When the new 11,000-plus-seat Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville, Ky., opens next year, it will have two new occupants: The Louisville City Football Club of the USL Championship soccer league and a state-of-the-art SubAir Sport System.
Already in wide use on professional and Olympic sports fields around the world, the SubAir Sport System combines engineering and technology to create, monitor, and control the entire subsurface of the playing field while providing the best growing environment for natural turf.
The Louisville system — custom designed and programmed for the specific growing environment — will incorporate SubAir’s latest technologies, including wireless in-ground sensors that relay subsoil conditions; a secure dedicated communications network; and proprietary computer programs to collect, relay, and interpret field-conditions data. Through computers, digital notebooks, and smartphones, the turf-management team can review all data and equipment to activate aeration and moisture-control operations and proactively respond to changing field conditions.
“It’s an absolute game changer,” said Tom Nielson, head groundskeeper, Lynn Family Stadium. “Right now our sensors are showing field temperatures in the low 40s even with air temperatures in the low teens. I honestly didn’t think that was possible and am blown away by the consistency. With a SubAir System, the root density will be increased enabling the pitch to receive more nutrients, handle intense stresses, and recover much more quickly. The SubAir System is amazing.”
The custom-designed 3,000-pound main SubAir System consists of motors, blowers, air intake/exhaust, a furnace, 36-inch ductwork, and TurfWatch controls are housed under the stands of Louisville FC Stadium.
“Natural grass is the preferred playing surface of soccer professionals and SubAir assists Tom in providing the best possible playing conditions for the Louisville team,” said Jay Penney, president, SubAir Systems. “The SubAir Sports System controls environmental impact, improves turf recovery from high volumes of play, and monitors field consistency to produce firm footing for these highly competitive players, while at the same time, ensuring player safety.”
In vacuum operation, the system extracts excess moisture through 18 to 20 inches of turf, root zones, sand, and gravel 36 times faster than natural gravity. Sudden downpours and puddles can be pulled through the turf 10 minutes, as compared to hours of natural gravity drainage.
The TurfWatch controls are networked with 14 sensors buried in the turf that relay conditions including oxygen levels, temperature, salinity, and water saturation. The sensors relay field data approximately every 20 minutes and customized TurfWatch programming can activate automatic response of the system. The dedicated communications network also connects SubAir’s agronomists and equipment specialists with remote access for support operations.
Other key attributes of the SubAir Sport System include:
- Aerating entire field concurrently
- Controlling moisture removal from turf
- Moderating temperature extremes to maintain strong root systems
- 50 percent faster turf recovery time
- Reducing permanent damage from events, limiting the need to re-sod
- Extending the growing season
Other recent installations of SubAir Sports fields include Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Dolphins/University of Florida football); Citi Field (New York Mets); Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillies); New England Patriots Practice Field; and technology upgrades at Oracle Park (San Francisco Giants) and BMO Field (Toronto).