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Updated: 45 min 8 sec ago

Preparing for snow mold

December 12, 2017

By Pamela Sherratt, Ohio State

Q: I have received two questions about snow mold disease recently: Should we apply a fungicide if we plan on covering the field with a growth blanket this winter and if so, when? And, we can’t spray a fungicide before winter for snow mold, but if we see damage from snow mold on our young ryegrass next spring, what should we do?

A: Quick snow mold re-cap: snow mold is a common disease problem in northern states during winter and early spring. Microdochium patch/pink snow mold (pathogen Microdochium nivale) is probably the most common snow mold that develops during a snow event. In the absence of snow the disease is referred to as fusarium patch. Typhula blight/gray snow mold (pathogen Typhula incarnate) is the second most common snow mold. In the case of Typhula blight prolonged snow cover is required for disease development. Perennial ryegrass and annual ryegrass are particularly susceptible to snow mold, especially on immature, lush, succulent stands of grass seeded in the fall.

Although the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other weather sources are calling for wetter and warmer winter conditions in the northern states this year, it’s impossible to know exactly how much snow we’ll get or how severe the snow mold outbreaks will be. But if snow mold has been an issue in the past, it’s wise to be prepared.

In response to question one, the growth blanket will provide environmental conditions not dissimilar to prolonged snow cover, making the turf more susceptible to snow mold. So yes, if you are planning on putting a growth blanket on a field over the winter period it is advisable to apply a preventative fungicide before its being covered. I assume the reason for covering the field is that there are games scheduled very early in the spring. Growth covers that are permeable (i.e. breathable) are more beneficial than impermeable ones. Impermeable covers increase the temperature and humidity under the cover and so increase the likelihood of snow mold. Making one application of preventative fungicide just before covering the field, or just before the first snow event of the season, has been shown to be more effective than making fungicide applications earlier in the fall. Also, a liquid application is typically more effective than a granular application.

While it is widely accepted that a preventative fungicide is the most effective way to prevent snow mold problems, there are other turf maintenance practices that will help minimize snow mold damage and boost the turf plant going into the winter season. These practices are especially important if there are pesticide restrictions and a fungicide application can’t be made. At the time of writing, there really aren’t any biological options for snow mold prevention or control.

Snow mold issues are exacerbated if the grass is laying over, is covered in leaves, or has excessive thatch. Cultural practices that minimize thatch and surface debris are important, as is mowing just slightly lower than normal during the last mow of the season. The ultimate goal is to enter the winter season with a short, clean sward.

A common practice on cool-season turf is to apply a late-season fertilizer application with a quick-release source of nitrogen at the end of the growing season, when the grass is still green but it has stopped growing. In central Ohio, this is around Thanksgiving. In Minnesota, for example, this would be earlier, around the first week of November. This application is not the same as a fall fertilizer application, when turf is still growing. Applying quick-release sources of nitrogen in the fall should be avoided as it leads to lush, weak plants going into the winter season. The crucial difference is that the late-season application is made when top/leaf growth has stopped but soil temperatures are still warm enough for nitrogen absorption. The misconception is that the late-season fertilizer application encourages or increases the severity of snow mold disease, but it does not. The late-season fertilizer application will help boost turf quality and green-up the following spring, without excessive top growth. Some care should be taken however, to make sure that the fertilizer application rate is not too high, particularly on sand-based fields, to prevent nitrogen leeching.

Another pre-winter practice could include applications of the plant growth regulator trinexapac-ethyl. Applying trinexapac-ethyl between July and September does not necessarily reduce the incidence of snow mold, but it does increase levels of fructan in the crown of the turf plant, which could improve winter survival and enhance turf quality and green-up the following spring.

In regard to the second question, prolonged rainy periods and cool to moderate temperatures in early spring are ideal conditions to prolong the disease, so it may linger until warmer and dryer weather arrives. A snow mold recovery plan would include:

Check damaged areas by looking at the crowns to see if they are alive and producing new leaves. Lightly rake the grass to promote air circulation and encourage light to penetrate the canopy, encouraging new shoot and leaf development. Drying the sward is the key to recovery.

If there is any dead and/or matted leaf tissue, rake and remove it immediately. In the case of dead turfgrass, renovation of the site would be recommended as soon as possible. Removing diseased and dead material in the spring is an essential part of reducing the source of inoculum on the field. Plan to overseed with turfgrass varieties showing greater genetic resistance to snow mold infection. A list of those varieties can be found at


Fungicide applications at this time will not eliminate the disease from affected areas but only protect non-infected grass. So on high profile turf an application of fungicide may be warranted. Regional fungicide trials are conducted at land grant universities/research stations and results posted on their Extension websites.

Categories: test feeds

Make tree hugging a lost art

December 12, 2017

Validate your environmental best practices through certification. Go beyond documenting your environmental best management practices. Achieve STMA’s Environmental Facility Certification for a single field or for a complex. This two-stage certification program involves an assessment of a facility’s environmental practices, which must score 80 percent or higher before moving on to the second stage: engaging an on-site attester to confirm those practices.

Be proactive by achieving certification before uninformed local governing bodies force unreasonable controls on the products you use and the practices you follow. Having this program in place can help to ease misconceptions that the sports field managers are harming the environment.

Twenty-eight facilities have achieved this certification; three sports turf managers have achieved the certification for two of their fields or complexes. These are Paul Burgess for Real Madrid Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and Cuidad Real Madrid, Madrid, Spain; Chris Bolender for Pioneer Community Park and Rio Vista Park, Peoria, AZ; and Zach Holm and team for Red Bull Arena and Red Bull Training Facility, Harrison, NJ.

Join these peers in telling the true story of environmental stewardship by sports field managers. Click here for more information.


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Smart is everywhere, and it’s coming to stadiums

December 12, 2017
In the following case study, Mike Bohndiek, Head of IT at West Ham United FC (WHUFC), shares his thoughts on smart stadia – and how venues that don’t continue to adapt will get quickly left behind.

In years gone by, the community heartbeat was a church, a cathedral. People assembled, shared stories, met with friends and family, and collectively came together as one for a common cause. In the modern age sports clubs and their stadiums are taking on this mantra; unifying cities and acting as the pulse of their surrounds.

The expectation of the average fan is now heightened through the technological transformation they experience at home – smartphones, wi-fi, Netflix, social media consumption etc. Sporting venues and businesses must view technology as a key enabler to unlocked match day potential. At the very least, it is a critical part of retaining a fan. Proactively, it is a driver for best in class fan or even city engagement.

With new stadiums emerging across Europe, these venues have the opportunity to put technology at the heart of delivering a world-class experience for consumers, corporate and partners alike. Failure to invest into future technologies and stay ahead of the curve will ultimately undermine vision and delivery.

In its simplest most positive form:

  • Technology drives data
  • Data drives insight
  • Insight drives smart marketing/media and partner strategy
  • Marketing/media and partner strategy drive brand value
  • Brand value drives incremental revenue
  • Incremental revenue drives an ability to invest in technology

The curve is steepening. The difference in stadia between the haves and have nots is growing. Those without – elective or otherwise – should pay attention to the journey of hotels. 10 years ago, hotels that offered paid wi-fi were seen as market leading. They had deployed technology that many were grappling to understand. Fast forward to 2017 and any hotel without free wi-fi throughout the facility is now dimly viewed. It has become a critical part of life for the many, and this must be grasped. The consumer has spoken. The same is true now of stadia.

With stadia, technology offers opportunities. Fan engagement platforms enable the lengthening of a match day –  from the moment when the fan leaves home. Communication of transport information, targeted campaigns for event specific activities, and feedback on their experience deliver a holistic view of a supporter’s day, and thus enables the club to better understand what a successful match day looks like. It blends operations, engagement, and sales in a unique fashion. This – at a high level – is truly the goal of a smart stadium.

Technology is a facilitator for data collection. Registration for free wi-fi, engaging with an app, or entering a competition via a website are all generic methods. There is a straight interaction; do x to access y. You gain data, but little insight.

Enter the Internet of Things (IoT): the interconnection via the internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. This sits at the heart of smart stadium and enables a deeper understanding of the fan.

Registration for Wi-Fi just tells you that the fan has arrived, and potentially what they looked at.

