When Turfgrass Producers International (TPI) held its 2009 Summer Convention & Field Days on the campus of Michigan State University those in attendance had an opportunity to visit
Spartan Stadium and meet with Amy Fouty, CSFM. Fouty is MSU’s athletic turf manager and she’s responsible for the Spartan Stadium field, the football practice complex and oversees the athletic field construction for the intercollegiate athletic department.
During their visit Fouty explained that natural grass replaced artificial turf in Spartan Stadium in 2002 after a 33-year absence. She added that the field is comprised of a unique square turfgrass module system based on designs by MSU turfgrass management program professors and students.
The Spartan Stadium modular system is the second generation of modules used by MSU in an athletic field project. The first generation of Hexagon shaped modules was originally developed for use in the Pontiac Silverdome during the 1994 World Cup.
The new playing surface, planted in May of 2001 at MSU’s Hancock Turfgrass Research Center is comprised of a blend of nine varieties of Kentucky bluegrass and is made up of 4,800 modules.
Fouty says caring for the field is a year-round job and one in which she takes exceptional pride of ownership. While her primary commitment is to provide a safe and playable field, she
is also environmentally conscious and takes a progressive, yet fundamental, approach to turf management.
The field is aerated three times a year disrupting 30% of the surface area and fertilizer is used sparingly. When application rates are calculated across the 75,000 sq.-ft. football field for a
year, it amounts to about 4 lbs. of nitrogen , one pound of phosphorus and 10 lbs. of potassium per 1,000 sq. ft.
How well is the field cared for? They have never had to replace a single module since they were installed in ’02 which is testament to the progressive approach to turfgrass management that is
practiced at MSU. ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Spartan Stadium No. 8 on his list of the nation’s most scenic venues. In 2005, the natural grass playing surface in Spartan Stadium earned Collegiate Football Field of the Year honors from the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA).
Chinese officials were so impressed with the success at Spartan Stadium that they called upon Michigan State University’s renowned turf scientists to build and manage over 5,000 modules
of Kentucky bluegrass for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing’s National Stadium.
During her address Fouty said that today’s turf managers are gaining valuable technical knowledge at some of the nation’s top universities and community colleges, instead of having to learn everything by trial and error. “Where there were once self-taught field staff maintaining sports fields there are now a growing number of sports turf professionals who have college degrees in turfgrass management and master’s degrees in sports administration.