Editor’s note: Luke Kellerman died following a battle with cancer on Oct. 26, 2017. He is survived by his wife, Katie.
What field care product/piece of equipment could you not live without? We have two Toro mowers — if the grass is growing, we have to have something to cut it.
Complete this sentence: “If I weren’t a field care pro, I would be …” An employee at one of the many fine ski resorts in Colorado. When it comes to time away from work, I love spending it in the outdoors and wilderness that Colorado has to offer.
What path led you to a career in sports turf? My love of sports. I began taking care of baseball fields for a local parks and recreation department and kept rising through the ranks — until my dream job of working for the Denver Broncos became a possibility. I then worked my tail off to make it a reality. I’ve been with the Broncos for over seven years, five of which have been full time.
What types of fields and turf areas are you responsible for? Sports Authority Field at Mile High is an 88,000-squarefoot surface made up of a Kentucky bluegrass/ perennial ryegrass mixture. We’re also responsible, in cooperation with our contracted landscaper, to maintain the landscape surrounding the stadium. It’s roughly 100 acres and has nine irrigation controllers with over 320 zones.
What are the biggest challenges in maintaining your facility? Working around events, as sometimes it’s difficult to find time to accomplish our fieldwork. We approach this challenge in several different ways. We can request that the field be left open for what we call “maintenance days.” Also, if we have a window of time to get work done, we just get after it. It’s extremely important to communicate with all other departments so that they’re aware of the work we’re doing.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job? Not spending all my energy on things I can’t control. I’d love for the field to be used only for Broncos games, but this is very unrealistic in how professional venues are being utilized nowadays. There’s a difference between acceptance and not putting up a fight to protect the turf and field. We’ve found that through communication, some of the smaller events can be augmented to protect the turf as much as possible. Having an open dialogue with other departments has been huge. We also have an event meeting once a week to go over any potential risks to both the field and the event.
How do you predict the sports turf industry will evolve in the future? I see the trend of going back to natural surfaces. Some NFL teams, like the Baltimore Ravens, have already made the switch back to natural. I actually see the change coming in soccer, first. Players at the highest level have been relatively vocal about their dislike for playing on synthetic surfaces.
What advice would you give aspiring field managers? Chase your dreams and work hard. These two things can accomplish a great deal when done together. Also, going to work with a good attitude and always being ready to learn are traits that are desired and will make a huge difference when it comes to potential employment.
Describe the sports turf industry in one word. Passion.
Who have been your biggest influences/mentors? Kyle Bauman, Ross Kurcab and Troy Smith.