The Internet of Things (IoT) enables tracking of the fan connected to the Wi-Fi to understand how they moved through the stadium, where they dwelled, and when they left.

The latter provides operational and commercial information and enables sales and marketing exploitation. Data is the insight lead for any business, and technology is the collection mechanism.

A smart stadium can mean a smart business future. The times of fans attending physical events is slowly passing with the advent of new streaming/online consumption channels; typically a more cost-effective method to see your team or event. Keeping your venue in line with their technological demands and providing an augmented match day experience are two core prongs leading the fight back to the classic attendance model.


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Will Supreme Court overturn ban on sports betting?

December 12, 2017

The politician who has pushed as hard as any other to legalize sports gambling in the USA offered up some inside information.

“I don’t bet,” U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., told USA TODAY. “People think I’m a gambler because all of this, but I’m not.”

Pallone, however, has helped turn the idea of legalized sports betting across the country from a long shot into a safe bet.

With the federal ban on full-fledged sports wagering outside of Nevada now in place for 25 years, the smart money is on Pallone and like-minded allies to dismantle the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Fifteen states have either introduced or enacted legislation to authorize sports gambling if the ban is overturned, according to Sara Slane, vice president of public affairs for the American Gaming Association.

“You already are starting to see states get in front of this issue,” Slane said. “And again, I think that speaks to the desire to want to administer sports betting if they so choose to.”

The opportunity could come as soon as 2018.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about the constitutionality of PASPA, and the nine justices are expected to issue a ruling by the spring. It’s worth noting that Utah, a state that has no gambling, has joined 19 states signing on to a court filing that challenges PASPA on the grounds that the federal ban infringes on states’ rights.

Even if the Supreme Court upholds the law, Pallone said he is gaining support on Capitol Hill to repeal the ban. He compares the ban on sports gambling to the prohibition of liquor, which, in case you haven’t heard, was lifted in 1933.

“The only thing (prohibition) did was to encourage organized crime and make Al Capone and the rest of the guys more powerful,” said Pallone, who this year released a draft bill that would allow states to legalize gambling and noted that betting outside of Nevada “goes on anyway, it’s just being done illegally.”

In fact, the American Gaming Association said PASPA has helped fuel a $150 billion underground sports gambling industry that avoids regulation and billions of dollars in taxes.

“The only group that benefits is organized crime,” Pallone said.

‘A concerted campaign’

Pallone no longer needs a bullhorn to be heard on this issue. Other powerful entities have joined the fight, most notably an organization headquartered about a mile from Pallone’s office on Capitol Hill. The nerve center of movement is now a seventh-floor office in downtown D.C. that houses the American Gaming Association.

Funded by casinos, the association has pushed for the legalization of sports betting in part by building a coalition that includes law enforcement, politicians and sports industry leaders. The association has paid for much of the research being used to tout the benefits of legalized sports gambling and this month made its case during a conference call with reporters.

“This is a concerted campaign, unlike anything since I’ve been studying this issue,” said Sam Skolnik, author of High Stakes: The Rising Cost of America’s Gambling Addiction. “The deck is stacked in favor of the gambling industry in many ways in this country. What that’s done is really altered the debate, the legalization debate, and made it sort of David vs. Goliath.”

Skolnik said the legalization of sports wagering outside Nevada will trigger a spike in addictive behavior and associated problems.

“If this is going to happen, regulations need to be put into place that recognize that this is going to have harmful effects on many folks,” he said. “My concern is that not enough attention will be paid to the likely damages that would occur.”

But there is no formidable opposition to the pro-sports gambling movement, and even Dennis DeConcini, a former U.S. senator from Arizona and the author of PASPA, said it might be time to review the ban.

“It seems to be that the wise thing to do would be to do some hearings on the issue,” DeConcini told USA TODAY, “and get the latest information as to sport as to the capabilities to secure it so that it doesn’t infiltrate with organized crime.”

Pro leagues coming around?

The pro-sports gambling movement got a jolt in 2011 when New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment to permit sports betting. But pro sports leagues challenged it, and five times the courts ruled against New Jersey.

Now the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the matter, with some legal experts saying that alone bodes well for the pro-sports gambling movement.

Lawyers representing the NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA and other sports leagues will argue in favor of PASPA during the Supreme Court hearings — but likely with less zeal than they have in the past.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has suggested he is open to regulated sports gambling, and this month Las Vegas broke ground on a $2 billion NFL stadium that will be home to the Raiders as soon as 2019.

Furthermore, this year the NHL brought pro sports to Las Vegas, with the Golden Knights in their inaugural season — interpreted by the American Gaming Association and others as another sign that pro sports has softened opposition to sports gambling.

Geoff Freeman, president of the American Gaming Association, said a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court would be welcome but not vital. He said Capitol Hill support for a repeal of the ban is growing, and a conference entitled “The Future of Sports Gambling in the U.S.” was held in the Russell Senate Office Building this month.

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida is among those who endorse congressional hearings on the matter.

“I think that it’s time to take a fresh look at sports gaming and really gaming in general in the Congress,” Gaetz, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told USA TODAY. “We haven’t really reviewed the status of the law since the wide-scale proliferation of the Internet. The last time Congress made a law in this space, the movie Wayne’s World was being released.”

Gaetz said the Internet has changed the landscape for sports gambling — much of which is done on the Internet through illegal offshore operators.

“The other reality that people have to wake up and face is that our gaming laws today are functionally unenforceable,” he said. “Within minutes, any American can engage in sports betting from their phone. That was never contemplated in 1992.”

That type of sentiment buoys Freeman, the American Gaming Association president who has spent much of the last three years spearheading the effort to legalize sports gambling.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “But we’re very optimistic that a regulated market is around the corner.” – by Josh Peter, USA TODAY

Categories: test feeds

Winter desiccation update

December 5, 2017

It continues to be dry, windy, and warm across much of the Great Plains. Since early October, Lincoln has received less than 0.10” of rain. A similar situation is playing out across much of the state. While the weather forecast models indicate a major cool down is expected in early December, the medium and longer-range forecasts suggest the dry conditions will persist.

I’ve received many phone calls, emails, and direct messages about the state of our turf going into winter. A Twitter poll from this week indicates that two-thirds of professional turf managers in the Great Plains have started or are considering irrigation right now. For many, that means re-charging irrigation systems or hand-watering with a tank or sprayer.

Where is the turf right now?

During fall, the crowns start to dehydrate. Light drought stress in October is fine because it helps this process. The leaves will be cut off, die and become bleached tan by the sun. We assess cold-hardiness by measuring the amount of water in the crowns. During the summer, the crowns are 80-85% water by weight and lack substantial cold tolerance. After fall cold- acclimation, crown moisture values typically range from 50 to 60% water by weight. This dramatically increases cold tolerance.

During open winters, grass species like creeping bentgrass, annual bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass can suffer from desiccation stress. This causes crown moisture values to drop below 50%. The lower the value, the greater the risk of plant death when temperatures drop well below freezing. The risk is greatest for golf and sports turf growing on sand soils. Stands with lots of thatch are more likely to have issues with winter desiccation (tees and fairways). Lawns of predominately Kentucky bluegrass, fescues, or buffalograss are much more tolerant of winter desiccation stress.

We sampled several creeping bentgrass stands this week to assess crown moisture and cold- hardiness. Samples came from greens and a sand-capped fairway in Lincoln. For the most part, the samples had a low risk of desiccation. Some of the samples actually had more water than would be desired (likely from the warm weather the past couple weeks). The current weather going into the cool-down next week should help to further reduce the crown moisture of those samples. Soil moisture values are currently at or below the summer wilt points, but that doesn’t seem to be having a negative effect on the crown moisture level.

Remember, summer wilt points aren’t the same as the winter wilt-points because the turf isn’t using as much water.

What should we be doing now?

The best way to prevent desiccation is to insure the crowns of those sensitive species are covered. This can be with a heavy application of topdressing or a cover. Darrell Michael’s MS research (2016) shows that crown moisture changes are most likely to occur in late winter and early spring. Spray-based products had a very limited effect on desiccation tolerance.

