Football Field Information Requested

Discussion in 'Sports Field Management' started by SGAA-BR, Oct 20, 2009.

  1. SGAA-BR

    SGAA-BR LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    I am located in Baton Rouge Louisiana. I am the president of our Athletic Association. We coordinate with our school's facilities management staff regarding our elementary and middle (junior) school football field.

    Here is my situation:


    Our field has had no significant maintenance in over 15 years. I consider "significant" aeration, re-crowning, top dressing, etc. The last systematic program of fertilizing and seeding was 5-6 years ago.

    When I was elected/railroaded/sentence to be president on July 1, I started to formulate a maintenance plan for our field. We stated in July with aeration (vertical and horizontal), seeding (double seeding the middle of the field), and fertilizer. We are fortunate to have an irrigation system in place.

    Regardless, our field needs significant help. We have wear patterns in the areas of the field used the most, which channel water to certain areas of the field (usually the end zone corners). A mini-drought in August and September along with excess football practice ripped up some of our new grass (I am slowly working with the coaches to get them to use other areas). Then we had a good 14-20 days of near daily moisture.

    This weekend, we had our first home game. As you can imagine, I have plenty of worn areas, including rutts. Our maintenance staff cut the field today and added to our problems rutts from the lawn mowing equipment.

    It is cool and dry now. Rain expected on Wednesday evening and Thursday. I have a company coming in with 20+ yards of sand and a crew to start filling in the rutts. As of this afternoon, the field is still spongy, where you can feel yourself sink when walking in the moist areas.

    Now, my question:

    Should I consider getting a lawn roller on the field to smooth out the rutts? If so, how big and heavy would people recommend?

    Thank you in advance for any assistance.

  2. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Hey Jeff
    thanks for the post and welcome to the forum, there are folks from all over the nation that will try to help

    Just remember they are from all over the nation and may have very different playing surfaces and conditions than you do

    The folks up north have already completed their season, you probaly have close to a 10 or 11 month season, so advice can be well meaning but from a totally different perspective, just keep that in mind

    Tell us what the base of the field is, Clay, Sand, Loam basically. We do not need a 7 page report just what you see
    From your description it sounds like clay

    Are there golf courses, local government or other sports turf venues locally that may loan equipment for the day? because it is "for the kids" afterall

    What is the current turf? Bermuda, Centipede, fescue or St Augustine?

    BTW you should look to attend the STMA show in Orlando in January 2010
  3. SGAA-BR

    SGAA-BR LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2


    Thank you for your reply and welcome. I am a novice at this stuff, being "elected" as president because I usually get things done. I am slowly making a library of articles and university studies as well as trade/industry website pdf's. There is much to learn.

    I am not sure of the soil type. Much of south east Louisiana is a clay base, due to the Mississippi and other rivers changing course many times. I can take a hand full of this soil and squeeze it in my fingers. The soil will sorta ooze out of my fist. It will stick to my FootJoy running shoes, in the soles. When it dries on my shoes, it sticks. I figure it has a heavy clay base.

    The current turf is a mixture of mostly grass and some weeds. In July, we seeded the field (broadcast) with 100 pounds of John Deere Sunstar Bermuda and followed up with fertilizer. In many places, the Bermuda has taken over. In others, the original grass dominates. (We plan to aerate at the end of November and April. Then Plan A says we re-crown the field in May/June, aerate again, seed and fertilize. Plan B is plan A without the crown but with a heavy top dressing.

    We have access to equipment. I have the maintenance team's lawn equipment. We have a John Deere equipment rep on our Association as well as other sources of equipment. We have a "generous" budget. I can cut corners here and there to find funding.

    My primary goal is the safest playing field I can get for my dollar. I have coaches and some parents raising concerns about the football rutting. After today with the lawn equipment, I have more people inquiring.

