SFMA Conference Preview Salt Lake City Sports Field Management Association
Photo by Sean Buckley

SFMA Conference Preview

The 34th SFMA Conference and Exhibition will be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, January 16-19, 2023. It will feature seven education tracks, a full trade show/exhibition, networking opportunities, Keynote address, SAFE fundraisers, the SFMA Student Challenge, Seminar on Wheels, and much more.

The following preview provides in-depth insight into the 2023 SFMA Conference and Exhibition, but for more information or to register, visit sportsfieldmanagement.org/conference.


[Tracks (key): Turfgrass Management (TM); Water (W); Research and Technology (RT); Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI); Professional Development (PD); Baseball (B); Synthetic (S)]

For detailed descriptions of each session, visit sportsfieldmanagement.org/conference.

Monday, January 16

6:30 – 8 a.m.: Continental Breakfast

7 a.m. – 5 p.m.: Seminar on Wheels – Visit athletic facilities at Brigham Young University, including LaVell Edwards Stadium, Miller Park, the football practice facility, South Field, and the indoor practice facility. In the afternoon, attendees will visit Rio Tinto Stadium, home of MLS club Real Salt Lake followed by Smith’s Ballpark, home of the Salt Lake Bees. Transportation and lunch provided.

10 a.m. – 1 p.m.: SAFE Indoor Backyard Games and Brunch – A fundraiser for the SAFE Foundation.       

1:15 – 5 p.m. Pre-Conference Education – How Can We Help? Enjoy a relaxed, reception-style atmosphere where you can interact with academics for a refresher in the basics of turfgrass management.

6 – 9 p.m.: SAFE Bowling – A fundraiser for the SAFE Foundation. Transportation and dinner included.

Tuesday, January 17

6:30 – 8 a.m.: Continental Breakfast

8 – 9:30 a.m.: General Session – Transitioning from 2022 FIFA World Cup to 2026 – John Sorochan, Ph.D., Alan Ferguson, Kaj Heyral, John Rogers, III, Ph.D.

9:45 – 10:45 a.m.: Conference Education

  • (TM) Turfgrass 101: Back to Basics – Gregg Munshaw, Ph.D.
  • (RT) Innovations Role in Moving Toward Autonomous Maintenance Activities – Troy Carson
  • (TM) Restoring Performance: Getting at the ROOT of the Problem – Gerald Henry, Ph.D.
  • (RT) Potentially Reduce Nitrogen Use on Athletic Fields – AJ Lindsey, Ph.D.
  • (S) Player Welfare and Synthetic Turf – Marc Douglas, Kieran O’Donnell
  • (PD) Sports Field Manager: That’s a Thing? – Drew Miller, Ed.D., Leah Withrow

11 a.m. – Noon: Conference Education

  • (TM) Seed to Play in 4 Weeks – Pamela Sherratt
  • (TM) Natural Products for Weed Control in Sports Fields – Nick Christians, Ph.D.
  • (TM) Managing Common Insect Pests in Cool-Season Fields – Geoffrey Rinehart
  • (RT) Cool-Season Bermudagrass – Bryan Hopkins, Ph.D.
  • (S) Synthetic Turf and the Future of Sports – Scott Campbell
  • (PD) Finding Happiness in a Stressful World – Lisa Goatley, M.S., L.P.C.

Noon – 2 p.m.: Break

Noon – 2 p.m.: Women’s Forum & Lunch – Now in its 16th year, women in the industry will participate in a facilitated discussion and enjoy lunch.