Light irrigation can be helpful if soil moisture is well-below wilt points, especial on sandy soils. Be careful not to pool up water, especially with perennial ryegrass and annual bluegrass. Those grasses can rehydrate when it is abnormally warm like this. The goal in winter watering is to add moisture for the crown. The leaves are going to die this winter and are not the target of the winter irrigation. A wetting agent can also be helpful on sand soils prior to winter.

Try to limit traffic. The warm weather has extended the season, but the extra traffic can place a significant amount of stress on the turf plants. Most people would understand not trafficking drought stricken grass in the summer, but they have no issue doing it during winter drought stress. Both are damaging and should be avoided to promote plant health and recovery. – Bill Kreuser, Assistant Professor and Turfgrass Extension Specialist,

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Volunteer in Texas to rebuild hurricane damaged fields

December 5, 2017

Come a few days early and volunteer with TXSTMA to rebuild youth baseball fields

The small town of Rockport, Texas, was devastated when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in its small city, which is located northeast of Corpus Christi.

TXSTMA members have joined efforts with country singer Charlie Robison who started a fundraiser to help the youth of Rockport by cleaning up the baseball fields. TXSTMA has scheduled a field cleanup on Jan. 13, 2018 to repair one baseball and one softball field for the youth league of the City of Rockport. TXSTMA is developing the plan for the field day; they need volunteers and supplies. For information on how you can help, contact Weston Floyd.


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GCSAA Distinguished Service Award honors Brilman and Latin

December 5, 2017

Longtime turfgrass science researchers Leah Brilman, Ph.D., and Richard Latin, Ph.D., have been selected to receive the 2018 Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award from GCSAA. The award is given to individuals who have made an outstanding, substantive and enduring contribution to the advancement of the golf course superintendent profession. The award was renamed in 2009 in honor of Col. John Morley, GCSAA’s founder and first president. He was the first to earn the Distinguished Service Award in 1932, and he received it again in 1940.

“Dr. Brilman and Dr. Latin are most deserving of the Col. John Morley Award,” says GCSAA President Bill H. Maynard, CGCS. “They have made significant contributions to the game and bettered the professional lives of superintendents through research and teaching. Their careers have been dedicated to improving the playing fields of our great game. Their service has been invaluable.”

Brilman is the director of product management and services for DLF Pickseed. Brilman’s research interests include turfgrass breeding and genetics as well as the utilization of new cultivars and management changes. Her excellence in the turfgrass industry has been well documented through the many awards she has received, including a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, the Association of Commercial Plant Breeders Award for Industry Breeder, and being named a fellow in the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA).  She has received the Fred V. Grau Turfgrass Science Award from the Turfgrass Science Division of CSSA.

“I was thrilled and honored to receive this award from GCSAA,” says Brilman. “I enjoy working with superintendents and students, and the association has allowed me to do this. When I am brainstorming with a superintendent or driving around a golf course with them, I learn from them as well.”

Brilman was a biology major at California State University, Bakersfield in the 1970s, when work on a paper about the evolution of wheat led to an interest in grass species. She received her bachelor’s degree from CSU Bakersfield in 1976, and would go on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in agronomy and plant genetics from the University of Arizona. She has been a longtime faculty member for GCSAA education and is the co-coordinator of the annual GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl. In addition to participation in state and regional turfgrass conferences around the United States, Brilman has lectured in the United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, Japan and Korea on various topics related to turfgrass cultivars. Brilman says that since the start of her career, the interest in drought-resistant grasses has been one of the biggest changes in the industry.

“Turfgrass breeders have to think long-term,” she says. “Coming from California and Arizona, I thought drought resistance would be more important earlier in my career, but it did not become a consistent demand until the last five years.”

Latin, professor of botany and plant pathology at Purdue University, where he has taught since 1981, cites his lifelong love of golf for determining his career path.

“I’ve always had my eye on turf,” Latin says. “I play golf; I love golf. So, when my mentor retired, I was the first to raise my hand to take on the role of turfgrass pathologist.”

Latin’s research focuses on turf disease control and factors that influence fungicide performance. His university appointment includes teaching, research and extension responsibilities. His book, “A Practical Guide to Turfgrass Fungicides,” is widely recognized as the most comprehensive text on the subject. He has been an instructor for GCSAA education since 2009. In addition to participation in local and regional turfgrass conferences around the United States, Latin has lectured in Europe and Asia on the principles of fungicide action on turf.

Latin earned his Bachelor of Science at Waynesburg College and his master’s and Ph.D. at Penn State University. Throughout his career, he has worked closely with golf course superintendents.

“I think of the folks who are recognizing me, and I am so flattered,” Latin says. “I have such a high regard for superintendents. They use their knowledge and creativity to benefit us all. Being recognized by them is very special to me. Superintendents are really some of the most remarkable people I have ever known.”

The GCSAA Board of Directors selects the winners of the Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award from nominations submitted by affiliated chapters or association members. View the complete list of past Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award recipients.

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Study says 57% of US kids face obesity by age 35

December 5, 2017

A whopping 57% of the nation’s children and teens will be obese by age 35 if current trends continue, according to a sobering new study.

The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, goes beyond previous studies suggesting unhealthy childhood weights often lead to adult obesity. It suggests that while heavy children face the highest risk, even those who make it to age 20 in good shape face substantial peril in a world where obesity could soon be the new normal.

“This study is the first to make precise predictions for today’s generation of children,” and the news is not good, said lead author Zachary Ward, a researcher at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The findings, he said, show the need for stepped-up prevention efforts through young adulthood.

The current adult obesity rate stands at a record 39.8 percent. The rate in children and teens is 18.5 percent. Adult obesity is linked with health problems including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The research relies on weight trend data from several studies that tracked individuals over time. The researchers used that data to create a model that projects what will happen to today’s children if current trends persist.

The study does not look at underlying causes, but suggests that risks start accumulating early.

For example, a severely obese 5-year-old faces an 89 percent risk of midlife obesity; a normal-weight peer has a 53 percent risk. At 19, a severely obese teen faces a 94 percent risk of being obese at 35; a normal-weight peer has a 30 percent risk.

The study is based on “a sophisticated statistical analysis technique that relies on certain assumptions, and those assumptions can be challenged,” said Stephen Daniels, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “But I think the assumptions … and their conclusions are pretty reasonable and, unfortunately, pretty scary.”

Daniels, who was not involved in the study, said the findings reflect “profound changes in physical activity and diet.” It’s easier, he said, for kids and parents to choose “high-calorie, low-nutrient” foods and drinks than healthy ones. – by Kim Painter, USA TODAY

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Las Vegas’ pop-up golf course will showcase first putting championships

November 29, 2017
The world’s best amateur and pro putters were in Las Vegas earlier this month to compete in the first golf putting championships at a temporary 18-hole course adjacent to Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. The Major Series of Putting championships are scheduled at the course custom-built for the event. When it’s over, the pop-up greens will be dismantled. (Check out this interactive map of the course and description of each hole.) The championships showcased the skills of amateur and professional golfers as they competed for cash prizes of up to $75,000 for a single event. Participants had to qualify previously at golf courses around the world. The putting course was created by Nicklaus Design, the company created by golf great Jack Nicklaus. The 20,000 square feet of synthetic turf form the centerpiece of what’s called the Major Series of Putting Stadium. It also features a grandstand, giant screens with live leaderboards, and a bar-restaurant. Spectators may attend for free from 8:30 a.m. to midnight daily. When contestants aren’t using the course, it will be open to the public. Tee times will be available at the championships’ website. The tournament concluded with a special “One Putt for One Drop” competition. With an entry fee of $11,111 per player, “One Putt” was a high-roller benefit for One Drop, a charity that works to provide sustainable access to safe water. – By Jay Jones



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Synthetic fields exploding in popularity for lower levels in Sydney, Australia

November 29, 2017

At the end of every football season, Pennant Hills Park looked more like a sandpit than a soccer pitch. A few tufts of grass behind the goal were the only greenery left on a pitch devastated by a full season of use.

“We would start playing on it in March and by mid-April it would be dirt,” Pennant Hills Football Club vice president Grahame Bateman said. “We would be scratching a line in the dirt with sticks. It was quite diabolical really. We used to refer to the ground as the Pennant Hills mudflats.”

Thanks to Hornsby Council and the football club, the park now stays green all year after they replaced the grass field with a synthetic one.

Almost every council in Sydney now boasts a synthetic playing field, with the few that don’t planning on building one soon.

