The groundsmen of the football clubs are now relaxing after the hectic renovation of the silly season. They now cater to their pitches’ needs by nurturing their rapidly developing baby. As I visit each venue the individual groundsmen tell their tales of woe – what went wrong, who didn’t turn up or who did, how bad the weather was – and then they show off their new surface like a proud parent.
I feel obliged (but sincerely mean it) to say: “Hasn’t it grown in well!” Each and every groundsman who has grown in their new field feels suitably proud of their achievement, and so they should, growing in a surface from seed is groundsmanship.
Half the world away, the cricket season has started with one of the coldest springs for many a year, and this is tagged on to one of our wettest summers and winters on record. It has been a true test for cricket groundsmen, as if preparing a track is not hard enough, cricket is a true contradiction of how to maintain grass.
- Grow the dwarf ryegrass in a high content of clay/loam
- Cut the grass down to 1/16 inch
- Roll it for weeks with a 3-ton roller
- Then play on it
And we expect the surface to survive!
Cricket is an enigma to the majority, but poetry in motion to those who have played or understand the game.
The Wimbledon fortnight will soon be upon us. This is a two-week period when people from all over the world come to England and show us how to play the game of tennis, which we invented!
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (Wimbledon) is a facility that I never grow tired of visiting. If I take anyone with me, I cannot help to feel proud when I watch their reaction as they view the 41 grass courts and a complex that just seems to be perfect for the sport and holds a feeling of English pride.
The team of groundsmen at Wimbledon, led by Neil Stubley, always seems relaxed and in control. Each member of the team is informed and involved with the routine of the day, and they portray a level of confidence, professionalism and pride when you speak with them. They make the whole operation of hosting approximately 6,000 hours of play on natural grass seem simple.
I visited Istanbul, Turkey at the end of May for a partners meeting with the European Stadium and Safety Management Association (ESSMA). It was very nice to see the big yellow thing in the sky for the first time properly this year, but to also visit the Fenerbahce and Galatasaray stadiums and see those facilities and playing surfaces. The ESSMA group is involved in uniting stadiums, raising the standards and education of the members, and knowledge sharing, so this idea can only be right and needs to work for us all.
I was also fortunate to be invited, along with Hans de Kort, owner and director of Imants BV, to the U.S., where we met with Allen Johnson, fields manager for the Green Bay Packers. The facility is in fantastic condition and in an area where growing grass is difficult to say the least. Allen has invested in a Koro Field TopMaker that has been developed to assist in the renovation of Desso GrassMaster pitches.
Luke Dodge from Manchester City Football Club also visited Green Bay with me. Luke is touring the U.S. on holiday and was very interested in the Desso at Green Bay, as Manchester City will have Desso at the Etihad Stadium and at the new training center that is due to open next year.
Allen’s hospitality and standard of work at the Green Bay Packers’ facility were an enjoyment, and to see him in the pub in his clogs was hilarious.
Next stop was to see Steve Bush, of Bush Turf, who has prepared a pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals with his new Koro Field TopMaker for Chelsea FC to play my team, Manchester City. (City won 4-3!) Steve cleaned out very accurately the baseball diamond with the new Terraplane rotor, and then sod was laid in the diamond to enable the correct dimensions for the football (soccer) pitch, a time-lapse video of the job can be viewed online at: http://wapc.mlb.com/stl/play/?content_id=27758405&topic_id=stl.
The new agreement between the New York Yankees and Manchester City has created a great deal of confused excitement here in Europe, but having seen how the owners of Manchester City have developed the club in the U.K., I can only see it as a huge benefit to the MLS, with the introduction of The New York City Football Club in 2015.
We called in to Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, and John Nolan gave us the tour and explained the stadium’s high usage; the pitch was 50 percent covered in Terraplas ready for a concert.
We then traveled over to Maryland SoccerPlex to see Jerad Minnick and his band of merry and intrepid ground staff, who are not afraid to move forward with an aim toward progress. We used the Koro FTM with Universe Rotor to remove the bermudagrass thatch and organic buildup down to the rootzone, leaving just the growing point of the bermuda, which will then regrow and be back in play within 16 days. To me, Jerad’s work with bermuda is amazing, and the fact that we did three pitches shows a level of confidence and understanding that I can only admire. The results, as at FC Dallas, speak for themselves as a new, efficient warm-season management method.
Then on to North Carolina for more demonstrations and trials of the Koro and Imants renovation in the golf market. The Eagle Point and Landfall golf clubs welcomed us to show the Koro bermuda methods. The method was so accepted we put the Koro Universe rotor across one of the greens at Landfall.
Thank you to everyone in the U.S. that welcomed us or shared a beer or two with us!
Simon Gumbrill is sales director at Campey Turf Care Systems, U.K.