2 – 3:15 p.m.: Conference Education

  • (TM) Evaluating Wear Tolerance and Recovery of Select Bermudagrass Cultivars – Jason Kruse, Ph.D.
  • (TM) Tall Fescue for Sports Fields and Grounds – Brad Park
  • (TM) What’s New in Cultural Practices for Cool-Season Turfgrass Disease Management – Cale Bigelow, Ph.D., Jada Powlen
  • (RT) Turfgrass Paint a Revisited Idea for Turfgrass Recovery – Philip Braselton, Alfie Gardiner, Matthew Kerns
  • (S) Does Maintenance Impact Synthetic Fields? – Kyley Dickson, Ph.D.
  • (DEI) Taking it to the Next Level – Advice from Industry Veterans on Growth and Development – Ash Black, Amy Fouty, CSFM, Lynda Wightman, Leah Withrow, Victoria Wallace
Photo provided by SFMA

3:30 – 5 p.m.: Conference Education

  • (Track) NFL/Safety – Speaker 1, Speaker 2, Speaker 3
  • (TM) Developing a Topdressing Program for Athletic Fields – Nick Christians, Ph.D., Adam Thoms, Ph.D.
  • (TM) Weed Control Strategies for Warm-Season Athletic Fields – Erick Begitschke, M.S., Gerald Henry, Ph.D.
  • (RT) Technologies for Sports Field Management: Current Trends and Future Applications – Weston Floyd, CSFM, Chase Straw, Ph.D.
  • (B) Preparing For and Executing a Natural Grass Field Renovation Project – Michael Boekholder
  • (PD) Mentoring in Sports Field Management – John Clintsman, Mike Goatley, Ph.D.

5 – 6 p.m.: Chapter Officers Training – Chapter Board members are invited to a facilitated discussion on research-based guidance from successful chapters.

6 – 7 p.m.: First Timers/International/CSFM Reception – Appropriate ribbon required to attend.

7 – 7:30 p.m.: Live Auction                                         

7:30 – 10 p.m.: Welcome Reception

Wednesday, January 18

6:30 – 8 a.m.: Continental Breakfast

8 – 9:15 a.m.: Conference Education

  • (TM) John Mascaro’s Photo Quiz Comes Alive – John Mascaro
  • (TM) Reinvigorate Your High School Sports Fields – Paul Cushing
  • (W) More Pop per Drop: Water and Oxygen Management 101 – Bryan Hopkins, Ph.D.
  • (RT) Maps Guide the Way: Building Pest Maps for Targeted Management – David McCall, Ph.D.
  • (B) Major League Infield Skin Management for High School Sports Fields – Keith Fisher
  • (PD) Improving Our Mental Health – Lisa Goatley, M.S., L.P.C.

9:30 – 10:45 a.m.: Conference Education

  • (TM) Problem Solving for the Sports Field Manager – Mike Goatley, Ph.D., Gregg Munshaw, Ph.D.
  • (TM) Practical Calculations for Sports Field Managers: Sports Field Math 101 – Cale Bigelow, Ph.D., Barry Stewart, Ph.D.
  • (TM) Weather, What’s the Big Deal – Ben Hartman
  • (RT) Robots in Sports Fields: Extending Your Crew with Automation – Lorenzo Lopez, CSFM
  • (B) Try Something New: Infield Transition from Calcined to Expanded Shale – Keith Winter
  • (PD) A New Look at Hiring – Bryce King, CPRP, AFO

11 a.m. – Noon: Keynote – A Safer Field of Play? The NFLPA and Its Advocacy for Player Health and Safety – DeMaurice Smith

Noon – 1:15 p.m.: Lunch and Annual Meeting

1:30 – 6:30 p.m.: Trade Show

2 – 4:30 p.m.: Student Challenge

Thursday, January 19

6:30 – 8 a.m.: Continental Breakfast

Photo provided by SFMA

8 – 10 a.m.: Conference Education

  • (B) MLB Panel – Larry DiVito, CSFM, Nicole Sherry, Keith Winter, Luke Yoder
  • (TM) Panel Discussion – Designing/Building a Sports Field with Grounds Managers in Mind – Mark Baginski, LEED AP, RLA, Casey Scheidel, CSFM, Sam Titchener
  • (TM) Supplier Panel – Representatives from Anuvia Plant Nutrients, Beacon Athletics, Hunter Industries, Pure Seed, Sipcam Agro USA Inc., Smithco, Inc., and Sunbelt Rentals, Inc.
  • (DEI) Panel Discussion – Volunteering for Sports Field Events – Amy Fouty, CSFM, Sarah Martin, CSFM, Maritza Martinez, Sun Roesslein, CSFM
  • (PD) Panel Discussion – Student Career Preparation – Wes Ganobcik, Gerald Henry, Ph.D., Tony Leonard, Nick McKenna, CSFM, John Sorochan, Ph.D.

