The Browns practice facility, where we got to listen to three awesome speakers.
Photo: Joelle Harms
As a newcomer to the wonderful world of athletic turf — or any turf, really — it was quite an adventure attending my first turf event this week, the Ohio Sports Turf Managers Association’s (STMA’s) annual Summer Field Day.
Let me start off by explaining that I am a college student majoring in journalism and working as Athletic Turf’s digital media intern this summer. This is now my second week on the job and my first time attending a turf event; therefore, I had no prior knowledge about turf specifics.
Because this year’s Field Day event was held in Cleveland, I had the opportunity to spend June 24 touring the Cleveland Browns’ practice facility in Berea, Ohio, and First Energy Stadium downtown. Not bad for my second week as an intern.
The day started out with a drive to the practice facility where we listened to three speakers discuss various topics related to turfgrass. What I thought was going to be a lengthy talk about how to maintain football fields and what kind of grass is best for different climates actually turned out to be an extremely informative lecture series, which I surprisingly learned a lot from.
Thanks to the first speaker, Joe Rimelspach, who is the program specialist at Ohio State University’s department of plant pathology, I learned about various turfgrass diseases and how to treat them. Who knew that gray leaf spot is a disease that commonly affects various types of ryegrass and is often undetected because it mimics grass dying from lack of water? Probably a fair amount of people in the room knew this already, but as a college student studying journalism, I had no clue.
First Energy Stadium welcomed the sports turf managers (and myself).
Photo: Jackie Petre
The next speaker was Beth Guertal, alumni professor at Auburn University’s college of agriculture. Guertal taught us about the importance of proper aeration of soil and capillary movement of water through soil layers, among other things. She made me realize there is so much more to this industry than just planting grass and maintaining athletic fields. So thank you, Beth Guertal, for teaching me how much hard work all the sports turf managers out there do.
The last speaker was Chris Ecton, sports turf manager for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ecton had some pretty interesting stories about how he keeps the stadium field up to NFL standards after other events use the turf for concerts, soccer games and even movie sets. Fun fact: the scene in The Dark Knight Rises where the Gotham City football stadium is blown up was filmed at Heinz Stadium and Ecton had a hand in prepping the turf before and after the fake explosions.
After the speakers wrapped up, we took a lunch break on the outdoor practice field and were able to walk around on it. We toured the equipment shed and got an inside look at the tractors, mowers and other equipment that keep the Browns’ practice field in the pristine condition it was in. Then, we headed to the buses for the event everyone had been eagerly awaiting — the tour of First Energy Stadium.
I learned a lot from this year’s Field Day event. Thanks STMA!
Photo: Joelle Harms
Walking onto a football field used by the Cleveland Browns, and other NFL teams, since I’m not a Browns fan, was quite an exhilarating moment. It was cool to get an opportunity like this that most people only dream about. While at the stadium, we got a tour of the field equipment room, learned about the methodical heating system under the field, stopped in the media room and got an exclusive tour of the Browns locker room. I will say that the locker room was about to be renovated, so it was not as glamorous as one might think, but it was still pretty neat to see. Finally, the day ended with a Q&A session on the field before we headed back to the practice facility to go home.
All in all, the Ohio STMA Field Day was an enlightening and engaging experience, which I’m glad I was able to attend. I may not be a Cleveland Browns fan (go Broncos!), but I can say that I am now a fan of all you sports turf managers out there and the hard work you do.
Thank you for teaching me a little bit about the importance of proper turf management. I think it’s safe to say that after the Field Day event, this 21-year-old journalist is now the head turf expert of her family.