TurfNet Sports: Aggressive Tactics Key to Managing Soccer Complex

From TurfNet Sports, Sept. 7, 2013


Aggressive Tactics Key to Managing Soccer Complex

Sep 07 2013 08:00 AM | John Reitman
Jerad Minnick discusses turf management during a demo day at Maryland SoccerPlex.
Jerad Minnick discusses turf management during a demo day at Maryland SoccerPlex.

Jerad Minnick has never calculated the point of diminishing returns as it relates to the cost of seed at the Maryland SoccerPlex, but he knows he hasn’t come close to reaching it yet.

Minnick, head groundskeeper at the 22-field complex in Boyds, Md., since 2009, renovated the facility’s main stadium field last year, with Barenbrug’s Turf Blue Kentucky bluegrass that is enhanced with HGT technology. At $4 per pound, the seed, he says, is worth every penny.
The selection of HGT, which stands for Healthy Grass Technology, along with Jump Start Kentucky bluegrass and a regimen of agronomic practices that he learned overseas, have helped Minnick, 34, produce mid-season playing conditions that he didn’t realize were possible on cool-season turf.
“Grass can take a lot more traffic than we give it credit for,” Minnick said.
“We’ve played 120 events on the stadium field, and you can’t tell it’s been played on.”
Barenbrug’s HGT (Healthy Grass Technology), which entered the market in 2011, was developed from naturally stress-tolerant plants. Its traits include improved heat and wear tolerance, rapid establishment and quick recovery.
The stadium field at the Maryland SoccerPlex was ready for play 35 days after seeding. Thanks to a program of aggressive agronomic practices, he’s been able to keep it in like-new condition.
Within 60 days of seeding, the complex had hosted several tournaments, including the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s championship that was decided on the stadium field 75 days after seeding. Minnick now uses HGT on the other cool-season fields at the complex as well.
Hundreds of games each year are played at the 160-acre complex that includes 10 cool-season turfgrass fields, nine Bermudagrass fields and three that are carpeted with synthetic turf. The complex near Washington, D.C., is open every day except New Year’s, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and keeping the fields ready for play at all times is critical.
“If it snows in December, January or February, we have to clear it immediately and get it open,” said Minnick, who has managed the fields at the Maryland SoccerPlex since 2009.
Producing championship conditions is as much about agronomic practices as it is turf selection.
“Aggressive cultivation is the key,” Minnick said. “Each field has something done to it every two weeks. We have an aerifier and a verticutter running all the time. That is how we keep grass on our fields.”
Minnick earned a bachelor’s degree in turfgrass science at the University Missouri and was in his last semester of graduate school in 2002 when he accepted a job with the Kansas City Royals. He spent 2007-09 across town prepping with Sporting KC, Kansas City’s Major League Soccer franchise.
Since heading the soccer complex, Minnick has visited dozens of European soccer facilities. While overseas, he met people like Simon Gumbrill from Campey Turfcare and Barclays Premier League groundskeepers Paul Burgess of Real Madrid and Steve Braddock of Arsenal. Each taught him various things about the European way to manage turf, which includes regular agronomic practices throughout the playing season.
For example, Braddock said he runs a deep tine aerifier over Arsenal’s practice fields on a monthly basis, alternating between depths of 6 inches to 10 to 12 inches throughout the playing season. When the season is over, he scrapes the field clean of its cover using the Imants Koro Field Topmaker in a process called Fraze mowing and establishes a new field for the next season.
This process removes all organic matter from the surface and each year results in improved drainage at the surface, Braddock said. It’s a philosophy that is not taught at U.S. turf schools, but it is something that is widely used by turf managers in other parts of the world.
“All my practices have been self taught using what I believe is common sense over the years.” Braddock said.
“My belief is that practical experience is more beneficial as the person can see what tasks they are carrying out will have a positive impact on the surface and learning about how important timing can be when conducting tasks.”
Fraze mowing Bermudagrass at Maryland SoccerPlex.
Fraze mowing Bermudagrass at Maryland SoccerPlex.

