Feature Article - February 2010
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Breaking Ground

Making the Most of Your Sports Fields

By Kelli Anderson

Greens Fee

Money-saving strategies are not lost on those cutting costs on, well, cutting, either. Keeping blades sharp, for example, is a regular maintenance chore that keeps grass healthy, but evaluating how much maintenance you can handle will determine, in part, the kind of equipment you choose for your facility. As with all equipment choices, elements of cost, quality of performance, maintenance and versatility factor into the decision-making process.

For Myers, who saves money by letting grass grow as long as he can between mowing, a reel mower has been the ideal tool for his facility's needs and has noticeably improved the health and aesthetics of his park district's sports fields.

However, for the large park district in Sylvania, Ohio, a rotary mower has become the tool of choice for their three-times-a-week mowing routine. "We used to have a reel mower, but daily and weekly maintenance needed to cover all our ball fields was too much work and took too much time," said Brian Hall, facilities and maintenance director with the joint recreation district in Sylvania, Ohio. "We use a rotary that cuts just as well."

Storming the Mound

While preening the green for golf, soccer and football fields may be a virtual walk in the park for many sports turf managers, when it comes to maintaining skinned infields, some can feel a bit out of their league.

Here are some infield maintenance tips that may help:

Walking the bases: In the spring, walk the field and take note of any damaged areas or issues that will require special attention. Make a plan to address it.

Easy out: Remove any grass from the infield by machine or herbicides.

Hit the dirt: Spike drag or scarify the infield to remove any lips in skinned-to-grass areas and to reintegrate any infield mixes that may have separated over the winter months. (Tip: Never leave a field "loose" if it's going to rain and the field is going to be used soon.)

Batter up: Check batters boxes, pitchers mounds, bases, bullpen and catchers areas for condition and wear.

If needed, add clay blocks or professional mound clay to these areas.

In the hole: To fill in holes, sweep out any debris or loose material, moisten with water, add packing clay and tamp down.

Raking it in: Rake baselines lengthwise from home toward first and third, varying the start and stop locations and the drag patterns. Hand rake 12 inches along the turf.

Rain out: To address puddles of standing water use a cup, sponge or pump to remove water and if needed, apply a drying agent.