While most grass pitches begin to deteriorate if used for more than 20 hours a week, a synthetic field copes with more than 60 hours. They offer a consistent playing surface, require less maintenance and over their lifetime, can be more environmentally friendly than grass.

Mr. Bateman said the difference it has made to the club and the community was overwhelming.

“There is someone down there seven days a week. Rain, hail or shine, there will be someone using the field. It is servicing thousands of people.”

The club now runs a summer football competition, more than doubling its membership.

“We’ve gone in the space of three years from a club of 500 members to a club of nearly 1100 members,” he said. “That demand has been there and all that we’ve done is opened up the ability to meet that demand. And there’s an even bigger demand because we’ve had to knock teams back.

“I think that any council that doesn’t look at doing this is crazy. They are absolutely crazy and they are letting the community down.”

Hornsby mayor Philip Ruddock lives near the field and walks past it every morning.

“The condition of the field towards the end of the season it was impossible, it was a mud heap,” he said. “This has changed it so it’s constantly able to be used and can be used by larger number of people. People are very, very concerned to get good use from the facilities that we have and this facilitates it.”

Hornsby Council is set to announce plans to build two synthetic sports fields in the new year.

Before 2014, there were six synthetic sports fields in Sydney. By the end of 2018, there will be close to 30.

Councils such as Northern Beaches, Willoughby, Sutherland and Inner West have built multiple synthetic fields, with Ryde planning one also.

Woollahra is in the final stages of constructing a synthetic playing surface at Woollahra Oval for Shute Shield side Eastern Suburbs RUFC, the first side in the league to have a synthetic pitch.

Club president John Murray said the club was initially hesitant but is now excited by the benefits the field could have for the wider community.

“It’s fair to say when the council first suggested it, we were concerned about it but now we’ve come around completely and we’re right behind it.”

Synthetic sports field manufacturer Polytan said it has seen a big increase in the popularity of the fields.

It also said there was growing interest from professional teams and leagues to use synthetic fields for training.

Despite their increasing popularity, there are still a few councils yet to have a synthetic field, such as Mosman in Sydney’s north. Opposition by environmental groups to plans for a synthetic field at Georges Heights and Middle Head has meant sports teams are left with deteriorating and overused fields.

Mosman Football Club president Louise Walker said the club had looked at fields in similar areas and believed a balance between the sporting and environmental needs of the community could be found.

“Blackman Park is a fabulous example of where they’ve taken a grass area and turned it into a large synthetic. That’s an area that’s surrounded by bush and yet, it works well, aesthetically as well as practically.”

President of the Headland Preservation Group Tim James said the group held concerns about the environmental and health impacts of a synthetic sports field in Mosman.

“The oval within iconic Middle Head on Sydney Harbour is sensitive national parkland which was set aside for future generations of Australians. It is designated to become part of the Sydney Harbour National Park. It is a unique location that is protected by special laws. We have many concerns about health and environmental impacts, including plastic runoff into the harbor. For all these reasons, we believe that a natural grass solution is required.”

While criticism in Australia is rare, the US is having major conversations about the health impacts of synthetic sports fields.

The National Centre for Health Research, based in Washington DC, has raised concerns over some of the materials used. Silica sand is used as an infill and can be dangerous when it is in dust form. Centre president Diana Zuckerman said there needed to be more information for parents about potential dangers.

“As a scientist who has worked on health policy issues for 30 years, I don’t shock easily. However, the fact that school athletic fields and playgrounds are exposing DC children on a daily basis to chemicals and materials that are known to increase obesity, cause early puberty, cause ADD and other attention problems, harbor deadly bacteria and exacerbate asthma is very disturbing,” she said.

In an article published this year by Georgia State University Professor of Environmental Health, Stuart Shala said there were many health risks associated with synthetic fields.

His article highlighted the danger in recycled tires, with some carcinogenic chemicals in the rubber.  He also said that surface heat of up to 90 degrees could burn the feet of players and the hardness of some pitches was well above the average for grass.

Dr Shala said it was hard to find a clear answer if artificial turf increased the risk of injury or illness.

Polytan said its fields have not been found to be harmful on environmental or health grounds and there was no conclusive evidence to prove otherwise. – by William McInnes
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Synthetic Turf Council elects new Board of Directors

November 29, 2017

During the Synthetic Turf Council’s (STC) 2017 Annual Membership Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee on October 16-18, the association elected its new Board of Directors. Kevin Barker, Controlled Products, will serve a two-year term as Chairman of the STC, the largest organization dedicated to representing the synthetic turf industry.
Board Officers include Vice Chairman Laith Ross, RossTarrant Architects; Treasurer Luke McCoy, Kaestle Boos Associates, Inc.; Secretary David Nardone, Stantec Sport; Director-at-Large Donna Kent, ForeverLawn Inc.; and Immediate Past Chair Amy Brackin, Liberty Tire Recycling LLC. John Baize, Act Global; Brad Borgman, USGreentech LLC; Mike Cobb, InnovaNet; Stefan Diderich, Mattex; Catherine Eiswerth, Binnie & Associates; Chuck McClurg, Shaw Sports Turf; Ryan Paris, AstroTurf, complete the newly elected Board.
“The STC is fortunate to have strong industry leaders as members of our Board,” says Dan Bond, CAE, President & Chief Executive Officer of the STC. “I am confident that under Kevin Barker’s leadership, the STC will strengthen its position as the global forum to promote, develop, grow and advocate for the synthetic turf industry.”

STC donates field during meeting in Nashville

The Synthetic Turf Council hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to donate a new 14,000-sq. ft. synthetic turf softball field to the Andrew Jackson Police Youth Camp. The summer camp program, located in Wilson County, TN helps underprivileged children develop team-building skills and break down cultural barriers. Nashville Mayor Megan Barry delivered remarks.

“We are proud that this multi-purpose field will provide thousands of hours of enjoyment for underprivileged youth in the Nashville area,” stated Dan Bond, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Synthetic Turf Council. “The STC and its members are fully committed to community wellness and environmental responsibility through the use of synthetic turf.”

Held during the same week in Nashville, the association hosted its 2017 Annual Membership Meeting on October 16-18 and elected its new Board of Directors. The meeting attracted 217 attendees, including 195 members from 104 companies, and 22 non-member guests from 16 companies, with representatives from nine different countries and featured a strong educational component. Keith Bulluck, a former All-Pro NFL linebacker for the Tennessee Titans, delivered a compelling keynote address. Richard Kent, PhD provided a research update on the biomechanics of head-to-ground concussions, synthetic turf maintenance and its role in injury prevention, and shoe-to-turf interaction.

In 2018, the STC will host its Spring Membership Meeting on March 12-14in Rancho Mirage, California at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa.  For more information, visit

Categories: test feeds

Tennessee sports turf legend Bobby Campbell passes

November 28, 2017

The sports turf world mourned the passing of industry leader Bobby Campbell of the University of Tennessee, after a long illness. Campbell is survived by his wife, the former Toni Norfleet of Nashville, his son, Peter, and daughter, Tracy Pollock. He was 72.

Kim Heck, CAE, CEO of the Sports Turf Managers Association, said of the organization’s president in 2003-2004, “STMA has definitely lost one of its most passionate ambassadors. Bob hired me 13 years ago, and when I stepped into the role, I was amazed at the amount of work he did personally on association business. He has continued to support the association and me in every way possible, and his passing leaves a huge hole.”

Here are two articles from his local media about Bobby:

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STMA’s candidates for the 2018 Board of Directors

November 28, 2017

Each year, the STMA Nominating Committee develops a slate of candidates for election to the Board of Directors and presents them to the membership via an electronic ballot in late November.

The board includes 13 members: five Officers and eight Directors. Four of the Officers are slated unopposed; the Secretary/Treasurer has two candidates. Up for election are four Director positions: Academic, Parks and Rec, Higher Education, and Director-at-Large.

Three Director positions are vacant and will be filled by (incoming) President Sarah Martin, CSFM, per the STMA Bylaws. The Schools K-12 Director position, which is held by Sun Roesslein, CSFM, is not up for election this year.