Minnick wasn’t a believer at first, but he is now. His program in Maryland includes aggressive agronomic practices throughout the playing season, including almost constant aerification except during the most extreme summer conditions. He renovates the stadium field each year and uses the Fraze mowing method on actively growing Bermudagrass. The process removes thatch, ryegrass, Poa annua and leaves Bermudagrass stolons exposed. Scarifying in two directions promotes better lateral growth of the Bermudagrass. Minnick rotates through the other cool-season and warm-season fields, renovating several each year. He doesn’t yet renovate all every year, but, as he says, “we are moving in that direction.”

“I didn’t think it was possible either seven or eight years ago,” he said. “The fields we do the most to always look the best.
“To me, the biggest mistakes people make are too much water, too much nitrogen and not enough aerification. Granted, I’m not going to do it if it is 105 degrees outside. We were still solid tining to open the organic layer when we broke a record for most consecutive hours above 80 degrees.”
It has come as no surprise to Erik Ervin, Ph.D., who was a professor at Missouri when Minnick was a student there, that his former pupil has adopted such revolutionary tactics.
“Jerad was not your usual undergrad,” said Ervin, who is now a professor at Virginia Tech. “He was a polite young man who introduced himself right away and asked insightful questions. He was a leader in our turf club, and I was not surprised to follow his success as we both moved from Missouri to the East Coast for promotions. Jerad is willing to try new things, but reads, discusses and experiments before going all in with his unique turf care practices.”
Minnick maintains the stadium field at nine-sixteenths of an inch and the other cool-season surfaces at heights of 1 to 1.75 inches.
“I like to manipulate the turf,” he said. “If you add a quarter inch, that’s 25 percent more photosynthetic surface.
“I try not to mow as much, but I don’t shy away from cultural practices.”
The Bermuda fields at the complex, which include Patriot, are overseeded with a mix of Barenbrug’s SOS and RPR ryegrasses, are maintained at a height of about one-half inch during the summer when they subjected to 40 hours of play per week.
“We load them up in the summer,” Minnick said. “Summer camps are big for us. Kids are on those fields from 9 to 5, and the Bermuda is perfect. It doesn’t wear out.”
Adopting new methods of doing things is nothing new for Minnick. He currently is evaluating HGT Kentucky bluegrass as an overseed option, and also is evaluating performance characteristics of several vareities of Bermudagrass, including Patriot, Latitude 36, NorthBridge and Riveria. He believes looking for better ways to produce healthy, stress-tolerant playing surfaces quickly should be the norm, not the exception.
“Why are we still talking about all of these old ideas? We need to get rid of them. If we continue to learn new things, thinking like this will be the norm in five years.
“Some people say it is far-fetched, but others in other parts of the world have been doing it this way for a long time. In Europe, it’s been mostly on ryegrass. In Australia it’s been on Bermuda. When we take it to bluegrass, yes, we’re setting new trends. I like to think of the day when people will look back and think of when they thought grass couldn’t take a lot of traffic.”


Join the Revolution

From Mr. Waldo Terrell of Harrell’s “Front Porch Blog on August 1, 2013:


Every month or so it seems Sports Turf Managers are being inundated with information regarding the viability and cost effectiveness of artificial turf. This information is often disseminated by those who have the most to gain from such information, the artificial turf manufacturers themselves. There is a growing group of Sports Turf Managers led by Jerad Minnick at the Maryland Soccer Plex who are proving time and again that “Grass Fields CAN Take More Traffic”. Jerad maintains a blog Growing Green Grass that chronicles the innovation going on in our industry. The latest and most intriguing of them is the concept of Fraze Mowing.

Below are a handful of practices that if implemented will allow grass fields to take more traffic.

  1. Aerification/ Cultivation. I’m already on the record as being a huge proponent of aerification (see the Harrell’s May 2013 Front Porch Blog) but there is a lot more to it than just core aerification. Slicing, spiking, solid tine or even fraze mowing, which I’ve never actually done, but the pictures I’ve seen speak for themselves, as often as possible will also help a field hold up to heavy traffic.
  2. Nutrient Management including the use of controlled release fertilizers, like Polyon, and plant growth regulators. These tools when used properly will maximize the turf’s ability to take up nutrients and use those nutrients to synthesize the carbohydrates needed to withstand traffic.
  3. Field Rotation. Moving or resizing fields to spread wear will greatly increase a grass field’s ability to withstand heavy traffic. Manage the wear, don’t let me manage you.

