PHOTO: FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY, ASSOCIATED PRESS, AUBURN UNIVERSITY
HOW THE’YRE CREATED
- There’s no magic to mowing patterns — they simply take advantage of the natural response of the turfgrass and the bending of the grass blades in the direction the mower travels.
- Light reflecting off the blades creates the light and dark stripes. As you view the mowed area, the grass will appear lighter where the mower traveled away from you and darker where the mower traveled toward you. The width of the stripe matches the width of the mowing swath.
- Dark green, healthy turf is the ideal surface for creating artistic patterns. Healthy turf also provides the safest surface for the athletes. Player safety must always be your top priority and the basis of your turfgrass management program. Mow patterns are secondary; think of them as the exciting, but not essential, aesthetic component.
- Cool-season grasses are typically maintained at higher heights than warm-season grasses, so the longer blades add intensity to your design.
- The shorter mowing heights of warm-season grasses leave less leaf surface to create the pattern, yet can effectively display both simple and dramatic designs.
- Continually mowing in the same direction can mat down the turfgrass. Changing the pattern frequently helps the turf maintain an upright growing pattern and improves overall turf vigor.
- Patterns can also be used to mask turf damage. Dave Mellor, the director of grounds for the Boston Red Sox and the widely acknowledged master of patterns, revealed in an interview long ago that his initial artistry was used to camouflage post-concert damage. His strategy worked — and fans loved the pattern. That was just the encouragement he needed to take his patterns to a higher level.
- Back in 2001, Mellor wrote the book on patterns, titled “Picture Perfect: Mowing Techniques for Lawns, Landscapes and Sports.” The basics as outlined here have been developed through multiple opportunities to tap into his expertise.
Fifth Third Field
- It’s vital to ensure mowing patterns don’t negatively impact playability. This is more likely to occur if you don’t alternate mowing patterns frequently enough.
- The biggest challenge with patterns is snaking, when the ball rolls across the turf following the direction that the grass is laying. With a crisscross pattern, the ball may bounce from side to side as it rolls across the lines.
- Continually mowing warm-season grass in the same direction can cause the grass stem to bend over. This increases the snaking problem since the grass stem is more rigid than the grass leaf.
- Make sure patterns aren’t so intricate that they distract the athletes.
Baum Stadium (University of Arkansas)
- All you need to execute mowing patterns is a reel mower, which always has a rear roller, or a rotary mower equipped with a rear roller.
- If your rotary mower doesn’t have a roller, you can make one from a section of PVC pipe that you fill with cement, or by filling the pipe with sand or gravel and capping off the ends. This makeshift roller can be attached behind the mower deck or mounted on handles for use in a separate pass.
- There also are multiple types of striping kits available from various suppliers.
Peoples Natural Gas Field (Altoona Curve)
DETERMINE YOUR STRATEGY
- Decide if you want to create your pattern as you mow, or if you want to mow first and create the pattern afterward.
- If mowing in your pattern, create (or identify) guide marks on both outside edges of your mower. Set these marks to overlap the previous cut by no less than 1 inch and no more than 2 inches. Make sure that distance is equal on both sides and that the marks are easily seen by the person operating the mower.
- Though mowing first takes more time, it allows you to cut wider swaths and vary mowing directions each time you mow. This will ensure a uniform height of cut. You then can roll in the design using a mower equipped with a rear roller with the mower blades disengaged, or with a separate roller that you have set up with guide marks.
Florida Atlantic University Stadium
PLAN BEFORE YOU MOW
- Striping a football field with alternate light and dark lines simply requires execution.
- Borrow ideas from others — a pattern need not be original to be effective.
- For more complex patterns, even borrowed ones, first sketch the design on paper or create it on a computer using your exact field dimensions.
- Consider the viewing angles. The impact of a design is more dramatic when the line is parallel to the viewer. Those in different areas of your stadium or baseball park will have different vantage points. Evaluate your design with these multiple angles in mind.
- The complexity of your pattern is determined by your skill in designing it and expertise in executing it. Numbers, letters, logos and other designs that require accuracy in dimensions or style are the most difficult. Start with simple patterns and increase the complexity as your skills and expertise develop.
- Keep your lines consistent. Use a string guide to make sure your first line is straight. Another option is to follow a foul line on a baseball field or a goal or yard line on a football field.
- Chalk dot along the outer arc of circular lines.
- Use a tape measure to make sure all sections are laid out consistently throughout the design.
- Mow your first line. Then make a slow “Y” turn at the end of each pass to line up for the next pass. This type of turn will reduce the stress and wear at the sides of the field.
- Find a sight line to follow for each pass after you’ve established your first line, made your turn and are lined up and ready to head back — but before you start mowing or rolling. The sight line could be a seat in the stands, the edge of an advertisement on the stadium wall or fence, or a tree beyond the field.
- Keep that sight line in view as you mow, making minor alignment adjustments if needed as you move forward. Check those guide marks on the deck or roller periodically, too, to make sure your overlap is accurate.
- Evaluate the line you’ve just completed. Make your turn; line up for your next pass — but before you start mowing, make sure the previous line is straight and consistent with the others you’ve completed.
- If that line isn’t perfect, go back two completed lines and start mowing the pattern again from there to correct it. Even a small deviation will become greater with each pass, magnifying its impact across the overall pattern.
Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn University)
ENHANCE THE BASICS
- Mix single-width lines with wider lines by using a combination of walkbehind and triplex mowers, or by making multiple passes in one direction with a walk-behind mower.
- Make the pattern more vibrant by making two or three passes in the same direction over your lines to burn them in.
SHOWCASE YOUR SKILLS
- Mowing patterns now are such an intrinsic part of the fan experience that the Sports Turf Managers Association has established a contest for them. This year’s winner was Britt Barry, of the Single-A Dayton (Ohio) Dragons. Visit the STMA’s website for more information on the association’s Mowing Patterns Contest.
- Don’t limit patterns and striping to athletic fields. The grounds outside the stadium and the lawn areas across a campus or park are candidates for a similar “wow factor.”