How do Major League Baseball fields, the tennis courts at Wimbledon, Nation Football League Fields, and Major League Soccer Fields look so great? Time and Money. This blog is more of an interesting and entertaining FYI blog more than DIY principles. That isn’t saying that nothing from these lawn care freaks of nature is applicable to you, it is just saying that it is not written for that purpose. The grass is greenest when it gets water and fertilizer.
Most professional athletic fields have a full-time staff of 4-7 employees. For games/events there can be anywhere from 8-20 part time employees on the “grounds crew”. This means there is a lot of TLC when it comes to caring for the turf. Having this many eyes, ears, and hands around helps to eliminate a problem as soon as it begins to be manifest. Irrigation dry spots, fungi problems, or insects aren’t a thing when man power, chemicals, hoses, or new fresh turf are stored closed by. Water absorption is observed on an hour by hour or even minute by minute basis with adjustments being made as needed.
Only the highest quality of commercial grade mowers are used. There is a not a one size fits all piece of equipment. Both rotary and reel mowers are used as well as ride on machines and standard push mowers. When it comes to the large grass areas reel mowers are predominantly used as they provide the cleanest cut and best striping. Hand equipment is the puzzle piece that surprises most people. Elbow grease with hand tools is what makes a lot of stadium grass really pop!
Spoon Feed Fertilizers
Professional fields are not on a 4-step fertilizer program. They receive small doses of fertilizers, as well as other chemicals such as growth regulators, micro nutrients, and soil conditioners on a frequent basis. Seed is also used to fill any damaged or stressed areas. Soil testing is done frequently and any adjustments or lacking nutrients are added accordingly.
Mowing Length aka Height of Cut (HOC)
Grass type varies based on type of sport and climate/location of the stadium. Certain grass types have different height of cut requirements. For athletic fields in northern, cooler climates, bluegrass and fescue grass is often used. Genetically, most of it isn’t that much different that what is used in standard home lawn grass. While most residential lawns have a HOC of 2.5”-4”, MLB fields are often kept at 1” or less. Coors Field in Denver, Colorado is Kentucky Bluegrass and is kept at 7/8”. Fenway Park in Boston has Bluegrass and is cut at 1.25”. Dodger Stadium in LA has Bermuda grass and is cut at 9/16”. Wimbledon grass courts are mowed at .32” for playing. Many NFL teams, even in the north, have heating installed below the turf to allow for warm season species to be used, or for cool season varieties to remain green and actively growing even in the middle of winter.
**Some baseball teams will actually alter their HOC depending on the opposing team to try and gain an advantage!
During the growing season, most professional athletic fields are mowed daily. Baseball infields are mowed twice a day on game days. During extended absences of the team or events grass is still mowed once a day with disregard to patterns to “give the grass a break”. In special circumstances the lawn mowing schedule might be adjusted but daily is the average.
Stripes and Checkerboards
Grass appears to be “striped” due to one swath of grass leaning away from the viewer and the next swath leaning toward the viewer. The grass is NOT mowed at different lengths. It is not “cutting” the grass that makes the stripes, but rather rollers that lay the grass down. There can be rollers on a mower, a machine that only rolls, handheld rollers, or the newest technology is a machine that uses bursts of air pressure to lean grass. Stripes are done with a “back and forth” pattern of rolling the grass. Checkerboards are made by striping twice, in opposing directions.
With professional fields, watering is not on a “set it and forget it” type program. Variables such as temperature, wind, humidity, game day or not all factor in to the watering plan. Often, grounds keepers arrive as early as 2am to shut of sprinklers or make adjustments so that the playing surface is ready for the game or event.
Full-fledged image designs are the latest in field decoration. A new company has built a machine that is similar in size to a large ride on mower that uses burst of air to “AirPrint” an image in the turf similar to how a computer printer works. This technology is new enough that the machines are currently not for sale, but the builder of the machine sells the service of putting the image on the grass. Pricing isn’t listed on the website.
Many northern professional athletic fields, especially NFL, have complex underground drainage and heating systems. This allows for any rains or excess water to drain and be a non-issue, and for grass to be kept green during the winter because the soil never freezes or gets too cold. If you want to mow year-round and have more money than you know what to do with, then maybe this is for you!
In summary, if you want your home yard to look like a baseball infield, you’ll need to water four times a day and mow twice a day as well as fertilize every few days. If you are okay to have just the best grass in town, then Everything Exterior can help you out!