The grounds crew at Sports Authority Field at Mile High had their work cut out for them at the beginning of the NFL season this year. Mile High, home to the Denver Broncos, kicked off the NFL season with five consecutive weeks of sporting events, including two preseason games, the Colorado State/Colorado rivalry college football game, the NFL season opener and then hosting the Indianapolis Colts.
So what’s the secret to surviving this type of rigorous schedule? For Head Turf Manager Chris Hathaway, it’s all about the planning.
“The better you can plan ahead the better off you’ll be in the time crunch,” says Hathaway. “You can’t prepare for it all, but having a plan based on weather, events, paint or other work is the best thing. That’s what I try to strive for to plan as far in advance as I can.”
Typically, the crew at Mile High starts really getting in gear in the spring. A successful year starts with creating the best field possible in the spring because when things get going, it’s almost impossible to do major fixes in-between games.
Maintaining the field
When it comes to maintaining the natural grass field, a key factor is the Desso Grassmaster field stabilization system. The system strengthens and reinforces the Kentucky Bluegrass with millions of artificial fibers. As they grow, the natural grass become intertwined with the fibers resulting in a more stable field surface. For a look at how the process works, check out the video below.
Popular in European soccer fields, Sports Authority Field was the first professional stadium in North America to utilize this technology.
“Theres a lot more we do here than just football,” says Hathaway. “And that’s what leads me to my second biggest challenge: figuring out how to do all that and keep a safe, playable surface for whatever sport is on there, whether that’s a lacrosse game or a home Denver Broncos game.”
Mile High is also home to the Denver Outlaws, Denver’s very own Major League Lacrosse team. For reference, painting for a lacrosse game typically takes about an hour to complete, while painting for a Broncos game takes two days with a crew of almost ten.
Experience with STMA
Hathaway has been a member of the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) since 2006. While working at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the home field of the Colorado Rapids men’s professional soccer team, Hathaway was introduced to the STMA conference and became captivated.
“From (the first meeting) there I was hooked,” says Hathaway. “There was this great camaraderie between everybody. You could talk to anyone at any different place and they’d be willing to help you. So thats really what got me hooked and I’ve been a member ever since.”