Editor’s Note: The Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) Conference & Exhibition took place Jan. 19-23 in San Diego, California. We were there for most of it — below are some highlights of the event, as seen by Editor in Chief Robert Meyer. Be sure to check out our March issue for even more STMA Conference & Exhibition coverage.
SEMINAR ON WHEELS TOUR A HIT WITH ATTENDEES
The educational value of of the 2016 STMA Conference & Exhibition extended much further than just the walls of the San Diego Convention Center.
On Tuesday, Jan. 19, a large group of attendees took in the first of two Seminar on Wheels Tours, sponsored by Bush Turf and GreenOne Industries. Stops on the 10-hour tour included:
- So Cal Sports Complex: A new, 100-acre complex in its first full year of play that features 23 full-size soccer fields.
- Del Mar Race Track: The iconic horse racing facility that opened in 1937.
- San Diego Jewish Academy: This private, prestigious, independent day school features a multi-use, sand-based field that hosts football, soccer and baseball.
- Petco Park (pictured at right): The home of MLB’s San Diego Padres also hosts numerous non-sporting events.
The second, shorter Seminar on Wheels Tour took place Friday, Jan. 22 and included visits to Qualcomm Stadium (home of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers) and several athletic fields at San Diego State University.
Attendees learned about the challenges each facility faces on a daily basis and received a behind-the-scenes look.
“The Seminar on Wheels Tour is always a highlight of the conference for me,” said tour-goer Ben Polimer, fields and grounds coordinator for the town of Weston, Massachusetts. “We visited some great sites, especially the Del Mar Race Track. It’s not every day that you visit a turf race track and get to see the unique way they manage turfgrass.”
Among other highlights included Petco Park not exactly looking like a baseball field when the tour arrived, as Polimer pointed out.
“It seems every year when we visit professional ballparks, they’re having non-sports events,” he said. “This year was no different when visiting Petco Park. They were shaping dirt mounds for a motocross event later in the week.”
Polimer highly recommends signing up for the tour each year.
“I’ve been going on these tours for almost 10 years, and always enjoy it,” he said. “It’s also a great time to network with others during the bus ride.”
LOOKING BACK AND LOOKING FORWARD
One of the highlights, as far as educational sessions, was “Sports Turf Management: Past, Present, and Future,” presented by Bob Campbell, CSFM, the former head groundskeeper at the University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium.
Campbell, in his unique, engaging and entertaining way, looked back at people, innovations and events that helped shaped and mold the industry to what it is today. He also discussed opportunities and obligations field managers have to be “builders of dreams and memories.”
“Our business is a fun business,” Campbell reminded the audience. “People come to where we work every day to have fun. We need to remember that.”
Campbell also spoke about recent industry trends, like the increasing movement to synthetic turf.
“Regardless of what kind of surface you manage, our profession is changing,” he said.
Campbell, a past STMA president, industry icon and longtime fixture on the sidelines at Volunteer football games, reported that he’s enjoying his retirement in Alabama. He spends all the time he can with his grandson, Jack.
He closed his presentation with a picture of himself and Jack walking, together, on a ballfield. “This is the closest I get to sports fields nowadays!” he said.
EXPERTS MEET FOR ‘SPORTS TURF TALK’ PANEL DISCUSSION
Several critical and topical industry subjects were tackled in the ‘Sports Turf Talk’ panel discussion, sponsored by Intelligro, which took place Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Panel members included Dr. John Sorochan, of the University of Tennessee; Patrick Coakley, CSFM, sports turf superintendent at Ripken Baseball; Dr. John Cisar, independent researcher; Nick Gialloreto, territory manager with Walker Supply; and K.C. Bell, assistant supervisor of athletic grounds at Clemson University. The panel was moderated by SportsField Management’s Robert Meyer
Among the topics discussed was safety on athletic fields, the increasing expectations of sports turf managers, how to handle overuse on fields, ways to succeed in a changing market, making the best case for resources and financial support from management, building relationships, and environmental issues affecting sports fields.
One of the questions of note asked to Bell was in regard to working perhaps under increased scrutiny moving forward, as Clemson University recently found itself in the national spotlight after playing in the College Football Championship game — in other words, more eyes are expected to be on the Tigers and their football facilities as they will surely have more national television appearances next season.
“The less the media is talking about us the better we are doing,” Bell said of the grounds crew and of the playing surface at Memorial Stadium.
One insight that was shared by all the panelists was the importance of sports turf managers continuing their education in any way possible, in order to “stay ahead of the curve” as the industry surges into the future. This includes attending conferences, working with local colleges that have turf programs and staying current on new products that come into the market.
“We are the directors of first impressions.” — Jeff Salmond, 2016 STMA president and athletic field manager at the University of Oklahoma.
“Sports turf managers should be viewed as professionals, even as part of the medical staff to keep players safe.” — Dr. Richard Kent, of the University of Virginia, speaking to attendees during his presentation about athletic shoe and playing surface interaction with regards to reducing injuries.
EVENT FACTS AND FIGURES
- The 27th annual STMA Conference & Exhibition featured over 600 exhibitors and 1,200 attendees from a record 13 countries, including Australia, China, Italy, Peru and Scotland, as well as 48 U.S. states.
- SAFE, the association’s charitable foundation, raised more than $27,000 during the event through its Jan. 19 golf tournament, bowling night and silent and live auctions throughout the week. Proceeds benefit educational programs, scholarships and grants with the goal of enriching communities through safe, sustainable sports and recreation fields for all athletes.
- Timothy Gay, Ph.D., a physics and astronomy professor at the University of Nebraska, provided a keynote address to attendees. He discussed the intricacies of sports turf impacts and the role it plays in the current debate regarding concussions.
- STMA held its awards banquet on Jan. 22 to recognize Field of the Year winners. It also bestowed Founders Awards to four members, including:
- Dick Ericson Award: Michael Buras, CSFM | Longwood Cricket Club
- George Toma Award: Ben Polimer | Town of Weston (Massachusetts)
- William H. Daniel Award: Mary Owen | University of Massachusetts, Amherst
- Harry C. Gill Award: Michael Goatley | Virginia Tech
- The Student Challenge Cup had participation from 32 teams, culminating in more than 120 scholars from across the country. These students represented both two and four-year colleges from 20 states.