Sports Turf Managers are doing revolutionary things to insure that their grass fields CAN take more. Is it time for you to join the revolution?

Innovation Announcement: Bermudagrass Performance Test

Innovation Announcement  

Bermudagrass Performance Test SoccerPlex to Administer Real Time Performance Test of Four Bermudagrass Varieties 

Details:  Maryland SoccerPlex to test four varieties of bermudagrass on two re-constructed sand base fields.  NorthBridge and Patriot on Field 14.  Latitude 36 and Riviera on Field 17.

Read more of the announcement:   Innovation Announcement: Bermudagrass Performance Test.

Synthetic v. Grass: The Numbers

iphone photos 129-1

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)

Role Reversal… Grass More Durable Than Synthetic!!!


Through the 1st year of this blog, we have explored many different and new ideas about maintaining and renovating high traffic athletic fields.  The results that many high traffic grass field managers are producing are amazing. So with the advancement of ideas…  with developing new concepts… with creating better grasses… is it not possible to create a world in which GRASS FIELDS CAN SUSTAIN AS MUCH TRAFFIC AS SYNTHETIC??

Have you ever even imagined such a world????????????????

Over and over we hear about how grass fields are inferior to synthetic fields from a durability stand point.  There never seems to be any defense for it either!  Even though so many fields and so many sports field managers are having tremendous success with high traffic.  Forward thinking sports field managers are producing fields to the highest quality under demands that just a few years ago we thought were impossible to succeed under.  American football fields are surviving without needing sod work.  Soccer and baseball fields are hosting multiple sports and concerts.  Even park and recreation fields are seeing improved vertical drainage and stronger grass under constant traffic.  Amazing, amazing results.


So when are we going to start hearing about the possibilities of high traffic, natural grass athletic fields instead of hearing about how “grass fields can’t take more??

I say the time is now!!!  What do you think????  Can we change the way the world thinks about grass to where they believe grass fields CAN sustain more???

I think we can!  But its going to take positive thinking and someone asking some hard questions even of our own industry.  Its funny, I remember vividly as a college student when a STMA Officer stated in a workshop that “we are Sports Field Managers, we have to accept all sports fields”.  That was over 10 years ago. Back then (wow, I sound OLD!!), synthetic turf was just coming onto the scene as a real “threat” to low maintenance fields.  The marketing machine known as the synthetic turf industry was just establishing firm.  Well now our trade magazines and conferences are filled with synthetic turf maintenance information.  Even our major universities are being underwritten by and researching synthetic turf improvements. During those 10+ years, industry leaders have felt that it important to supply information for our members who have to maintain synthetic fields just as we do grass.  But in 10 years, how many synthetic fields have replaced grass fields that really just needed maintained correctly  v. grass fields that replaced synthetic fields?  That STMA officer that made the statement 10 years ago himself has even lost fields to synthetic.

But….  is it bad to say what everyone else is thinking?!?! ITS CARPET!!! You drag it, you sweep it. I do not go to seminars to learn how to groom my living room carpet…  why should I for synthetic fields?  Plus each vendor of synthetic has different methods of maintenance..  Why don’t we not just allow them to dictate what their specific fields need for maintenance??  The grass field industry’s argument against synthetic has been that synthetic is “not maintenance free”.  Well, it doesn’t seem that argument has stopped a single synthetic field from being put in… but it seems to have convinced ourselves that they are complicated!!  Lets face it-  compared to grass, its simple!!   GRASS maintenance is a science- it is NOT SIMPLE.

So I ask, over the last 10 years with all the dollars and time and research spent on the industry accepting synthetic turf, WHAT IF?!?!?

What if all the seminar classes filled with synthetic information were filled with positive, forward thinking, creative experts on grass?  Would bermudagrass genetics that are 30 years old still be the core of sports fields in the south?  Or would newer, stronger, more cold tolerant bermudas be taking over fields and have them growing nearly 12 months a year so they are not as easily replaced w/ synthetic?   Would we know that there is currently an entirely different approach to field maintenance in Europe than we have in the USA?

