How Rio Tinto keeps its pitch at its peak

August 21, 2015  - By


Craigslist horror stories have made headlines, and even storylines, but to Dan Farnes, the classifieds website was anything but a horror. It was a blessing.

Farnes, director of fields and grounds at Rio Tinto Stadium, home to the Major League Soccer team Real Salt Lake, first landed his job at the stadium by answering to a Craigslist ad.

He definitely didn’t make it on the 25 of the Worst Craigslist Encounters list, and it certainly wasn’t one of The Craziest Craigslist Ads Of All Time: Vol II.

Not only did the position at Rio Tinto bring him into the sports turf industry for the first time, but it also kept him close to home. Rio Tinto Stadium is located in Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City, which also happens to be about 15 miles from his hometown, Bountiful City.

Farnes has a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University in parks and recreation and in horticulture, and has held jobs at the parks departments in both Bountiful City and St. George, Utah, before joining the Rio Tinto team.

“I worked in a park department for a little bit, and then I saw this position open in a Craigslist ad and decided to move back to Salt Lake,” Farnes says. “Sports turf is more of what I wanted to do.”

Farnes, a four-year member of the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA), was given the director position last season — a short four or five years after working on the grounds crew.

“Being a part of the STMA has really helped [our staff] out a lot with coming in contact with other turf professionals,” Farnes says. “All of our crew are members. There are a total of four full-time guys that work at the stadium. They’ve been really great this year.”

Rio Tinto is a busy stadium. The amount of traffic it sees has doubled just this year, and it will continue along that track for years going forward. Part of that increase is due to Real Salt Lake’s United Soccer League affiliate club, the Real Monarchs SLC, now playing games at the stadium.

But that’s not the only traffic the turf has seen, or will see, this year.

“Real [Monarchs] used to have only maybe two or three max home games a month, so we have had a lot more time for the field to recover, but now we have an event every week — sometimes two a week,” Farnes says. “It’s made it challenging for the recovery time for the turf.”

Four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup matches were played at Rio Tinto, though Real Salt Lake lost to Sporting Kansas City in the semifinals on Aug. 12.

There also will be four Olympic qualifier games played at the Stadium in October as well as CONCACAF Champions League games on Sept. 24 and Oct. 20.

How does a field manager manage twice the amount of traffic? Farnes says his crew, coaches and players, equipment and management contribute to the success of the field.

“We are still keeping on top of it, but it’s definitely been a challenge.” he says. “The teams have been really good about rotating practices and staying out of the goal boxes. Even the coaching staff has been really supportive and helpful.”

Rio Tinto’s SubAir Sport system aids in the success of the field. The system, which vacuums puddles and heats up the turf, was installed when the stadium was first built in 2008. Although it still has its original turf, the stadium is set to install a new field in 2016.

With less time between events Farnes has been unable to aerate, so he purchased an Imants Shockwave to relieve compaction, which he says management approved with no hesitation.

“Management has been really great,” Farnes says. “The owner bought us that new Shockwave machine after it was proposed to him, no questions asked. It’s great. I love my job.”

Photo: Dan Farnes

Joelle Harms

About the Author:

Harms is the Digital Media Content Producer for North Coast Media. She completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Creative Writing Specialization from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Harms specifically creates content for NCM’s Golfdom, GPS World, Geospatial Solutions and Athletic Turf digital properties including eNewsletters, social media and websites. She can be reached at

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