How the SU Soccer Stadium grass is designed to outperform the elements

first_imgOptimal irrigation occurs between 2 and 7 a.m., said Guy Fipps, a professor in Texas A&M’s department of biological and agricultural engineering who specializes in irrigation technology, water quality and water management.Fipps said many systems he analyzes see three to four times the water amount applied than actually needed. He said fungi and dry spots occur because of improperly designed systems, where sprinkler heads are not properly spaced. The idea is to have head-to-head coverage, Fipps said, which creates overlap to improve field uniformity.The SU grounds crew now waters the field four times per week, at 20 minutes per zone. The water cycle varies depending on rainfall, with an increase over the last few weeks of September, when Syracuse experienced record-breaking heat. The dampness of the grass determines how the ball moves.“We want to play it faster, we want to move the ball side-to-side faster,” junior forward Hugo Delhommelle said. “If the grass is pretty dry, it’s not as fast as when the grass is wet.”Schools such as Syracuse stick to real grass rather than artificial surfaces, because, as Delhommelle and several other SU teammates said blankly, playing on grass is “more natural.” Turf increases the rate of injury, Fipps said, and it produces higher bounces. Other schools invest in turf because it’s generally easier to maintain. Irrigation alone costs between $5,000 and $10,000 per year.“I just think the ball moves better,” Syracuse junior forward Adnan Bakalovic said. “It’s just a sport that plays on grass. You see pro teams overseas play on grass. More MLS teams are going to grass as well. I just think it’s a part of the game to play on grass.”Josh Shub-Seltzer | Staff PhotographerIt hasn’t always been a part of the game for every Syracuse player. Bakalovic, a Utica native, played mainly on artificial turf while with the Empire Revolution Academy. Junior defender Kamal Miller grew up further north in Ontario, Canada. There, Miller never played on grass.He remembers grass being seen as a commodity. His club team, Vaughan FC, made the League One finals two years in a row. Both finals games were hosted in BMO Field, a grass surface where Toronto FC plays its MLS matches.Now, Miller plays on grass every day. The climate in Syracuse isn’t much different from that of Ontario, but the grounds crew is more precise. After the game, Buffum and the crew do their rounds and replace the divots. A water cycle is laid down and the process repeats. One trim per day and twice on gameday.Sometimes, though, Miller can’t resist a third cut.“There’s been times when I mow it one way and then the other and I just have to mow it want one more way because you want that perfectly cut nap,” he said. “It gets obsessive.” Comments Published on October 2, 2017 at 10:06 pm Contact Matthew: mguti100@syr.edu | @MatthewGut21 Facebook Twitter Google+center_img A three-pronged, hand-held pitchfork dug deep into the pitch. Dave Buffum picked up the divot then reached into a white bucket. Using a metal shovel, he sprinkled top dressing into the wounded area before pressing the grass down. While Syracuse and Cornell broke for halftime last month, around 8 p.m., Buffum continued his long day of work, which begins daily at 10:30 a.m.Buffum leads a four-person crew at SU, where two members work each soccer game. But on that night, he had extra help. There was a youth soccer game during halftime. Baldwinsville and Oswego grade school students herded around one ball, unknowingly assisting Buffum’s crew. The young players stomped, patching up the injured areas the grounds crew couldn’t reach. It was a resurfacing of sorts.“It’s important to get the divots right back in so they can bite back in,” Jim Miller, the manager of grounds at Syracuse, said. “That’s one of the key components giving the field good longevity over the season.”Buffum’s attention to detail underscores the importance of maintaining a lush playing surface for the Syracuse men’s and women’s soccer teams. He works year-round to ensure the field recovers from any kind of high traffic or stress, like Division I athletes ripping it up for 90 minutes a night. They also want to prove the sod is drought and snow tolerant. In a calendar year, Syracuse’s grounds crews dump around 30 tons of sand and spray roughly 100,000 gallons of water to ensure vigor.Thanks to the intense care, Syracuse plays on an all-natural surface like 10 of its 11 conference opponents.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThis season, the hurdle was 80- and 90-degree days in September, when there were 12 games at SU Soccer Stadium. Last year, it was a drought. By the playoffs, it may be snow flurries. SU moved an NCAA Tournament game to Onondaga Community College due to snow last year. Regardless, keeping the playing surface on the campus of one of the snowiest colleges in the U.S. in a season as unpredictable as fall isn’t easy.“What you don’t hope for is snow,” Miller quipped.Andy Mendes | Digital Design EditorBased on 30-year averages, September is the third-rainiest month in Syracuse at 3.68 inches. Brian Donegan, a meteorologist at Weather.com, said it didn’t rain enough to replenish the water in the soil in 2016. This year, record heat and humidity brought new challenges.Three weeks ago, a period of humidity prompted pythium, a destructive parasite that can “wipe out a field in three days.” To monitor the performance and the playing quality, an SU grounds crew member walks the entirety of the field about four times per week. Patches can produce irregular bounces.“You ask any young man or young woman — they’d play on good grass (instead of artificial turf),” Syracuse head coach Ian McIntyre said. “It can be a better surface of which to move the ball around. It’s easier and better on the body.”Since the SU men’s and women’s soccer teams began this season in late August, temperatures have been erratic. By mid-season, temps can drop to about 50 degrees, which slows down the growth and recuperating ability of the grass. The slowdown can force managers to properly overseed or overwater to ensure extra strength.SU focuses on keeping an extensive root system, which digs deeper into the soil, helping in drought situations such as 2016. To care for the grass, field managers use Signature Blend fertilizer. In the spring the fertilizer contains a pre-emergent to prevent weed germination. In the fall, the fertilizer is a mix of nitrogen in potassium with a higher percentage of iron, keeping the grass green without pushing too much growth.They mow the 225 by 360-foot field twice on game day, going opposite directions each time to create the signature grid on the pitch, and once every other day with a 72-inch wide reel mower. To produce designs on the field, the grounds crew uses push brooms to dictate which way the grass lays. By putting the grass blades in opposition, the crew created a design featuring a block “S” for the Louisville game in mid-September.last_img

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