    Here is a recent picture of the present condition of our field:

  4. turfpro69

    turfpro69 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 6

    I would start with taking a soil sample and have it tested, this will let you know where to start with fertilizer. I would also contact your local seed/ fertilizer rep, Lesco and some of the other suppliers like them can be of great help and may have a wealth of local knowledge for you to tap into. Be prepared for some work, and it will take some time to get where you want it, but the results when you get to see them are so much worth it.
  5. foreplease

    foreplease LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,062

    Welcome aboard SGAA-BR. You have a tough job ahead of you. To answer your question: a big roller might help you out very short term but it will not solve your problems.

    What age group kids use this field and who owns it? A school, township, private association?

    I think I would start by making a list (for my own use) of things and people I have on my side and a list of people and things that will probably not help me or possibly even make things worse. Once you have a clear picture of that you can make a realistic guess of either your chances of success or what needs to change to improve the odds.

    On one end of the scale is a field you take care of constantly but let nobody use. Obviously, that won’t fly. On the other end of the spectrum, you have a field that is used constantly but never taken care of. That has been tried and doesn’t work either.

    A chef and author I like, Anthony Bourdain, said in Kitchen Confidential:
    “ ‘We’re in a lifeboat...’ begins one of my standard inspirationals to new sous chefs. ‘We’re four days out to sea, with no rescue in sight. There are two Snickers bars and a tiny hunk of salt pork left in our stores, and that fat bastard by the stern is getting crazier with every hour, becoming more and more irrational and demanding, giving that Snickers bar long lingering looks – even though he is too weak to help with the rowing or the bailing any more. He presents a clear and present danger to the rest of us, what with his leering at the food and his recently acquired conviction that we’re plotting against him. What do we do?’

    We kick fat boy over the side, I say. Maybe we even carve a nice chunk of rumpsteak off his though before letting him go. Is that wrong?’ “​
    It is good that you included a picture. Keep taking pictures of problems, efforts to resolve them, and results. I would plot this all out on a huge calendar. You can make good ones with the templates in Word. Highlight all the continuous days the field has off in your longest down periods. If there aren’t any, you can stop writing.

    The field absolutely has to have down time to make repairs. In season it always seems like all you are doing or have time to do is get ready for the next game, but you need a year round plan and realistic schedule for pulling it off.

    Your soil sounds terrible. That makes surface drainage much more important. All the wear areas, the pockets where water can collect, have to be fixed. The field has to shed any water it collects. Once you have ensured that water runs off the field, given your heavy soil, it has to have a way out, probably by means of installing a drain tile, backfilling with stone, and taking it to a storm sewer or low area far from the field. No water from an area outside the field should be allowed to run onto it. It looks like you have such a problem on the right hand side of your photo. For that side of your field, every time it rains it is as if it rained there twice. Think of that area at the bottom of that hill as a valley in a roof. Construct something to collect the field and hill water together and move it off site. Doing this in adequate size gives you a place to take any drains you may install on the field itself in the future.

    An agreement to cooperate has to be reached with all coaches right away. Practicing football on a game field is a foolish extravagance.

    When the field is “still spongy, where you can feel yourself sink in when walking in the moist areas,” do not allow any traffic on the field. Somebody has to have the authority to close the field – I’m nominating you – or this won’t work. Forget about relying on coaches and parents to use common sense. They will wreck it, then complain that it is in bad shape. You have to push safety for the players and damage to the field. Sometimes you have to upset some people.

    The maintenance staff should not add to the field’s problems – especially by mowing. Every once in a while there may be more grass clippings left on the field than you would like, but you should never see the kind of tracking they left. Frequent proper mowing is the number one thing you can do for your field. They need to do a better job and learn when they should and should not take equipment on it.

    On the plus side, you said you have a good budget and the John Deere equipment connection. Until you can correct the surface drainage problem, consider calling in someone to deep core aerate the field. There is another thread I started in this forum about deep tine aeration. Look through that to get an idea of what I am taking about, but know that I am speaking of a different type of tine than shown in those pictures. I mean a machine that will remove plugs approximately 8” deep and leave them on the surface. This will create a lot of capacity for water below the surface of your field. Also, there will be a lot of soil left on the surface that can be dragged over and over on the field that will settle into divots and low areas.

    Good luck and keep posting.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2009

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