Catching up with Chris Hathaway of the Denver Broncos

SportsTurf: How did the hot and dry summer affect your maintenance plan heading into this season?

Hathaway: The weather is always tricky to work around throughout the year. This summer was a little warmer than average and the rain fall was also short of our normal totals for the summer months. One of my big priorities throughout the year is planning. I try to plan a week or so ahead for weather and events on the field. That will determine how much we water; when we will water the field depends on the weather and what events are on the field that week. It was a dry summer for us so we needed to give the field more water than normal this summer. We rebuilt the field in February 2015 and being a sand base field it drains really well. It does not hold as much water as our old field did. We are also a bluegrass sports field as well and bluegrass needs more water than some of the other cool-season grasses. We try to give the field the water it needs to survive but we are also trying to conserve water as best as we can.

SportsTurf: Did you have to work around non-football events on the field this summer and if so, how did you protect the field from any damage?

Hathaway: A lot of people hear Sports Authority Field and Mile High and think Denver Broncos football. That is a small portion of what we host on the field during the year. We also host the major league lacrosse team Denver Outlaws. Not only did the Denver Broncos win Super Bowl 50 but the Denver Outlaws also won the championship as well this year. We hosted a soccer game this summer and around 60 special events. These events range from Punt, Pass and Kick on the field to a wedding on the field. This summer we did not host any concerts as we have in years past. There was a couple of events we were able to cover the field with field flooring but most of them we were not able to. We started getting the field back together in March from a busy football season. Our main goal is to have the field in the best shape it can be in for our busy summer. We knew we would have a lot of events on the field that would damage some parts of the field. We are always planting new seeds to stay ahead of the bad wear areas. We re-sod the worst areas as needed throughout the summer.

SportsTurf: Do you believe the Desso GrassMaster system still works well in Denver or would you prefer to have another type of surface?

Hathaway: GrassMaster is great system. It held up great for us for many years. We started to have some issues with our field heating system in late 2014. We decided to remove our 10-inch rootzone along with GrassMaster to rebuild our soil heat system. We host a lot of different events throughout the year and the wear and tear was harder to overcome with GrassMaster in the ground. There was not a lot of time between our last Broncos game and our first lacrosse game in May 2015 to rebuild the field and install GrassMaster. We decided to put GrassMaster on hold for the year and see how the new field held up to the demands of our busy events schedule. We realized the field held up really well throughout the year and we only need to replace a little of the field during the football season. There are a lot of other stadiums that GrassMaster work really well in. It was just not the right fit for us and the demands on the field.

SportsTurf: Are you planning anything new this season to keep the grass growing into January?

Hathaway: As of now we do not have anything new. Our NFL home schedule is a lot better for us towards the end of the year. We only have four games after October 30. One of those games is the high school championship game. We have a lot of home game toward the beginning of the season that makes for a little better end to the season. The weather is always a problem late in the year. Last season we ended up a few games in the snow/cold (Nov. 29 Sunday Night Football). Those conditions are never good for any natural grass field. Then you add two playoff games to an already busy few months and the field is never going to look its best. My biggest priority throughout the year is player safety. There are a lot of people out there that just judge a field by how it looks but that is not the case in my eyes. The field might not look the best but if it is safe and playable that is all I look for. Now don’t get me wrong, I like it to look its best, but sometimes you have to forgo what it looks like to make it safe and playable for not only your team but the visiting team as well.

Thanks to the Sports Turf Managers Association’s public relations agency, Buffalo Agency, for setting us up with Chris.