10 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Trade Show and Lunch in the Expo Hall

12:45 – 5:15 p.m.: Half Day Seminar on Wheels – Visit Zions Bank Real Academy & Training Center, training facility for MLS club Real Salt Lake, followed by University of Utah. Transportation provided.

1:30 – 3 p.m.: Conference Education (Repeat Sessions)

  • (RT) Innovations Role in Moving Toward Autonomous Maintenance Activities – Troy Carson
  • (TM) Seed to Play in 4 Weeks – Pamela Sherratt
  • (S) Does Maintenance Impact Synthetic Fields? – Kyley Dickson, Ph.D.

6:30 – 10 p.m.: Reception, Awards Banquet          

Conference education sessions will also continue for four weeks post-conference, with eight virtual sessions from January 24 – February 14 all included with a full conference registration. Visit sportsfieldmanagement.org/Conference for details.


The 2023 SFMA Conference General Session will focus on the hosting and delivery of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and transitioning to the 2026 World Cup. In 2022, Qatar is the single host city. In 2026, various cities throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico will serve as hosting sites. The presentation will discuss the challenges of working in parallel on different events in different stages of the event lifecycle, as well as preparing and planning for consistency and uniformity of fields across different climate zones and stadium types. The integration of science and the latest technology for the development of a quality surface that meets FIFA standards will also be discussed.

SFMA has assembled a panel of diverse experts that represent a combination of international expertise and local knowledge:

  • Jose Aldrete is the sub director of operations Akron Stadium and Sports Companies Chivas for Akron Stadium / Chivas
  • Alan Ferguson is the senior pitch management manager for FIFA
  • Kaj Heyral is the group leader infrastructure management for FIFA
  • John Rogers, III, Ph.D. is a professor at Michigan State University
  • John Sorochan, Ph.D. is a distinguished professor at University of Tennessee

The General Session will be held Tuesday, January 17, 2023, from 8 – 9:30 a.m.


DeMaurice Fitzgerald Smith, executive director of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), the labor union for players of the National Football League (NFL), will serve as the keynote speaker for the 2023 SFMA Conference and Exhibition in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The keynote presentation will be “A Safer Field of Play? The NFLPA and Its Advocacy for Player Health and Safety.”

Smith and the NFL Players Association have been at the forefront of issues surrounding NFL Player health and safety since the groundbreaking achievements negotiated into Smith’s first collective bargaining agreement with the NFL.

Smith was reappointed to his fifth term as NFLPA executive director in fall 2021. In March 2020, he successfully negotiated his second long-term Collective Bargaining Agreement with the National Football League. The eleven-year deal will introduce an additional game into the regular season but also provide players with their guaranteed highest share of NFL revenue in history.

Photo provided by SFMA

Almost immediately following ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement, he led the negotiations with the NFL to create comprehensive COVID-19 protections and protocols for his membership, obtained comprehensive testing and opt out provisions for players and designed the return to play agreements that secured NFL Players being paid their full salary for the season despite a projected $3 billion revenue shortfall for the NFL in 2020. The NFL was able to play an entire season, playoffs, and Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay, Florida during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On August 4, 2011, Smith signed an historic 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with NFL management, leading the Players through the owners’ 132-day lockout. The two Collective Bargaining Agreements remain the longest standing agreements between labor and management in any sports league.