What if all the publication space used on synthetic was dedicated to new grass field construction ideas and the education of sports executives about how strong natural grass can be?   Would there an increased amount of respect and appreciation for specialized sports field managers? Would facilities have sand fields with fibrelastic or more fields with advanced grass genetic technology? Would only 4 of over 120 grow light applications be in the USA?

What if all the research time used for synthetic was dedicated to creating methods and ideas for natural grass? Would there be outdated information from academia like what I read recently in an article that states that it takes “14-28 days for Kentucky bluegrass to germinate, and it takes 6-9 months for it to fill in”… yet there are multiple bluegrasses that germinate in 7-10 days and this blog featured a field grown-in in 35 days?  Would there be research on new root zones w/ more stability and less compaction potential instead of research on synthetic infills?  Would there be creative new ideas for grass fields that we could never even imagine right now instead of worry about trying to make plastic and rubber not reflect heat from the sun?

Would all of this information and time and effort combine into monumental steps towards GRASS FIELDS BEING THE ANSWER TO HIGH TRAFFIC INSTEAD OF SYNTHETIC!?!?!  Or even creating ways to GROW GRASS ANYTIME, ANYWHERE!?!?!?

Yes, it seems crazy…  but if our lives can all run on devices in our pockets that not that long ago was merely a device on the wall that was at the mercy of switch board operators and long distance charges… WHY NOT!?

So now I ask…  What will change it!?  When will it change??  What comes next??  Where is the action point even to start to defend and promote grass fields as actually being HIGH TRAFFIC FIELDS??  Action was warranted following the gross attack from the Synthetic Turf Council against natural grass in an article a couple of months ago.  That was evident by the 100 social media shares, 500 views on this blog in 24 hours, and 0ver 50 emails and texts in reference to my  letter to the editor about the article.  Then recently an opportunity to take action again presented itself again when Abby Wambach, the world’s best female soccer player, set out on her own campaign against FIFA’s relationship with synthetic turf for the next Women’s World Cup. Read Here  .


I firmly believe that the industry currently possess an arsenal of techniques, ideas, and tools to make GRASS TAKE AS MUCH AS SYNTHETIC.  Now with the support of our industry organizations to educate field managers and the entire sports world…  with our trade publications searching far and wide for unfound information and the presentation of new ideas…  and with our research universities working with the creativity that only they as researches have…      THE  SKY IS THE LIMIT!!

There are great, great things happening all around us right now with grass fields, and those great things are going to continue to spread.  My bold prediction, is that within 5 years we WILL HAVE A NATURAL GRASS ALTERNATIVE for synthetic (at a fraction of the cost, environmentally friendly, and sustainable w/out needing replacement).  Come and join… IT IS A NEW AGE FOR GRASS FIELD MANAGEMENT!!


“Changing the Answer is Evolution.  

Changing the Question is a REVOLUTION!”

Center of Field Post Rugby Match

Center of Field Post Rugby Match

Concept to Active Practice: Fraze Mowing Bermudagrass Makes Debut


On Jan. 30th, we shared in a discussion about the “concept” of fraze mowing bermudagrass w/ the new Universe® rotor for the new Koro Field Topmaker.  The feedback and idea exchange was absolutely fantastic!  It seemed we were onto a potential breakthrough for bermudagrass thatch management.

Last Saturday, March 23, the “concept” became reality as the Universe® made its world debut in Dallas, TX at FC Dallas Park.  The results speak for themselves:

Universe® Koro Field Topmaker Rotor Makes It's World Debut

Universe® Koro Field Topmaker Rotor Makes It’s World Debut

Modern Fraze Mowing w/ Universe® Field Topmaker rotor at FC Dallas Park

Modern Fraze Mowing w/ Universe® Field Topmaker rotor at FC Dallas Park

Rye Grass and Thatch Removed.. Stolons and Rhizomes Exposed to Put on Leaves and Grow Laterally

Rye Grass & Thatch Removed.  Stolons & Rhizomes Exposed to Put on Leaves and Grow Laterally

The rye grass overseeding was removed, along with the thatch, organic layer, and weed seed bed.  Left behind is a mat of stolons and rhizomes that will immediately re-generate leaf blades and begin to grow laterally across the ground.  In bermudagrass weather (FC Dallas bermuda is primarily dormant for a few more weeks), the plant tissue remaining will push out leaves in 4-7 days.. immediately giving the field surface a green appearance again.  Then within 14-21 days, active growth will have the field surface nearly completely re-covered with strong, durable plants ready to sustain heavy traffic.  Fraze mowing also smoothed any undulations in the surface, making the fields as smooth as pool tables.  Overall, the results were absolutely spectacular!!