Officers (unopposed)

Immediate Past President: Tim VanLoo, CSFM, Iowa State University, Ames, IA

President: Sarah Martin, CSFM, City of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ

President-Elect: Jody Gill, CSFM, Blue Valley School District, Overland Park, KS

Commercial VP: Boyd Montgomery, CSFM, CSE, The Toro Company, Bloomington, MN


Weston Appelfeller, CSFM, Columbus Crew SC, Columbus, OH, OR Jimmy Simpson, CSFM, Town of Cary, Cary, NC


Academic: Jason Kruse, PhD, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, OR Brian Scott, Mt. San Antonio College, Walnut, CA

Director Parks & Rec: James Bergdoll, CSFM, City of Chattanooga, TN, OR Nick Caggiano, City of Nashua, NH

Director Higher Education: Joshua Koss, CSFM, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, OR Nick McKenna, CSFM, Texas A&M Athletics, College Station, TX

At-Large Elected: Matt Anderson, CSFM, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, OR Rusty Walker, CSFM, City of Grapevine, TX

For an overview of the slating and election processes and the candidates’ bios and vision statements, go to


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2017 STMA Field of the Year winners announced

November 28, 2017

Since 1992, STMA presents the industry’s highest honors to members who manage baseball, football, soccer, softball and other sporting playing surfaces at the professional, collegiate, schools (K-12), and parks and recreation level. The 2017 winners are:


Parkview Field at Ft. Wayne Tincaps, Ft Wayne, IN Keith Winter, Head Groundskeeper (Baseball)

Moneygram Soccer Park Field 8 at FC Dallas, Frisco, TX Troy Crawford, Director of Grounds (Soccer)

College and University:

Cleveland S. Harley Baseball Park at University of South Carolina Upstate, Spartanburg, SC Travis Dill, Sports Turf Technician (Baseball)

Historic Grant Field at Georgia Tech University, Atlanta, GA Chris May, Director of Athletic Grounds (Football)

Osborne Stadium at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA Brian Hinkley, CSFM, Athletic Field Manager (Soccer)

Patricia Wilson Field at Stetson University, DeLand, FL Steve Barnard, Field Maintenance Technician (Softball)

5/3 Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State, Kennesaw, GA Shane Hohlbein, CSFM, Sports Turf Manager (Sporting Grounds)


Schools and Parks:

McLean County PONY Baseball, Bloomington, IL Andy Ommen, Head Groundskeeper (Baseball)

Cowboys Field at Jim Warren Park, Franklin, TN John Wagnon, Athletic Crew Chief (Football)

Longfellow Park at Park District of Oak Park, Oak Park, IL Travis Stephen, Sports Field Manager (Soccer)

Blue Eagle Softball Complex at Clover School District, Clover, SC Will Rogers, CSFM, Sports Turf Manager (Softball).

Pleasantview Championship Field at City of Boulder, Boulder, CO John Cogdill, Manager (Sporting Grounds)

Rogers has now received this prestigious honor four times (2014, 2015, 2016), each in a different sporting category. Three-time winners include Hohlbein (2015, 2016) and Cogdill (2014, 2015). “Field of the Year” award winners for the second time include Barnard (2011) and May (2014).

A panel of 13 judges independently scores entries based on playability, appearance of surfaces, utilization of innovative solutions, effective use of budget and implementation of a comprehensive agronomic program. Judges may not award a field in each category. Winning fields will be featured in a 2018 issue of this magazine.

Awards will be presented at the annual awards ceremony held during the 29th annual STMA Conference and Exhibition in Fort Worth, TX, which is January 16-19, 2018. Winners also receive complimentary conference registration, three nights’ hotel accommodations and signature clothing.

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Is your facility ready to become a storm shelter?

November 28, 2017

During the past few months, you’ve no doubt read about recreation centers in Texas and Florida used as temporary shelters to house displaced residents. The first temporary shelters to open in Dallas for evacuees from Hurricane Harvey in August were the Walnut Hill Recreation Center and the Tommie Allen Recreation Center. Not long after, the University of Florida opened its Southwest Recreation Center on a first-come, first-served basis to people in the path of September’s Hurricane Irma.

When talking about recreation centers serving a community in times of crisis, there are two types of “shelters” to consider: One is shelter in the sense of protection and survival via a hardened structure — basically, a bunker. Such facilities are highly regulated at the federal level and codified with defined standards. There also is shelter in the sense of temporarily housing the displaced, which is the situation in which recreation facility officials are most likely to find themselves.

In both cases, strategic coordination with local (and, in some cases, state and federal) emergency management officials is critical. Doing so goes far beyond design issues, however, and illustrates how emergencies require proper coordination and cooperation between several often-disparate entities.

While the potential need to convert a rec center into a temporary shelter isn’t always a focal point of facility planning discussions, the odds of such buildings being called into action seem to be increasing. My firm, Brinkley Sargent Wiginton Architects in Texas, works in areas challenged by natural disasters and also designs public safety and emergency operations facilities. We expect demand for rec centers that can double as temporary shelters to grow quickly.

In fact, I would argue that when designing a new rec center, cities, colleges and universities should consider up front if and how the project could fit into the emergency operations plans of the community at large. Ideally, these ideas would be available during the planning and budgeting phase; that way, the budget could adequately address such needs during design. For example, the inclusion of backup generators should be integral to the design of any facility doubling as a shelter.

Other design considerations for facilities with a high likelihood of being called into action as a temporary shelter might include increasing the number of showers and restrooms to exceed minimum code requirements, including storage space for cots, adding a catering kitchen for food service delivery and simply “oversizing” common areas.

Beyond Design

Sheltering the displaced inherently severely disrupts normal operations. Protective floor coverings must be applied, fitness equipment must be removed from designated spaces and notifications about the temporary cessation of regularly scheduled classes and programs must be posted — and those are only a few of the changes that must be implemented.

These interruptions occur with little idea of when normal operations will resume, and the building can never close. Suddenly, a recreation center designed for one set of services is called into action to provide wildly different services as a 24/7 operation.

Who is going to work all those hours? That decision comes from local and, in some cases, state and regional leadership. While there is always a willingness to help others in times of need, the logistical challenges can’t be overlooked — certain situations literally can become matters of life and death — and improvisation becomes the norm.

This relentless pursuit of serving people during their darkest hours can be exhausting for all involved, and some recovery time is needed once the shelter empties and undergoes conversion back to a recreation center. In addition to much-needed rest, that recovery process includes the cleaning and disinfecting of all areas used by evacuees (locker rooms, gymnasiums, fitness rooms, restrooms, offices and other spaces) and the moving of equipment back into place.

Barb Swenson, branch manager of a public library in Lee County, Fla., worked as a volunteer at the Estero Recreation Center as Hurricane Irma hurtled toward the village. She told local reporters the facility housed more than 1,040 evacuees, ranging from babies to older residents with medical issues. “It was very, very busy and hectic because people were arriving in … a state of obvious emergency and wanting to find a safe haven,” she said.

“These people are going through a lot,” added Bryan Hartmann, the facility’s Red Cross shelter manager. “They’ve lost their homes. They’ve lost their existence. They’re doing the best they can. It’s not unusual for them to be OK one day and to break down in a hallway the next.”

Plan Ahead

It’s important to realize that even if your facility isn’t located in a hurricane-prone part of the country, you could still be called into action. The Dallas/Fort Worth area is 400 miles from Houston and even further from New Orleans. But rec centers in that metropolitan area housed thousands of residents displaced from both of those cities by Hurricanes Harvey and Katrina.

To ensure your facility is prepared, develop agreements in advance of emergencies with proper authorities and partner with nonprofit organizations to lend definition to its designation as a provider during a crisis.

Planning ahead can be much easier on your building — and your building’s staff — with a relatively small additional investment and minimal design impact. And who knows? You may wind up saving hundreds of lives.

To get started on the process, consult with your local emergency planning officials and an experienced architect. – by Stephen Springs

Stephen Springs is a senior principal at Brinkley Sargent Wiginton Architects, a Texas-based firm specializing in public architecture with offices in Dallas, Waco and Austin. He is a former parks commissioner and has more than 20 years of experience in public recreation and aquatic design. 