Prior to his post at the NFLPA, Smith was an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia and was Counsel to then-Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. Smith served as a Partner in the international law firms of Latham & Watkins, LLP and Squire Patton Boggs, LLP, in Washington, D.C. where he represented corporations, boards of directors and senior executives in civil and criminal matters.

Smith is a sought-after motivational speaker for corporations, labor unions, and charities, and a guest lecturer and distinguished speaker on college campuses around the country on the topics of leadership, ethics, sports law, and high-stakes negotiation. Smith, a native Washingtonian, resides in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area with his family.

The keynote presentation takes place on Wednesday, January 18, from 11 a.m. – Noon. Lunch and SFMA’s Annual Meeting will follow.


The Foundation for Safer Athletic Fields for Everyone (SAFE), SFMA’s charity, will host two events at the 2023 SFMA Conference.

Due to lower average temps in Salt Lake City, in lieu of the annual golf tournament, SAFE has planned an exciting event – SAFE’s Indoor Backyard Games and Cornhole Tournament. This event will take place on January 16 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. SAFE will provide brunch and fun games along with the cornhole tournament.

The annual SAFE Night of Bowling will take place on January 16 from 6-9 p.m. at All Star Bowling and Entertainment in Draper, Utah. Transportation to and from will be provided.


The SFMA Student Challenge is presented in partnership with the SAFE Foundation, Founding Partner Hunter Industries, and supporting sponsor Ewing. Each year, students from 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities throughout the country compete in an exam that challenges knowledge in the sports field industry. The winning teams receive a cash award, a plaque, and medallions for each team member. The prize money benefits the institution’s turfgrass program and creates opportunities for students pursuing a career in sports field management. The Study Guide for the 2023 SFMA Student Collegiate Challenge is available online. Be sure to thoroughly review the Study Guide in preparation for the exam.

The 2023 contest will take place Wednesday, January 18, from 2-4:30 p.m. at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. A maximum of four undergraduates can compete on a team and must declare if they are representing a two-year or four-year institution. Competitors receive complimentary conference registration. You must be an SFMA member to participate. All Student Challenge competitors are REQUIRED to register online before December 15. No paper registration forms will be accepted.


Increase your professionalism by taking advantage of the continuing education units (CEUs) being offered at the 2023 SFMA Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. Earn up to 1.5 CEUs through SFMA. SFMA is seeking approval from the following professional organizations to provide CEUs for attending education sessions at the conference:

  • American Sports Builders Association (ASBA)
  • National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA)
  • Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) – pending
  • Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS)
  • National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP)

Pesticide Recertification Credits have been approved by Utah*

*Pesticide Recertification credits will only be available for Utah. If you are attending from another state and need pesticide recertification credits, you are responsible for contacting your state’s Department of Agriculture for approval.

A detailed listing of education sessions that qualify for CEUs and recertification credits will be provided online. Be sure to sign in using the appropriate form during the education sessions to receive credit.


Airport: The brand new, $4 billion Salt Lake City International Airport opened in September of 2020, and is an 18-minute Trax ride or an 8-minute drive to downtown.

Attire: Business casual (slacks and a collared shirt for men and comparable attire for women) is the preferred attire. Coat and tie are requested for the Awards Banquet. Cutoffs, jeans, t-shirts and ball caps are never appropriate.

Registration and fees: Full Conference Registration includes admission to all education sessions, Welcome Reception, Awards Banquet, trade show and all meals provided during the conference.

  • Full Conference Registration – $375 for members ($325 reduced member rate for second+ person from the same facility, be sure to register all facility members together to receive reduced rate.)
  • New first-time members, visit sportsfieldmanagement.org/Conference for promotion details, pay for your membership, and steps to get your free registration.
  • Non-Member Full Conference Registration – $525
  • Any Registration not done online (mailed/faxed) – $525
  • Please register by 01/09/2023
  • On-site Registration – $600
  • Visit sportsfieldmanagement.org/Conference/ to register. See one day packages, trade show only and optional activities.

Exhibition hours:

  • Wed., January 18, 1:30 – 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, January 19, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.