University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point

1. What does your job entail?

I’m building and grounds superintendent for the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. I oversee the academic custodial department, the day-to-day operations of our auto shop, our recycling operations and our grounds program, including the athletic fields.

Chris Brindley stands on UWSP’s multiuse field.

The UWSP campus covers approximately 400 acres, which includes a nature preserve, with 200 acres devoted to buildings, hardscape and green space. I have five full-time staff members in our grounds department for the hardscape and 95 acres of exterior turf and landscaping, including close to 20 acres of high-maintenanceathletic fields. This staff handles all sidewalk and parking lot maintenance and snow removal; all tree, shrub and flower care; and turf and irrigation system maintenance.

UWSP NCAA Division III outdoor varsity sports include men’s baseball and football, women’s softball and soccer, and men’s and women’s cross-country and track and field. Football uses a city-owned and maintained stadium off-site for its game field. On campus, we have four varsity football practice fields, one surrounded by a track, and one field each for varsity baseball, softball and soccer, and an 8-acre multiuse field to serve our intramural and club sport programs.

2. What attracted you to your current career?

I like the diversity of all the different aspects of this position, the challenges it provides and the opportunity to continually work on improving our programs. I especially enjoyed developing the multiuse athletic field and overcoming the issues that arose during the process to create an excellent finished product. It’s very rewarding to see how well our athletic fields meet the needs of our various sports programs and how much enjoyment they bring to those who use them.

3. What was your first job in the turf industry?

I started at 12, providing lawn maintenance and even mowing in patterns at the residence of a local dignitary.

4. What are the soil profiles of your fields?

All the athletic fields, except the multiuse field, have a native, sandy-loam profile.

Construction on the 8-acre, multiuse field began in the summer of 2003. The million-dollar project was fully funded by the students. The area had been used for intramurals previously, but was basically undeveloped. After soil analysis, we developed specs for a designated sand to be mixed into the native, sandy-loam soil and screened to produce an infiltration rate of 12 inches per hour. What we got was a 10-inch sand-augmented profile with infiltration of 4 to 6 inches per hour. We developed the area as one large field, with inground irrigation and with inground drainage in a herringbone pattern over a perched water table. The surface was laser-graded with a 1 percent crown running down the center of the field.

The UWSP baseball field is prepped for winter.

5. What types of turf do you have on your fields?

All of the fields are a mix of 75 percent bluegrass, using four varieties, and 25 percent perennial ryegrass, using three varieties. We experimented on the multiuse field, slit-seeding one half and using an Amazon seeder for the other half. We kept that field out of play through the first fall, but began using it very early the following spring. The young turf took quite a beating, but through our aggressive overseeding program we’ve developed a solid stand of turf that is holding up well.

6. How do you lay out the typical annual field maintenance program?

Like many facilities with tight budgets and limited staff, we incorporate technology to increase our efficiencies. Nearly 95 percent of the campus is irrigated, with all systems tied into the IMMS Hunter computer program for centralized control. Automatic shutoff of irrigation kicks in when rain gauge readings register .5 inch of rainfall. We winterize our irrigation system in late fall.

The fertilization program is based on the results of alternate year soil tests. We aim for 6 pounds of nitrogen a year, but usually can apply only 4 to 5 pounds due to field use schedules. We generally apply a 24-0-12 fertilizer in the spring, right after the seasons wind down in June and just before football starts in the fall. We apply 15-0-30 when fall play ends, usually in mid-November.

We core aerify in spring and fall, supplementing that with the VertiDrain and Aerovator whenever we can work it in. We’ll typically renovate the worn areas of the fields when the seasons end in November, core aerating and VertiDraining and topdressing with 85 percent sand and 15 percent peat. We’ll slit-seed the entire fields a little later, as a dormant seeding to get a head start in the spring.

We use Roundup as needed on the warning tracks, sidewalks and other hardscape areas and spot treat broadleaf weeds with Trimec. To date, through closely monitoring our IPM program and adjusting cultural practices, we’ve not needed other control applications for weeds, insects or diseases.

7. What’s the most important piece of equipment in your program?

Our staff chose the Kromer ride-on, painter-sprayer-groomer-conditioner, do-just-about-anything machine. We have all the attachments and have upgraded to a larger gas tank because it is used so much. Previously, we used a walk-behind painter to lay out the fields, so this unit is a huge timesaver. Another essential is our irrigation system. We couldn’t maintain the fields to the level we do without it.

8. What are the biggest challenges on your fields?

Our biggest challenge is balancing ever-increasing field use with the maintenance we need to keep the fields in the best possible condition and doing it within our budget and staffing limitations.

9. How do you communicate with people?

I’m a firm believer in open and direct communications. I work directly with our administration, athletic director and all of our coaches. We have an incredible team here that understands what we’re working to accomplish and strongly supports our programs.

The lighting along the perimeter of the multiuse field lights the entire surface, giving more useable hours to fill the needs of the intramural and club sports programs.

10. How do you see the sports field management profession changing in the future?

The expectations for field quality are getting higher and higher at every level of play. I think research is vital for constantly advancing the technology we need to meet and exceed those expectations. I believe the resources, like STMA and our Wisconsin Chapter, will continue to be the conduit to advance our professionalism. I believe we all have a personal obligation to keep learning and working to advance the programs at our own facilities and within the industry as a whole.