Adapting to ever-growing schedules of sporting and non-sporting events on their limited field spaces, modern turf managers are forced to adjust their maintenance posture to accommodate these schedules and deliver quality natural grass playing fields, the preference of so many athletes. There are a myriad tactics and strategies aimed at attacking a heavy-use schedule on a field, with many newer ones in development. But eventually grass will lose the battle, and resodding crews are called in.
For the past 30 or so years since the advent of thick-cut, big-roll sodding technologies, resodding parts or all of a playing surface was mostly considered as an expensive fix if things go wrong, or after a concert. But nowadays, we need to start thinking of resod work on the playing surface as a routine maintenance operation rather than an occasional fix.
Today, athletic field managers have options available almost anywhere they live to resurface their natural grass field and deliver a new, high-quality playing surface in just a few days. Through research at some of our great universities and innovation in private industry, we’re gaining valuable information on how to create the best-possible sod and sodding techniques for such operations. Compared with other routine maintenance line items in your budget, resodding is relatively expensive, especially if a quick return to play is required using thick, big-roll techniques.
One idea is to pay for these resods with a fund built up over time by contributions from those entities that use – and damage – the surface. The basic idea would be to require contributions to a field resurfacing fund that are in proportion to the level of damage that the games, practices or non-sporting events are expected to inflict on the playing surface. This is already being done, to some extent, at most major stadiums for the larger events. But too often, only what is actually required for repairing the surface from that event is allocated to the resod effort on the field. The rest is directed into the event revenue or returned to the field user.
Better results could be gained by keeping all field-repair deposits in a growing fund that can fully fund partial or full-field resod operations as needed by the field manager to maintain field quality. In a world of ever-growing field use schedules, facility owners/operators would do well to change the damage deposit/direct funding model to more of a field insurance model, requiring a nonrefundable “field event insurance premium” to be secured that is relative to the risk to the playing surface quality. This simple grouping and spreading of risk builds the required sod fund.
Every field user group could kick into the fund proportionally to the true cost of their field event.
Yes, even the youth sports leagues.
According to the National Council on Youth Sports, this is a $5 billion per year industry with the average parent spending $671 a year on a child’s sports activities (ages 6-16). Also, 20 percent of parents spend over $1,000 each year. NCYS estimates there are 45 million youth sports participants in the U.S. A major factor in a youth athlete’s development is field quality; a small contribution toward it could go a long way.
In today’s era of elite youth travel teams with home, away and alternate uniforms, $100 cleats and multimillion dollar concerts, a field fails not for lack of money but for lack of awareness. Field repair by resodding will generally cost $0.50 to $1.50 per square foot for the entire process, soup to nuts. So a typical football field can be fully resodded for between $30,000 and $85,000. (The final total depends on the level of play, where you live and especially on the thickness and quality of the sod.)
Put this into your field manager’s hip pocket and watch field quality improve. Typically, the entire process is contracted out to one or a few qualified firms, and most projects can be completed in one to four days, depending on scope.
Given the quality of today’s sports sods and the quick resurfacing results, now is the time for a change in attitude for the events-beleaguered field manager. With a good sod plan and adequate funding, it becomes kind of like the tag line from that old commercial for Doritos: “Crunch all you want; we’ll make more.”