Sporting Park received 1.9″ of rain Monday night into Tuesday mid-morning, bringing the total rainfall over the 2 days to nearly 3″. We didn’t let that dampen our excitement though! Tuesday morning prior to the first training session at 9:30am, we mowed the pitch and rolled in the 7 stars. Both teams then proceeded with their training sessions followed with a 7.5 hour pre-game ceremony rehearsal. When the rehearsal ended around 10pm, we again mowed the pitch and rolled in the stars again.
Wednesday (Game Day)
Sunshine! Sporting Park was blessed with a gorgeous day for the 2013 MLS All Star Game. Our staff mowed and re-painted the boundary lines and MLS All Star logos, then rolled the stars to brighten them up. At 3pm, another rehearsal for the pre-game ceremony was held for 3 hours. That allowed us about 45 mins to touch up the stars on the pitch before the gates opened and warmups began for both teams followed by the pre-match ceremonies. An exciting match saw the MLS All Stars fall to AC Roma 3-1. But it absolutely was a match full of excitement from start to finish!
Roma remained after the match for a 30 minute training session for their players that did not see action. Being that their team was in pre-season competition, it was important for all of their players to get work in even if it added a few more hours to our day.
Challenges of the Week Equal Reward
With an event like the MLS All Star Game, we began brain storming and preparing for the challenges months before the match. So the biggest challenge of the week was the one most out of our control: The Rain. We were well prepared to have 2 trainings as well as 2 days of rehearsals. And the heavy rainfall is something that can be expected from the unpredictable Kansas City climate. The rain on Monday just came on the day that was most important for our preparation. Fortunately at Sporting Park we are provide with excellent tools do deal with such conditions. Our Sub-Air system works wonderfully in vacuum mode to pull rain water out of the sand profile of the pitch. Yet water still holds around our sod layer, causing the surface to compact quickly from excessive foot traffic like that came from the 500 people on the field for the 10 hours of the pre-match ceremony rehearsals. Aeration will be our most popular practice through the end of the season in preparation for what is hopefully an even bigger match at the end of the season, the MLS Cup!
Hosting the 2013 MLS All Star Game in Kansas City was an exciting time for our city and especially the fans and employees of Sporting Kansas City. Being able to show off the finest soccer stadium in the country not only to AS Roma but to the world was very rewarding. I was glad to be part of such a historic match! Kudos to our grounds staff lead by Justin Bland, along with Ryan Lock, Chad Homan, and Shane Montgomery on the tremendous effort to overcome the challenges to create a successful experience for all!