During the weekend demonstration, FC Dallas Park had 3 fields receive the Koro Renovation Process (Fraze mowed to clean out the thatch, organic layer, ryegrass, and weed seed/ recycle dressed/ smooth drug).  1 field was fraze mowed w/ the new Terraplane rotor, making its USA debut…  then 2 fields were cleaned out w/ the Universe® ,making it’s world debut.  Once the fields were cleaned out, the KORO Recycling Dresser ameliorated the sand… allowing air to be infused back down through the profile.  The topdressing the Recycler created covered the stolons and rhizomes, allowing them to be protected and encouraged re-generate even faster.  Mr. Allen Reed also became the 1st high level professional stadium groundsman in the USA to run the Recycling Dresser on a stadium field, following the likes of Mr. Paul Burgess of Real Madrid’s Estadio Bernabeu.

KORO Recycle Dresser on FC Dallas Stadium

KORO Recycle Dresser on FC Dallas Stadium

THANK YOU to Mr. Miles Studhalter, Mr. Allen Reed, and Mr. Tom Jones of FC Dallas Park for believing in the concept of fraze mowing bermuda w/ the Universe® enough to be the 1st to have it demonstrated and performed.  Their belief and feedback has been essential in bringing the concept into real life.  They were convinced that the practice of cleaning out the rye grass, thatch, organic, and weed seed would provide a stronger, more durable playing surface going into the future.  Thank you again to them.. they are the best of the best!!

Also, thank you to Mr. Joe Pemberton, Head Groundsman of Manchester United’s Carrington Training Ground, for providing feedback during the process.   Joe, in the USA on a short holiday, stopped in to observe the Universe® debut.  It was a privilege to see Mr. Pemberton, he absolutely is one of the world’s very best Field Managers.  Thank you to him for allowing us to ask so many questions!

And finally, a very special thank you to Imants BV (@ImantsBV) of Reusel, Netherlands and Campey Turf Care Systems (@CampeyTurfCare) of Manchester, UK for the development of such a fantastic, forward thinking tool in the Universe®. Imants leadership, along with Mr. KO Rodenberg (KORO) and Campey Turf Care Systems are completely changing sports field maintenance around the world.  Mr. Simon Gumbrill of Campey was essential for the debut of the Universe® in Dallas, thank you to him for taking the time to come across to the USA to lead, teach, and enlighten us to new ideas!  Simon, Thank You!

Overall, the weekend demonstration trials were a complete success.  Fraze mowing bermudagrass w/ the Universe® is no longer a “concept”.  It is now a developing maintenance practice.  Cheers to those who helped make it possible!

The Demo Team!

The Demo Team!

Ideas for Drying Out Wet Winter/ Early Spring Fields

Is it just me, or has the winter just flown by?!?  Here in the USA, the spring sports season is upon us:  College baseball and lacrosse season is open, professional baseball spring training baseball is underway, and professional soccer pre-season is nearing the end with the season opening in 2 weeks.  Are you sensing faint hints of freshly cut grass yet??

Winter and early spring play creates a vast challenge for sports field managers. Grass is either dormant or slow-growing, soils are freezing and thawing, and cold temperatures and/or snow can eliminate getting work done all together.  But for every challenge there is a creative solution.  Today let’s share together some different ideas and techniques to solve the challenge of preparing wet fields for spring time play.

Why Do Fields Stay So Wet in the Winter/ Spring?