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Research shows drones could help crop management take off

November 21, 2017

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, could help farmers determine if their crop is growing satisfactorily, according to a recent study conducted by University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture researchers.
The study evaluated the ability of a UAS to accurately and precisely determine plant populations of cotton. Producers routinely assess plant populations early in the growing season to determine the state of their crop – and what management decisions are needed to ensure an optimal harvest. This is most often done by counting the number of plants within a selected distance and repeating those counts in different locations throughout the field to find an average.
“This traditional approach is reliant upon a highly uniform plant population across the entire field and can be influenced by human bias,” says Shawn Butler, graduate student in the University of Tennessee College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. “Theoretically, an aerial approach could provide spatially dense information on plant populations across large areas quickly and remove human bias.”
For two years, researchers assessed plant stands of emerging cotton through manual counting and through images obtained from both digital and multi-spectral cameras mounted beneath a quad-copter. The quad-copter was flown at varying altitudes ranging from 30 to 120 meters.
Of the two camera systems analyzed, the images produced from the multi-spectral camera proved to be more accurate in estimating plant populations, with a greater than 93 percent accuracy. However, researchers say the red, green, blue (RGB) images produced by the less-expensive digital camera still looked promising, with a greater than 85 percent accuracy using current methods and scripted programming.
“Based on initial results, the aerial imagery provided by either RGB or multi-spectral sensors may be a sufficient tool to improve accuracy and efficiency of plant stand assessment,” says Butler. “The most impactful difference to the end user in deciding a method to use will be the cost between the two camera systems.”
“Crop monitoring is a big obstacle for many producers,” says Tyson Raper, project leader and assistant professor with the UT Department of Plant Sciences. “We want to continue to evaluate tools and methodologies that have the potential to help farmers overcome monitoring challenges, improve response time and increase profitability.”
Butler presented this research at the 2017 International ASA, CSSA and SSSA Annual Meeting, “Managing Global Resources for a Secure Future,” held in Tampa, Florida. The American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America hosted the meeting.
The study was conducted at three locations – the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Jackson and the UT AgResearch and Education centers at Milan and Ames Plantation. Other project team members include Mike Buschermohle, Interim Assistant Dean of UT Extension. Cotton Incorporated provided partial support for this project.
Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.

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Pitch Management – interview with sports field coordinator Justin Lang

November 21, 2017
In her latest industry interview, Sporting Venue Business’s Katie McIntyre hears insights from Melbourne & Olympic Park’s Sports Field Coordinator overseeing AAMI Park and the associated training fields, Justin Lang, on the challenges of managing and maintaining healthy pitches, especially in venues with multi-codes and events.

Justin, can you start off by telling us more about yourself? Your background, career highlights, etc?

I started my sports turf career as an apprentice in 1990 at the age of 17. I prepared cricket wickets for the Richmond Cricket Club and ground for the Richmond Football Club in Melbourne. I then become the Assistant Arena Manager at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne for 10 years. I am now the Sports Field Coordinator at Melbourne & Olympic Parks overseeing AAMI Park and its training fields.

Some of my highlights are preparing the pitch for international events, including: World Cup Qualifiers for the Socceroos; the Asian Cup in 2015; consulting for the FIFA Brazil World Cup in 2014; consulting for the 2016 Asian Champions League Final in Jeoju, South Korea; preparing for the Rugby Union World Cup in 2003; hosting the Rugby League World Cup Opening game and ceremony in 2017; Wallabies games; preparing Cricket pitches for Australia; and hosting numerous concerts and Monster Truck events.

As the Sports Field Coordinator for Melbourne & Olympic Parks’ AAMI Park and its training facilities, what are your main responsibilities? I understand you recently had to transform the Stadium from a Monster Jam Venue back to A-League and also have two concerts coming up in the next couple of months. What specific maintenance is required for non-sporting events and how easy/hard is the process of conversion?

My main responsibilities are to oversee the day-to-day operation of the turf in AAMI Park and the surrounding sports fields. This includes turf maintenance programs, capital works, turf replacement, irrigation, budgets and five full-time staff, along with a number of casuals.

We have six main tenants, including Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club, Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby Club, Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City in the A-League, Melbourne Demons and the Collingwood Magpies in the AFL.

Transitioning from a Monster Jam event or a concert to a football match five days later is not something that is planned the week before. Planning is done well in advance, with field preparation starting eight to ten weeks out. Plant nutrition is crucial for concert wear and recovery, hardening off the plant and making sure there is minimal growth for the event is imperative. Reducing soil moisture and Nitrogen levels makes a big difference.

Presenting the pitch for football leading into a non-sporting event is tough, finding the right balance between hardening-off the plant but still making sure the surface is first class for Football can be difficult.

AAMI Park features a cutting-edge Bioframe design with a geodesic dome roof, which covers most of the seating area. Obviously this means increased comfort for spectators, however, does it offer any specific challenges or indeed benefits in terms of the pitch and the WALT deliverables needed for healthy grass plant growth?

There is a big enthuses with modern stadia on spectator comfort. For us this means reduced sunlight and air movement. To help combat this we have introduced artificial lighting in the form of three large SGL light rigs. From April to September we have the light rigs going 24 hours a day in designated areas. The only time they are not operating is during an event.

Can you describe for us the stadium’s pitch set up? i.e. the grass type/s, whether it’s a natural/hybrid/artificial pitch, use of technology, like undersoil heating, grow lights, etc.

The pitch is a perched water table profile, this means we have sand over gravel over clay with a Herringbone drainage system installed. The sand we use drains at 500mm per hour to help cope with sudden downpours.

We use a Sports Turf stabilizing product from our turf supplier HG Sports Turf “Eclipse” for stability and playability. The product has synthetic fibers attached to a backing that gives the surface its stability. One of the main benefits to the product is you can install it one day and play on it the next. The product is sown with straight Soprano Ryegrass and has no Bermuda grass base. One of the main factors in using the Eclipse is its outstanding ability to withstand a Super Rugby Scrum.

Ready play sports turf is something we have been doing in Australia for the last 25 years. This gives venues the ability to have a concert, replace turf and play on it the next day. This model is slowly being implemented worldwide to make venues more flexible and maximize revenue.

What are the key elements of your Pitch Management Plan for AAMI Park and the elite training pitch? And how would its needs potentially differ, if at all, from a pitch in Europe?

To have a strong plant that has excellent wear and recovery is our main focus. The maintenance of this includes a high emphasis on controlled release granular fertilizers with foliar applications to top up some minor elements. Products to help combat high wear and shade are also commonly used. With lack of sunlight and air movement disease can be a big issue, keeping on top of disease is an important challenge but with the right program this is reduced greatly.

With Melbourne’s hot summers and cold winters choosing the right species of grass is important. Fortunately, we don’t have to transition grass species from a warm season to a cool season grass. Although, pushing Ryegrass through 40-degree days in summer and five degree days in winter comes with its challenges. Even Europe has its wide range of climate, each venue has its own micro-climate and would have a program in place regardless of its location.

As a medium sized rectangular stadium playing host to rugby league, rugby union and soccer matches, what specific challenges do you face and how do you overcome these?

The biggest challenge we face is having all four teams in competition at the same time. Throw in a couple of concerts as well can make it interesting.

From February to June it is not uncommon to have three codes playing at the venue on the same weekend. Having Super Rugby on a Friday night, A-League Football on a Saturday and Melbourne Storm Rugby League on a Sunday in the same weekend is something that we regularly deal with.

Presenting the pitch for one code then making sure all previous lines, logos and divots are repaired and not noticeable for the next event takes expertise and dedication from all our staff.

AAMI Park won the ‘Professional Footballers Association Best Pitch Award’ for the 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2014/15 seasons. What does it mean to you and the grounds staff to win such industry awards? Especially ones voted for by the elite athletes themselves.

You don’t set out to win awards like this, but it’s a massive bonus to all involved when you do. It’s a great reward for all the hard work the team has put in throughout the season.

If we can play a part, even a little part in helping Melbourne Victory or City to be the best Football teams in the country then we have done our bit. What makes it even more rewarding is AAMI Park has to do it consistently over at least 23 A-League games per season, far more than any other venue.

When it comes to the latest in best practice, technology and innovations in Turf Management, Turf Care and Turf Maintenance, how vital is knowledge-sharing between peers?

Having a good relationship with peers from other major venues throughout Australia, particularly in Melbourne for me, has been integral. At different times it is good to bounce ideas off groundsman in similar positions, having similar issues.

