Feature Article - February 2018
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Get Ahead of the Game

Successful Sports Field Maintenance

By Dave Ramont

Data collection is another advancement that Pappas mentioned. "There are turf quality sensors out there now that allow us to scout a field and look at our stressed-out areas on graphs that show where we should be applying fertilizer more accurately." Pappas said this has resulted in less waste and more efficient moisture management, fertilizer management and understanding of stress patterns.

What about considerations during the planning stages of sports fields? Biggers said proper planning and field design can prevent many maintenance issues later, and having people involved with the right expertise is first and foremost. He said some factors to consider include location, since soil quality varies from site to site and good soil can affect costs during construction and down the road. Proper sloping will result in positive surface drainage, a basic requirement for good turfgrass performance. Field access is important—not only foot traffic but maintenance equipment, too. Consider maintenance budgets and maintenance equipment availability.

Pappas agrees that soil is extremely important, making sure you have the right profile for your site. "Sometimes we end up doing sub-surface drainage installation on jobs because they built it on native soil, and they just use the muck that they pulled out of the everglades, and suddenly it's saturated all the time and it doesn't drain."

Pappas said this can result in constantly spending money to topdress and install drainage or sand caps. "If they just built it right from the get-go, it would help down the road, providing cost savings, too."

There are many unpredictable scenarios when it comes to caring for sports fields, and input from colleagues can prove very helpful. "I think the biggest tool for networking and allowing you to think outside the box is Twitter and social media," Pappas said. He added that there's a huge following of turf managers, university professors and others in the industry sharing their issues and solutions. "It gives a platform for guys to comment and ask questions, or put forth a little insight."

Pappas has also been a member of the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) for years, and he said it's also a good way to network and see what others are doing, and learn from each other.

Gill agrees, adding that networking has been a lifeline at times, and membership in the STMA allows for sharing information with peers, whether at local chapter events or at the national conference. He said it's also an outstanding source for technical information. "The website is packed with information for those who manage sports fields at any level," he said.

"Networking is a key to our success as a service provider in the athletic field industry," said Biggers, who belongs to the STMA as well as the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA). "These organizations bring together individuals involved in every aspect of the turf care industry—from research to construction to maintenance and everywhere in between—to share ideas and network."

The Professional Grounds Maintenance Society (PGMS) also has a strong membership of grounds professionals working for parks and rec facilities, municipalities and local schools. Associate Executive Director Stephanie Bruno explained that they have branches across the country that host local events and meetings, and they hold two national conferences annually. "Networking is one of the largest benefits our members have," she said. "PGMS offers online and in-person forums for members to discuss challenges, what solutions have worked to mitigate their challenges, and how they're adapting traditional grounds management practices to meet current and ever-changing demands."