Typical of the wacky sports turf profession that the 2009 STMA Field of the Year Professional Soccer winner's pitch is inside a baseball stadium.

Griggs leads Wizards crew to FOY victory in KC

Typical of the sports turf profession that the 2009 STMA Field of the Year Professional Soccer winner’s pitch is inside a baseball stadium.

Jay Griggs, Director of Sports Field Operations for the Kansas City Wizards of the MLS, led his crew at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, a multi-purpose stadium in Kansas City, Kansas, home of the Kansas City T-Bones of the independent Northern League, and temporary home of the Wizards. (The Wizards are building a soccer-specific stadium in Kansas City that is due to open mid-2011.)

Full-time staffers Justin Bland and Mike Moyer, and part-timer Ryan Locke are also credited with bringing home the award despite difficult circumstances.

“Playing soccer in a baseball stadium has given us many challenges over the past 2 years,” Griggs wrote in his entry. “Baseball here is played on an all-grass skin area with sliding pits, like the old artificial turf fields looked. It’s challenging converting from baseball to soccer and back again 10 times a year.

“Our biggest concern was the wear spots at positions in the grass infield; for the most part we held up pretty well in those areas with regular maintenance fertilizer applications. In the position areas and around the pits we aerated as needed to fight compaction and aid the laying sod process.

“Our main goal for soccer was to have a good uniform playing surface that wouldn’t affect the play of the game. We generally have a 2-3 day window in which the infield skin is removed from sliding pits and track material from the warning track to be sodded over to have a full grass surface for soccer events.

“There are 1,000 square feet of pit areas and 3,500 square feet of warning track that we have to sod for every event. A major concern with the sodded areas is that they are on a hard clay surface and limestone under the warning track so we are constantly fighting hot spots. These areas have to be tended to and hand-watered nearly non-stop.

“We also have a section of seating that extends from the left field wall and runs to right center field in which flooring is put down to accompany 350 field side seats. We have are compaction in those areas, and in the summer we are concerned about the flooring being set up and on the field throughout the heat of the day. We have seen tip burn and discoloration.

“Not only the Northern League T-Bones and the Wizards use the field; there are campouts, high school and college baseball, and high school and college soccer. We don’t have many extended periods of time for regular field maintenance so we’re still concerned about reaching that breaking point with the field.

“Today the more events you can have the more money you can make. Our concern is at what point are there going to be more events than time for maintenance and field quality?”

SportsTurf: What changes did you make to your maintenance plan this year, if any?

Griggs: We really did not make any changes to the budget or the field maintenance plan.  We tweaked a few things here and there but over all it is the same.

ST: Has the team and/or stadium owner publicized your winning this award from STMA?

Griggs: Our team has publicized our award in local newspapers and on our website.

ST: What’s the best piece of turf management advice you have ever received?

Griggs: Never let your personal wants get in the way of your fields’ needs.

ST: How do you balance your work and personal time?

Griggs: This is a very tough situation for us. We have so many events on this field that we find ourselves having to come back in to work during the night time hours to get things done, but we make a conscious effort to fit family time in as much as possible.

ST: If a community organization was starting a soccer program and had $15,000 to spend on maintenance for an 8-field complex, on what would you suggest they buy with budget?

Griggs: I would suggest that they should invest in some type of aerification equipment. Usually these types of fields get a whole lot of play and become overly compacted, if they could open the field up in some form they could possibly help prevent puddles and rain outs.

Equipment list

Deere 2653b reel mower

Deere Pro Gator

Deere 2020 sprayer

Deere 3520 tractor

Deere Aercore 1000

Deere 1200a bunker rake

Dakota Turf topdresser

AerWay machine

2-ton Wacker roller

Case 420 skid steer

48-inch sod installer

Classen 19-inch sod cutter

McClain gasoline edger

Lesco ride-on fertilizer spreader