Having started your career as Head Groundsman at Richmond Football Club back in 1991, and being a Turf Consultant both for the STRI and the AFC, you must have been privy to some major changes in turf technology and pitch management over the past 25+ years. Which would you say have been the most important for the betterment of the industry? And what kinds of advances would you like to see moving forward?

With constant improvement and professionalism of sport at the highest level, the turf industry has had to move with it. With clubs having millions of dollars worth of players running around, it is expected that surfaces are immaculate. The pressure and expectation on groundsman at the highest level is enormous. Dealing with nature has its challenges, introducing technology in turf to artificially change these dynamics has been crucial. Introducing technology such sand profiles, hybrid turf systems, artificial lighting, ground heating and cooling, systems that can control moisture levels in the profile and portable pitches that can slide in and out of stadiums are just some big improvements in turf in the last 25 years.

Consulting for FIFA in Brazil 2014 and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in Asia has exposed me to the many improvements the industry has made, but more importantly the potential it has. With the FIFA World Cup coming up in Qatar 2022 and Asia becoming more active in the turf industry, I can see some pretty exciting times ahead for the industry.

Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given or what advice would you give to someone considering a career in groundsmanship?  

Firstly – you need to be passionate about what you do, passion is something you have, you can’t teach someone to be passionate.

Secondly – get out there and sell yourself, grab every opportunity you get with both hands because nobody else will do it for you.

Thirdly – dealing with nature sometimes things are out of your control, control what you can control and try not to stress about the things that you can’t.


Categories: test feeds

Sports tourism pays off for Myrtle Beach

November 21, 2017

Most visitors to Grand Strand might look forward to its flashier attractions: the blinking carnival rides at Family Kingdom or the pocket of late-night clubs at Broadway at the Beach.

But a growing number of travelers are instead bound for the baseball fields and basketball courts tucked away across the Myrtle Beach area. Sports tourism is becoming a crucial strategy to keep visitors coming to the beach, even if they don’t end up lounging on the sand.

“We found that sports tourism is perhaps the most recession-proof part of tourism,” said Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

“(If) times get tough and the family budget gets crunched, you cut out the golf vacation, you scrap the girlfriend getaway, you cut back on the family vacation, but if your 12-year-old is playing in that 12-year-old championship, Mom and Dad will move mountain and earth to get there.”

Myrtle Beach collected $3.8 million in fees and city taxes paid by visitors traveling for sports events last year, and city staff estimate that sports tourism had a $186 million economic impact within the city limits in 2016. The Grand Strand is attractive for tournaments, tourism officials and event promoters said, because it offers a competitive market for hotel rooms as well as scores of restaurants and attractions.

But the area is also facing competitive pressures around the state as cities rush to build their own facilities. And in Myrtle Beach, like other cities across South Carolina, sports venues rarely break even on their own. City staff estimate that Myrtle Beach’s sports facilities will operate at a deficit close to $850,000 in the current budget year.

‘First to the game’

Rock Hill was one of the first cities in South Carolina to jump into the sports tourism world when it built Cherry Park, a baseball and softball complex on 68 acres, in 1985.

The town was looking for ways to goose its economy as its traditional base of textile manufacturing waned, and the park offered something new: a single location where multiple teams could play in the same tournament, according to Mark Sexton, the operations supervisor for Rock Hill Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

Since then, the city built a soccer complex, tennis center and a velodrome, an indoor cycling venue that hosts events similar to “NASCAR on bicycles,” Sexton said.

Rock Hill also has attracted specialized events with international competitors, like the BMX World Championships. The city was ultimately selected over Bangkok, Sexton said, and Rock Hill officials estimated the event had a roughly $19 million economic impact.

Part of the city’s success is its early entry into sports tourism, according to Bob Brookover, a senior lecturer in the department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at Clemson University.

“They were first to the game, so they’re always at the front of people’s minds, and they’ve got long-term relationships,” Brookover said. “It’s a whole lot harder for people to break up with them and go to the next guy.”

Many towns have tried to replicate that success. Charleston City Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson pushed for building a natatorium, an indoor swimming complex, next to Citadel Mall in West Ashley, but funding has yet to materialize for the $38 million proposal.

Charleston hosts some larger sporting events that draw athletes and spectators, like the annual Cooper River Bridge Run. But the city doesn’t have the capacity for large groups of visitors that more seasonal destinations do, said Kathleen Cartland, the executive director of the Charleston Area Sports Commission.

“We just don’t have major sports complexes that have been built in other areas just for the tourism aspect of it,” Cartland said.

Greenville hosted the USA Karate National Championships and Team Trials this year, and it will host the Southeastern Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament in a three-year deal starting in 2019.

“Especially when you’ve hosted a year successfully, (promoters) look back at what the community did,” Robin Wright of Visit Greenville said.

Brookover also said the Upstate has been successful in attracting events because tourism officials can tout the redevelopment of downtown Greenville and Spartanburg.

Myrtle Beach has long focused on youth tournaments, assuming that young athletes bring many family members with them and that all of them will patronize local hotels and restaurants.

Mayor John Rhodes won his first term in office in 2005 after running on a platform that focused on expanding sports tourism. Rhodes is also one of the organizers of the Beach Ball Classic, an annual high school basketball tournament that started in 1981 and is now held at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

Because of that tournament, Rhodes said, “We realized the sports tourism thing in Myrtle Beach had an opportunity to grow and be something successful.”

But families with children in travel sports may have to make significant sacrifices to travel with their child. Dean said many families with children in travel sports have forgone a traditional weeklong vacation in favor of several smaller trips scheduled around tournaments. Parents often shuttle their children to venues between two and four hours away for a game or tournament, Brookover said.

Will they come?

In past decades, many cities erected sports facilities with a simple mantra in mind: build it and they will come. That has changed, however, as baseball diamonds, soccer fields and basketball courts have sprouted in cities from Columbia to Spartanburg to Irmo.

Dean said nationally, sports tourism facilities are overbuilt, though Myrtle Beach is somewhat insulated from that issue because it also offers the amenities of a vacation destination.

But with so many options, sports organizers can pick and choose, often striking multi-year deals for reduced facility rates.

“The organizations that would be bringing tournaments to you, they’ve been in the driver’s seat for a bit in terms of being able to ask you for a lot,” Brookover said. “It’s always best when you’re thinking about developing facilities that you develop the right thing for your stakeholders that live in your community first.”

Myrtle Beach has spent millions on new and improved sports facilities in the past decade, including a $5.5 million renovation of its high school football stadium and track this year and a $14 million indoor sports facility that opened in 2015, equipped for basketball and volleyball.

There is also a private venue inside the city limits, the Ripken Experience, a complex of nine artificial turf fields that opened in 2006 to host tournaments and practice camps for youth baseball players.

But cities continue to jump into the market, and the city of Florence is moving forward with a soccer complex. Established venues like Rock Hill continue to expand – the city is planning to lease a new indoor facility from a private developer.

At the same time, Myrtle Beach lost two significant tournaments to North Myrtle Beach this year: the Saltwater Highland Games, a series of Gaelic events, and the Grand Strand Softball Classic, a youth event.

Lawrence Jones, the organizer of the softball classic, said Myrtle Beach’s new pricing structure changed his usual $3,500 fee to roughly $30,000. In North Myrtle Beach, he said he paid less than $3,000, and he’s since signed a three-year contract to use that city’s sports complex.

The classic had been held in Myrtle Beach for the past 24 years.

“I think the City Council now is of the understanding … (that) they want to readdress the payment plans of the facilities now,” Jones said.

Rhodes said the city faces a balancing act between recouping the operating costs of its facilities while still attracting tournaments.

“I don’t have a problem with us losing some money, but I don’t want us losing a lot,” Rhodes said. “We don’t mind helping (promoters) make money, because we look at making money off the tourist that comes in Myrtle Beach.” – by Chloe Johnson, Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

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Rethinking legacy for host cities: The dawn of a new era

November 21, 2017

The new major event hosting model risks leaving cities with no built legacy, so they must look elsewhere to extend the benefits that derive from hosting events. A new report by Arup examines how cities can build sustainable legacy in this ‘new era’ of major event hosting, as SportCal’s Callum Murray explains.

