Surviving a major non-sports event

With proper preparation, your field can be in top shape to handle the stress of a major concert or other non-sports event. By working together, the entire staff of the facility will have developed a standard operating procedure (SOP) detailing the step-by-step procedures necessary to successfully staging the event. It all comes down to efficient and effective execution.

Covering the field

Begin covering the field in the evening when the sun is low and temperatures have dropped. This is more user-friendly for the turf and for the worker. Work through the night putting down the floor. Coordinate the timing with whomever is going to set up the chairs to have that crew come in six or seven hours after the floor installation begins. By doubling up the two procedures, you will reduce the total length of time the floor is on the field.

Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, hosted a Police concert. This view from the stands shows the stage in place, the cover down, chairs set up and the towers in place.

Cover only the field area that is going to be used. For an event that won’t take over the entire field, run a pathway of covering across the field to the and exit points with rope barriers running alongside it. Also, rope off the turf areas that are left uncovered to prevent foot traffic.

Schedule someone on the grounds staff to be on the field at all times during the build. If anyone is working on the installation, have a staff person on the field. Being visible reinforces the good working relationship the sports field manager has established with the event point person.

Consider the use of a portable SubAir system that could hook up to the field drainage system to pull air into the rootzone or push out air to help regulate the soil temperature.

Also, consider Bravo Mat as a cover for the warning track around the perimeter of a baseball field or over Enkamat as a temporary roadway across the field to be removed as soon as the equipment has finished traveling over it.

Multiple types of covering may be used in different areas for the same event.

Have enough Enkamat on hand to cover every place the stage touches the field. Use four layers of Enkamat, precut in 1-square-foot sections, and one piece of plywood under the stage where every jack leg meets the field. A large stage could have up to 300 legs. The protection provides 1/16 inch of air space for the growth of the plant. Ballast pads (called “deadmen”) are 8-square-foot concrete pads that could weigh up to 1,000 pounds. They are placed where the towers go and/or at the corners of the stage. Have four layers of precut Enkamat on hand to be placed beneath the deadmen.

Explore all the options in floor covering systems and understand the pros and cons of each. Some will have up to 2 inches of air space on the underside; others will have only .5 to .75 inch of air space underneath. Also, consider the length of time needed to put down and pick up the flooring material. Fields covered for only 24 hours may get by with less air space than fields covered for three to five days.

Be aware of temperatures during the period the field is covered. It gets hot beneath the flooring. With air temperatures of 75 degrees, temperatures at the surface of the flooring could range from 105 to 120 degrees, making temperature beneath the flooring 85 to 95 degrees. That would put the soil temperature at approximately 85 degrees. As the air temperature rises and more sunlight hits the flooring surface, the temperatures rise proportionally.

Tear down

On the day the event ends, schedule a full grounds staff to arrive on-site one hour prior to the end of the event. No matter what their official job description, everyone’s job will be to do whatever it takes to get things off the field.

Be sure to work closely with production on the timelines of the teardown. You can’t get ahead of them in the removal. The grounds staff can remove some flooring along the edges and in some sections of the field, but the production teardown team has to get all of the event materials off the field before most of the flooring is removed.

The crew at work. This view of the crane on the playing surface shows the padding set up for field protection.

Post teardown

The grass that has been beneath the floor covering for three or four days will be a bit chloratic and matted down. Resist the urge to brush it immediately. The leaf tissue at the sheath will be very loose. If you just brush your hand over it, you will see the leaf tissue slide out of the sheath.

Instead, within the first 24 hours following the removal of the flooring, if the surface of the field is quite compacted, use solid spikes or an AerWay-type aerator to go over the field at a depth of approximately .25 inch to relieve surface tension. Apply liquid or granular gypsum to help flush the salts through the soil profile and help build up the cell walls to assist the plant in standing up on its own. Put down more seed.

Start the irrigation process and let the field rest for the remainder of the day. A lot of fluids will have been consumed on the field, and some may have spilled on the flooring and seeped below it. Set up the irrigation system to water every couple of hours throughout the day.

This view from the stands shows the crane working on the stage. The crowd fills the stands and covers much of the field, with many gathering up by the stage for the Kenny Chesney concert at Lincoln Financial Field. This view from the stands shows the field after the stage has been removed. Note the turf around where the stage had been set that was under the protective covering.

Forty-eight hours after the flooring has been removed, run a sweeper lightly over the field to pick up any remaining trash. Have the crew walk the entire field, working shoulder-to-shoulder and moving back and forth across the surface, to remove any additional trash. Raise the mower height of cut .25 inch above the height of the last mowing before the field was covered. Put down more seed, and apply fungicide at the preventive half-rate to attack any disease organisms.

A close-up view of the dimpled grass after removal of the cover. Below, Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, hosted the Kenny Chesney concert under the able leadership of Tony Leonard and his crew. This shot shows the field during the post-concert period.

Three days after the flooring was removed, run a verticutter over the field to pull out any tissue that has died and sweep it up. Put down an organic fertilizer. The fungicides applied prior to covering the field tend to kill out any microbes and other beneficial organisms in the soil, so the organic fertilizer will stimulate that and get the soil chemistry working again.

Raise the mower height of cut by 1/8 inch every couple of days until the preferred turf height is reached.

Wait five to 10 days after the flooring was removed before applying another growth regulator if season-long use of a growth regulator is part of the maintenance program.

Hold a post-event review session to note what worked well and what might need adjusting for another similar event. Don’t forget to thank the grounds staff for all their extra effort.

Steve LeGros is a sports turf/field consultant with more than 22 years of experience. You can contact him at grsstains@yahoo.com