Athletic fields

Best Mowing Strategies for Sports Fields


Ground managers at three sports facilities face challenges related to turf types, climates and schedules.

By Dave Lubach, Editor-in-Chief

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for all grounds managers responsible for mowing sports grounds. Whether the turf is in a professional sports stadium, a school district, or a municipality with a variety of sports facilities, turf managers face a host of challenges, including mowing schedules, maintaining safety and lawn care. healthy during the long and demanding seasons.

By taking a closer look at the challenges faced by grounds managers with three different types of facilities in different parts of the country, it becomes clear that ingenuity is key to developing successful mowing strategies.

Mile-high mower

The North Zone Sports Complex inside the Jefferson County School District, outside of Denver, hosts football games every weeknight during the season. The adjacent soccer field can host up to five soccer matches in a weekend.

Six high schools share the pitches and schedule mowing and pitch maintenance can be a challenge, says Sun Roesslein, stadium manager.

“Our windows of opportunity for any type of field maintenance and mowing are quite limited and quite well defined,” she says. “It definitely takes a little planning and a lot of just, ‘Go ahead and do it.'”

Roesslein and another full-time employee tend 14 acres at the resort plus fields. They use a reel mower on the pitches that is set for the different cuts (1 3/4 inches for the soccer field and 11/2 inches for the soccer field). The in-season schedule plays a big role in when they can mow and maintain both fields.

“Usually a Monday after we’ve had a long weekend of games, it’s usually a debris sweeping day,” says Roesslein. “We clean the surface or we use a rotary mower again with a bag so that we can collect loose materials and organic matter. It also helps straighten the grass a bit to get better airflow movement. So Wednesday would be a mowing just before painting. Then we would stay away on Thursday, then mow again on Friday to clean up the footprints and get the scratches neat again.

The football pitch offers Roesslein staff more flexibility as games are played more regularly, but both pitches are still often mowed three to four times a week during the height of the growing season.

Since fields get a lot of wear and tear during the week, Roesslein says mowing sessions are a good time to check for ruts and other turf damage.

“Mowing is really the best time to explore the terrain for problems,” she says. “Whether there’s a low or bare spot, an irrigation problem, or something that just doesn’t seem right, you can get off the machine and take a closer look. It might be the beginning of some kind of disease that will affect the health of the surface.When mowing, you are going to see every inch of these fields.

On the ball in Baltimore

As one of only two female goaltenders at the major league level, Nicole Sherry spend many hours making sure that Camden Yards Ground in Baltimore meets the expectations of fans and Major League Baseball. But while appearance is important to the Home of the Orioles, it’s not its only concern on game days.

“The biggest thing when it comes to mowing on a pro-level ballpark, everything you do there affects the roll of the ball,” Sherry says. “We specifically mow patterns for that ball roll instead of just aesthetics. Aesthetics are key, but it’s really about the game of the ball and how this pattern isn’t going to sway the ball at all.

Using seven mowers, including three ride-on and four self-propelled, Sherry’s team mows the field daily from mid-April to late June before changing to every other day during the hottest months of July and august. The field is grassed with Kentucky Bluegrass, which Sherry says cannot be cut below a height of 1 inch without threatening the grass health.

“Mowing presents challenges in some ways, because the No. 1 is the height of cut in professional installations,” she says. “You need to be short enough that whatever type of game the athletes are comfortable with, but you don’t want it to be too short that you risk killing the grass. Then you don’t want to keep it too long because disease pressure can also set in, and if you get certain turf diseases it can really wipe out the whole complex.

Tennessee: A Variety of Places

Managing a diverse selection of sports facilities means that James Bergdoll requires a number of different solutions to mowing options.

Bergdoll, director of parks maintenance for the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, manages sports fields ranging from upscale tournament complexes that host softball, baseball and soccer games to sports fields for youth in lower level and a stadium that hosts the University of Tennessee. to the Chattanooga baseball team. The city also operates two 18-hole golf courses that require separate maintenance staff and equipment.

With so many sites needing attention, Bergdoll manages each area with tiered priorities.

“It all depends on the level of use and the need, so there are different priorities,” explains Bergdoll, president of the Sports Field Management Association, a national organization of sports ground managers. “With different sports, you’re going to have a different desire for how that grass should be handled, and that can also affect how the game is played. If you are considering a youth recreational field, how the grass is managed is probably not as important as that of a higher level tournament facility or college use.

The city also relies on different sources to mow the fields. The fields are maintained by a mix of city employees, youth sports groups that use the fields, and third-party contractors, who are responsible for 90% of the mowing of city parks.

“They use the latest and greatest zero-turn mowing technology,” Bergdoll says of the contractors.

Although it largely relies on contractors, there are advantages and challenges to using a third party for mowing.

“We don’t have to coordinate staff and put them in the right place at the right time,” says Bergdoll. “It’s the business of the contractors, so they have the headache of maintaining the equipment and making sure they have the staff to run the equipment and maintain our expectations, which is the bonus .

“But on the other hand, you lose a bit. The contractor is paid by the site, so he will have as many sites as possible done. The level of care may not be that of a daily park maintenance staff, so it’s just a matter of managing those expectations. If you are not satisfied with the work, we call them and have them do the job as planned.

Another potential problem with outsourcing field mowing is the threat of bringing in unwanted clippings from another site, which could damage the turf.

“With sports fields or more maintained areas, you don’t know where a contractor was cutting before your site and if they cleaned their mowing unit, and seeds of weeds or other varieties of grass you maybe don’t want can potentially be brought about,” says Bergdoll. “I see we have more weed pressure in areas that we couldn’t (before) because we’re using the contractor there.

“But there is the advantage of not spending, buying and purchase of material and have additional staff. We were able to increase the capacity of what our staff can do during the day rather than being out there mowing eight hours a day. We can focus on other detail work.

Dave Lubach is editor for the Installs Market. He has seven years of experience in facility management and maintenance.

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