Paris and Los Angeles, recently chosen to host the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games respectively, represent a “new era of hosting major events,” with both hosting plans “dominated by the use of existing or temporary venues, maximizing efficiency, minimizing costs and dramatically reducing the risk of unused venues post-Games,” according to Arup’s new report, ‘Rethinking legacy for host cities’.

The new approach is being enthusiastically adopted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), as it attempts to reduce the cost of hosting the Olympics and thereby stimulate interest from cities in hosting the games; and where the IOC leads other sporting rights-holders are likely to follow.

“This new direction should be the perfect antidote to the populist fuelled opposition that has led to so many cities stepping back from recent major event bidding competitions,” the report argues. In the race to host the 2024 Olympics alone, Boston, Hamburg, Rome and Budapest all dropped out after facing popular or political opposition to their plans, usually based on the (perceived) cost of hosting the games. Consequently, the IOC took the unprecedented step of awarding the 2024 and 2028 editions simultaneously to the two remaining bidders, in order to prevent the losing 2024 bidder from walking away from the process completely.

“And yet,” the report – which was authored by a multi-disciplinary team of city planners, designers, consultants and engineers, with experience of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, World Cups, Expos and Commonwealth Games – continues, the new approach “creates a new challenge for host cities – the risk of no tangible legacy at all. In this context, despite sizable reductions in costs, any price may seem too much to citizens who struggle to see any wider benefits beyond the six weeks of events and celebration.”

There is therefore a need to “reinvent legacy,” according to the report, which argues that other benefits derived from hosting an event “might include increased civic engagement through volunteer programmed and better public information; a wider audience engaged through personalized event experiences using digital technology and social media; more efficient organizational models used to manage the city; a shift towards more sustainable behavior; and capitalizing on long term infrastructure investment.”

The report identifies the way in which hosting an event “can positively change the behaviors of residents, businesses, government agencies and investors” as the most powerful effect of an event on a host city. Citing the “legacy success stories” of Olympic host cities Barcelona, Sydney, Beijing and London, it claims that “it has been the Games-induced revival of business confidence, re-engagement of local communities and restoration of trust in city leadership that has led to transformational changes for those cities.”

The problem for host cities, the report argues, is that “These benefits are often masked by the more tangible physical legacies of Olympic Parks, stadia or villages. In the absence of these physical assets post-2020, hosts must focus more overtly on these behavioral legacies if the ‘memory’ of the Games is to be engaged in transforming their cities.”

The report identifies the following three tactics that are most likely to have the greatest impact in achieving this transformation:

  • Urban overlay: mapping the city’s ambitions and accelerating change through its neighborhoods and streets.
  • Operational excellence: transforming city management and embedding highly efficient Games time organizational models to increase future resilience.
  • Cleaner and greener infrastructure: inspiring and accelerating action to tackle climate change by developing hard and soft ‘climate-ready’ infrastructure.”

“In the same way that overlay design is used to create the ‘look and feel’ of an event, the event itself is used to create the ‘look, feel and function’ of the future city,” the report proposes. This overlay could include so-called ‘live sites’ but, “Unlike the current Olympic model, Live Sites could be placed all around the city, bringing the sporting events to each neighborhood and closer to its citizens. This has two benefits, it takes the strain off the transport system, as fewer spectators are travelling to the competition venues and in many cases would be able to walk to their local Live Site, encouraging active travel.”

In the field of operational excellence, the report argues: “The adoption of new technologies, coupled with a greater understanding of the power and value of efficient operations means the potential for a legacy of operational excellence is far more possible in the post 2020 era.

“For example, in the Los Angeles context the effect could be dramatic, delivering a modal shift from car to public transport, localizing services, transforming inter-city coordination and creating a legacy of efficient civil defense and community engagement. London created a legacy for event management; Los Angeles has the opportunity to transform city management.”

Meanwhile, major events offer cities the opportunity to scale up and accelerate their environmental priorities, through initiatives such as:

  • Consumer awareness campaigns
  • Low emission zones
  • New metro lines
  • Modal shift from car to public transport
  • Electric transportation
  • New temporary/permanent sources of energy
  • Localized energy, cooling and water systems
  • Reprogrammed waste collection/sorting mechanisms
  • Flood protection/retention
  • City amenity/breathing space

In a section entitled ‘Financing events differently’, the report argues: “Reduced venue capacity requirements are where real savings start to materialize, and affordable off-the-shelf or pre-engineered venues become a realistic proposition. Apart from a few of the larger venues, such as the main stadium, it is conceivable that almost all major events could in the future use either temporary or existing venues. One of the big advantages of temporary venues is the speed at which land can be released for redevelopment after a major event. They are faster and cheaper to erect and mitigate the risk of post event ‘white elephants’.”

However, it also acknowledges that some of these initiatives could have knock-on effects on the ability of event organizers to finance the events, especially where the use of temporary, demountable and existing structures limits the number of tickets that can be sold. This loss of ticket revenue “would need to be mitigated through other forms of associated event revenue,” according to the report. “Fair and equal access to tickets also continues to be a live issue. Improving online systems and using space more effectively for sponsors, organizing members, media and spectating athletes can help create smaller but fuller venues. And from an athlete and spectator point of view, smaller venues generally result in a packed house and a great atmosphere.”

The report also suggests that creating more immersive digital environments, through technology such as virtual reality, creates “a huge opportunity for major events to increase spectator participation and boost the numbers that might be lost due to reduced venue capacities.”

For example, future live sites “could offer virtual reality environments that allow spectators to tune into any number of live sports, get guided tours of venues or listen to their favorite athlete being interviewed. With free, or cheaper, entrance fees than competition venues, Live Sites could be highly accessible to families and youngsters.”

The report concludes: “Embedding urban overlay, operational excellence and clean and green infrastructure principles into the delivery plan for a major event goes a long way to guaranteeing a transformation for the city. But long term success comes from the building of institutional capacity to deliver benefits before, during and after the event.”

The full report can be found here.

This article was written by Callum Murray and originally published by GlobalSportsJobs’partners, SportCal.

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Toro announces 2018 Super Bowl Sports Turfgrass Training Program winner

November 14, 2017

The Toro Company has announced this year’s winner of the annual Toro Super Bowl* Sports Turfgrass Training Program. Blake Bernstein, a sports turf management major at Mount San Antonio College, was selected and will be on hand at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Super Bowl LII to assist the grounds crew in field preparations.

Since 1967, Toro has partnered with the National Football League (NFL) to provide equipment and expertise to help prepare the game field and multiple practice fields leading up to the biggest professional football game of the year. Developed to recognize one student who has shown exemplary leadership in turfgrass management, the program encourages emerging professionals to further grow their knowledge base by assisting the grounds crew for this high-profile game. Bernstein will work alongside NFL field director Ed Mangan, George Toma and the Super Bowl grounds crew at U.S. Bank Stadium on turfgrass maintenance, logo painting, field preparation for media day, halftime preparation and field cleanup.

“Sports have been a passion for me my entire life,” said Bernstein. “I consider myself incredibly lucky to work in this environment on a daily basis. Being able to help prepare the field for the biggest game in football is just an amazing opportunity, and I can’t wait to be on site helping out, learning and taking it all in.”

Bernstein plans to graduate from Mount San Antonio College in 2018. He currently holds positions on the grounds crew at several facilities including Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California; Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home of the Los Angeles Rams and USC Trojans; and, the UCLA baseball facilities. Additionally, Bernstein is the director of procurement, cultivation and design at the Bishop Gooden Center in Pasadena, California. Bernstein also holds a degree in business from Arizona State University.

To be considered for the program, entrants had to undergo a comprehensive application process. Due to Bernstein’s ongoing success in school, his various grounds positions at a variety of facilities and his ambition to pursue a career in turfgrass management, he was selected from a large pool of talented candidates. Applicants must be enrolled in at least the second year of a two-year turfgrass program, or in at least the junior year of a four-year turfgrass program.

“We’re pleased to be able to offer this opportunity to a student who has dedicated their education and future career to turfgrass management,” says Boyd Montgomery, CSE, CSFM, regional business manager at Toro. “Blake continues an excellent tradition of having driven, passionate students working alongside some of the best in the industry to refine their craft on a global stage during the biggest game in football.”

Since 2003, Toro and the NFL have provided this opportunity for students in the field of turfgrass management.

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