If you took wood shop back in high school, or ever fixed the family car with your father, you probably heard the guidance, “Use the right tool for the job.” Maybe you’ve even uttered those words yourself, after watching a crew member get creative with whatever they had at hand, rather walking back to the shed for the right piece of equipment.
Having the right tool (or the right piece of equipment) undoubtedly makes a job go more smoothly, more quickly and often produces better results. With that in mind, SFM asked several sports turf managers what equipment they wish they had in their shops — something they don’t currently own but would love to:
Major League Soccer | Real Salt Lake
“We are lucky and are supported very well by our ownership and have a great partnership with Toro. That being said, there are a few things on my wish list,” says Dan Farnes, director of fields and grounds at Rio Tinto Stadium and Zion’s Bank Training Facility in Sandy, Utah, home of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake. Because these are soccer facilities, perhaps it’s not surprising that Farnes’ gaze turns toward specialized equipment from Europe. For starters, he’d love a SISIS SSS1000. This pull-behind rotary brush is designed for removing debris, as well as lifting the pile and redistributing infill on synthetic fields, but Farnes says he would have an additional use for it: “It would be great to use after a game on our natural turfgrass to sweep up the confetti and divots,” he explains. “I hope to get one soon.”
Farnes is planning to purchase new Wiedenmann Terra Brush and Terra Clean units, as well. “We are constructing some indoor artificial fields, and I’ll need some equipment to maintain them. These will help clean and brush the artificial turf,” he says. Finally, he’d like some small, walk-behind “pedestrian mowers,” like those made by Dennis Mowers and Allett, both British companies offering high-end, specialized mowers. “They would really help ease our compaction issues,” he explains, “but I just don’t have the staff or the time to get the three I would need.”
Weston (Massachusetts) Public Schools
Ben Polimer, fields and grounds coordinator with Weston Public Schools in Massachusetts, says that a slice seeder would help him in the management of the athletic fields there. “Right now, I contract it out to have seeding done with slice seeders,” he explains. The frequency of that depends on the year and how many fields are being renovated. “Last year, we slice seeded almost 20 acres,” says Polimer. “And it’s the kind of equipment where, if I had it in my arsenal, I would use it a lot more frequently.” While he does a lot of seeding by hand, the process is more effective and efficient with a slice seeder, he emphasizes.
Polimer says that while a slice seeder is on the list to purchase at some point, he’s currently replacing an older tractor and buying an aerator, so it may be some time before he’s able to add one to his equipment fleet. He’s done a little bit of research and has a personal preference for a disc-type seed slicer.
“I think they work pretty well at putting the seed in the ground and getting good seed-soil contact,” Polimer explains.
While it doesn’t count as equipment, another thing he’d like, and probably every sports turf manager would agree, is more labor. “I’m going through the process right now to hire two employees — more hands always makes things easier!”
Goebel Soccer Complex | Evansville, Indiana
Clayton Dame, turf manager at the Goebel Soccer Complex in Evansville, Indiana, says that more help is also at the top of his wish list, even above any particular piece of equipment. He’s responsible for the maintenance of eight multiuse baseball fields with skinned infields and bermudagrass outfields, as well as 10 soccer fields (one synthetic, two cool-season turfgrass and seven Quickstand bermudagrass). So, he has just about every type of surface to manage, which requires a lot of labor and knowledge. “The biggest thing that I could use is full-time help,” he emphasizes. Dame says he currently has about 30 part-time employees who do a great job, but having more full-time help would make a huge difference: “There’s a limit to what they can do, versus what a full-time person would be able to do.”
On the equipment front, Dame says he would love to have a couple more John Deere Gator TX Turf utility vehicles to help move employees around. He currently has one Pro Gator and two of the smaller TX Gators, but with so many crew members, they go quickly. Part of the facility is on the other side of the road, and moving crews over there can look like a circus, he says. “Our people-moving equipment is in high demand…. All of a sudden I’m left driving the sprayer around to check on things, and that’s the last thing I want to be driving,” says Dame.
University of Texas at Arlington
At the University of Texas at Arlington, head athletics groundskeeper Andrew Siegel knows exactly what equipment he’d like to get his hands on. “If I could get one piece of equipment, it would be a tractor with a belt-driven aerator mounted to it,” he says.
