PGMA Winner: University of Richmond Stadium

The University of Richmond Stadium (Richmond, Va.), formerly City Stadium, has been the site of sporting events since 1929. In 1983, the University of Richmond initiated a leasing agreement with the City of Richmond to procure full responsibility for the management and maintenance of the 22,000-seat, 22.5-acre complex. In that same year, the university completely renovated the stadium, including the installation of a new artificial surface. A decade later, in 1993, the university replaced the surface with a natural-grass, sand-based field.

The complex is home to the University of Richmond football team (Division I-AA), the Richmond Kickers (a League-A professional soccer team) and the NCAA Division-I Men's Soccer National Championship (1995 to 1998). Over the past 4 years, the complex has been host to the Virginia high-school-football state playoffs, a University of Virginia spring football game, World Cup Soccer (United States vs. Trinidad & Tobago) and Olympic soccer exhibition games involving the United States, Italy and South Africa. In 1996 alone, 5 football and 27 soccer games took place on the field between March and December.

Due to the popularity of the stadium and the high demand for televised games, in the summer of 1995, the stadium contracted to install new lights.

As the assistant director of university facilities, landscape services, I am responsible for all the general maintenance of the field, grounds and minor building maintenance. I have the assistance of additional crew members as needed for field preparations, events and projects.

Turf selection and care We designed the Vamont bermudagrass field to stand up to the demands of football and soccer. The soccer field measures 75 by 115 yards to accommodate World Cup and Olympic events.

Vamont bermudagrass, a variety with good cold tolerance, spreads both by stolons and rhizomes and provides firm footing (even when dormant) and wear tolerance for the University of Richmond's football team. Despite frequent applications of liquid iron, the turf maintains a lime-green color.

Against the Vamont bermudagrass' bright green, the overseeded Manhattan II perennial ryegrass provides a dark green color, which beautifully highlights mowing patterns. We first overseed the field in late August or early September, depending on the date of the first game, and perform additional overseeding through November as needed.

The Manhattan II provides excellent color through winter and into the heat of summer. It is necessary to chemically remove the Manhattan II for the Vamont bermudagrass to achieve 100-percent coverage by mid-summer.

Most wear and damage to the turf occurs during games. We also have found that practices can result in concentrated wear where the team repeats drills over again in the same spot.

The playability and appearance of any turf depends on its root system. We gear our turf management at the University of Richmond Stadium first and foremost to developing a strong root system. We will sacrifice short-term aesthetics to achieve long-term gains in overall turf quality. The growing profile consists of 3 inches of pea gravel overlaid by 10 inches of sand. We incorporated peat into the top 5 inches to achieve a 90-percent sand and 10-percent peat mixture. Our turf technician topdresses the sand-based field with sand that has the same specifications as the sand used in the field's construction. The technician applies the topdressing after standard aeration to fill holes and smooth the surface. In 1995, we deep-core aerated the field to an average depth of 8 inches and dragged it. The large volume of sand that we pulled up eliminated the need for topdressing.

The NCAA Division-I Men's Soccer National Championship semi-final games experienced poor weather conditions in both 1995 and 1996. Snow and rain the day before the games in 1995 and rain the day of the games in 1996 tested the drainage and playability of the sand-based field. However, both years the field received high marks by the top four collegiate soccer teams.

While the stadium holds more than 22,000 seats, the most popular viewing area is on the grassy slope in front of the scoreboard. We put considerable time and effort into keeping turf on the slope year-round. We find it is easier to keep the grass on the field than the slope. After the football season is over, most of the ryegrass is gone, but the dormant common bermudagrass survives.

The bank behind the west stands is 900 feet long and 14 feet wide. A ground cover is necessary to prevent soil from washing into the stands. The use of woody material is not possible due to children and occasional adults running and walking in this area despite the rail. Shrubbery or groundcover also would make trash removal difficult and provide a possible habitat for rodents. Therefore, we maintain this area with weed-free common bermudagrass and treat it with a growth regulator.

Special care and maintenance While we do not use flowers extensively in the stadium, it is important to provide splashes of color to humanize the vast expanses of concrete, steel and asphalt that can dominate any sports complex. To achieve this, we plant colorful varieties, such as yellow pansies and daffodils, to create a break between the picnic area and service area to the locker rooms and concessions. The few beds that do exist around the stadium are well maintained for the pleasure of visitors and employees. The turf technician enjoys the responsibility of planting perennial borders and flower beds, as it offers him a change from turf and general maintenance.

In the VIP picnic area, we seed with Manhattan II perennial ryegrass, which requires year-round maintenance in this area. In the fall and through the spring, a mowing height of 1 to 1.5 inches provides an excellent surface for both casual and dress shoes. The turf technician is in charge of pruning the shade trees once a year and maintaining the picnic tables.

Along with the routine maintenance and upkeep of the field, the crew must schedule time for striping and numbering the field for football, a task that requires about 6 hours for a crew of five. Usually the athletic-field gardener paints the yard numbers while two other campus groundskeepers move the templates. Multi-color logos typically take 2 days to complete due to the drying time required between color applications. In the event that it rains during an application, we cover the logo with small tents. On occasion, the turf technician has used a backpack blower to remove water from the grass so the crew could continue painting.

One other important task associated with football and soccer games exists--trash removal. Completing this not-so-enjoyable task is a joint effort by the landscape department and housekeeping services. Landscape cleans the parking lots--a challenge due to the popularity of tailgate parties--then both departments join forces to clean inside the stadium. They pick up all paper litter from the grounds prior to when the crews leave on Saturday. On Monday, the turf technician and temporary help blow out the stands to remove all small litter and do a detailed cleaning of the entire complex. We charge any required overtime to the event, not to our operating budget.

Unfortunately, trash removal is not the only maintenance the parking lots require. We use 3 acres of turf for parking for which we had to install drainage tile to allow for year-round parking. We also have 9.5 acres of gravel parking lots, which require grading and weed control.

We achieve a real sense of satisfaction and pride from maintaining a facility that draws attention, ignites excitement, entertains spectators and encourages young athletes. And while I may enjoy watching the soccer played at University of Richmond Stadium, I enjoy even more satisfaction when viewing the stadium's turf from the top of the press box on a beautiful afternoon.

Stephen B. Glass is the assistant director of University Facilities, Landscape Services, at the University of Richmond (Richmond, Va.). He has maintained the site for the past 13 years.

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