Wet fields are challenging in the winter/ early spring for several reasons. 2 of those are:

  1. Sun Angle Is Lower:  Summer is the only time that the earth is tilted directly towards the sun.  Then during the spring and fall, the tilt is more intermediate.  Then In the winter the earth is tilted completely away from the sun in the winter hemisphere.                            http://www.windows2universe.org/earth/climate/cli_seasons.html                      Because of the tilt, evaporation/ evapotranspiration and atmospheric heating are greatly reduced.  The result: much slower surface drying for wet fields
  2. Temperature fluctuation:  Temperature (and climate) can also be traced back to the tilt of the earth as well.  But ups and downs are more dramatic during the winter.  This weekend Florida is experiencing un-seasonably cool temperatures.  Last week the GIS Convention experienced cold, rain, and overcast in San Diego.  Up and down temperatures inhibit drying and lead to soils freezing and thawing.  Then a thawing top layer on a field is soft and wet, especially if the profile below is still frozen.

Solutions to Drying Fields:

We have defined some of the reasons for wet, spring time fields.  Now lets explore some possible solutions.  Please share some of your ideas as well!

  1. Soil Penetrants:  Moving water off of the surface is Step #1 to getting a wet field dry.  Because the field surface is unstable, mechanical means of drying are impossible.  Liquid soil penetrants provide an option for these surfaces.  Soil penetrants contain negatively charged particles that repel the negatively charged soil colloids to open up pathways through the soil for temporary drainage.  An application of a soil penetrant can expedite the movement of water by up to 40%.  Soil penetrants have no environmental impact and have no long-term effects on the field surface, so using them is 100% safe.  They are generally economically priced as well.
  2. Drying Agents:  Soil drying agents such as calcine clay and ceramics provide an option for wet surfaces.  The ability of these products to work on wet grass surfaces is mixed, especially with possible detrimental long-term issues for grass if over used.  But drying agents are extremely effective on drying infield skinned areas/ bare dirt areas, so creative uses can be attempted if budget is no object (can be expensive)
  3. Rolling:  A roller can be used to “seal off” the surface of a field to make it playable for a competition.  This certainly isn’t a long-term solution, but can provide a quick fix to get the field to a point that a competition can take place and prepare it for mechanical means such as aeration to take place to work towards drying the field.
  4. Aeration/ Venting:  Venting the surface can encourage the field to begin to dry.  Rapid tine aerators w/ solid tines set to 1-2” can work very well, specially since the front roller can smooth our tractor tracks.  The RotoKnife, slicers, aerway type aerators, and dimple or needle tine seeders can also work to run across a surface that needs vented to promote drying out.  Hollow tines can also be used if you are comfortable with being able to get the plugs cleaned up.  Again, 1-2” is all that is needed to encourage/ speed drying out.
  5. Topdressing:  Topdressing sand can be used to assist in creating air space to dry and firm the surface, especially in cooperation with aeration/ venting.  Filling the open holes with sand allow them to remain open longer and provide more drying ability.
  6. Grow Tarps:  Using grow tarps doesn’t directly help dry out a field surface, it actually can trap in moisture without sunshine.  But when used w/ sunshine, a grow tarp not only magnifies sun to dry a field surface.. it also promotes grass growth and establishment.  When grow tarps are used correctly (off and on when needed), they can create early spring growth and drying to have a field playable nearly daily.  Any high level (high traffic) field that is depended on for early spring play should consider grow tarps to ensure success for playability (in combo with these other ideas)

These are just a few ideas and thoughts about getting wet fields open in the spring time.  We will build on this and have a more extensive discussion on drainage options for fields (especially heavy soil) in the next week with some examples from drainage work we are doing at  Maryland SoccerPlex.  But in reference to today’s discussion, please sure any ideas/ thoughts with us that you might have in order for Sports Field Managers to better meet the challenge of wet fields this spring!!


Thank You STMA Participants

THANK YOU to the Sports Field Managers who spent time with us on Wed and Thursday morning discussing the concepts around maintaining high quality, high traffic athletic fields.  Also, THANK YOU to those who participated Wed morning in the discussion about the 6 Step Process for Transitioning Cool Season Fields to Bermudagrass.  Both topics received fantastic feedback and have led to a wide variety of additional possibilities.  It seems the warm Florida sunshine added to the creativity!!

The revolution of 2013 is off to strong start for sure.  Stay tuned for many, many more ideas to come.