“I have been blessed with the ability to purchase new equipment since I have been here, but that has eluded me over these five years.” He does have the option to borrow a tractor/aerator and sometimes contracts out the service, but he says, “Unfortunately, that can leave me in a bind and at the expense and time of others. If I had my own, it would free up the ability to pull cores when I wanted and at a much better pace than I can with my walk-behind aerator.”
Siegel adds that having a tractor would also give him the ability to topdress fields on the weekends or whenever an opening presented itself, rather than having to arrange to borrow a tractor from another department during business hours. “I definitely think it could save money in the long run, but budgets are tight right now, so I think it is more of a pipe dream,” he says. “Until then, I am at someone else’s mercy!”
City of Kirkland, Washington
Jeff Rotter, parks maintenance supervisor with the city of Kirkland, Washington, says he’s fortunate to have a wide range of equipment at his disposal to care for the athletic fields there. “We have most of what we need in order to do that job we need to do, but one of the things that would make a huge difference for us is a new aerator,” says Rotter. “We’re fortunate that we have a deep-tine aerator that mounts to a tractor and allows us to aerate up to a foot deep, but it’s an older one that we struggle with. We have to repair it quite frequently, and we have to go so slow when we use it that it’s a super time-consuming process when you have as many fields as we do.”
Newer-generation aerators are available that can be operated at faster ground speeds, he points out. He saw one Wiedenmann model at a recent sports turf program that can go roughly twice as fast as the model he’s currently working with. “We got pretty excited when we saw that and started doing the math of how much time we would save – it would be huge,” says Rotter. And if the process were faster, he would be able to do it more frequently. “Being able to deep-tine aerate more often would make a really positive impact on the fields we take care of,” he adds. “I don’t think we could ever aerate enough, so if it didn’t take quite so long to do it, at least on our more premium fields, we’d try to do it quite a bit more often.”
Rotter also wishes he had a multipurpose utility work vehicle. “We prep (rake) all of our fields with John Deere 1200A three-wheelers,” he explains. “They work great for the purposes they are designed for, but we don’t have anything like a John Deere Pro Gator that’s multipurpose, has hydraulics and that you can hook attachments to, like blowers and fertilizer spreaders.” Rotter says that a piece of equipment like that would help make the field maintenance operation more efficient and reduce the need to get a large tractor out for smaller jobs.
Nick Pappas, CSFM
Green Source, Inc.
“I’m pretty lucky to have a good amount of equipment in my shop, and the ownership at my company is usually willing to invest in new equipment if it means increased productivity and is justifiable,” says Nick Pappas, CSFM, sports turf manager with Green Source, Inc., a property and landscape management firm based in Florida. He has been eyeing a couple pieces of new equipment, including a RotaDairon soil renovator (reverse tiller). “This would benefit us greatly, as we do many laser-grading jobs throughout the year, as well as many field renovation projects,” Pappas explains.
“The ability to reverse-till and firm up the soil in one pass would increase efficiency for us, rather than the old-school rototill-and-drag method.”
He’d also like a larger tractor to supplement the 4000 Series John Deere compact utility tractors he has. “It would be great to have a bigger tractor to better run some of our heavy attachments,” says Pappas.
Northfield (Minnesota) Public Schools
A topdresser is at the top of the equipment wish list for Tracy Closson, district grounds coordinator with Northfield Public Schools in Minnesota. He says it’s difficult to justify buying a piece of equipment such as this that’s used infrequently, “but what a handy tool to have in the spring when you’re trying to detail your fields — filling holes and leveling them.” Closson would also love to have a roller. “After a season of soccer and football, these two pieces of equipment would work well together on a beat-up, sand-based field.”
Anthony DeFeo, CSFM
Double-A Tennessee Smokies
Another vote for a roller comes from Anthony DeFeo, CSFM, operations manager for BrightView Sports Turf, serving as head groundskeeper of the Tennessee Smokies (Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs). “I would love to have a one-ton tandem roller,” says DeFeo. “It would allow us to roll both our turf and dirt.” He currently rents a roller as needed, but says the unpredictable arrangement is a source of anxiety, and he frequently hears “it’s not available” at a time when needs the roller. And even when the equipment is available, there are the inevitable hassles that go along with renting — “the pickup and drop-off logistics, and of course, trying to work around the weather,” says DeFeo. “We talked about buying one, but it never seems to happen.”