The University of St. Thomas’ North Athletic Field and Koch Diamond were recognized as the Minnesota Park and Sports Turf Managers Association (MPSTMA) 2015 Field of the Year, a press release reports.
The annual award, sponsored by Turfco Manufacturing, recognizes a Minnesota athletic facility for outstanding maintenance, aesthetics and overall playing conditions.
“It’s pretty busy from when the snow’s gone to when the snow flies,” says Roger Weinbrenner, certified sports field manager and turf technician for the Tommies’ athletic facilities, who accepted the award.
Weinbrenner has cared for the majority of the college’s three athletic fields, which have a mix of synthetic and natural turf, throughout the last 15 years, with occasional help from groundskeepers or students. He submitted an application for the award to highlight the variety of the events held at the collegiate field alongside varsity sports.
“To finally get a submission in to win the award is definitely a great honor,” Weinbrenner says. “I appreciate greatly what Turfco has done with supporting this. I think it brings a little more recognition to some of the great facilities we have here in Minnesota.”
The North Athletic Field services St. Thomas’ baseball team, which won national titles in 2001 and 2009, and the outfield is used for varsity men’s and women’s track and field events including hammerthrow, javelin and discus.
“We’ve had a lot of high school or city facilities win around here,” Weinbrenner says. “I thought our field stood out from a stellar pack because of the multiple events we had here last summer.”
Throughout summer 2015, the North Athletic Field hosted track and field events for the National Senior Games, a 19-sport biennial competition for men and women age 50 and over. The field also hosts annual lacrosse camps in June and July, and a football camp affiliated with the Minnesota Vikings. Additionally, Class A baseball teams use the infield for summer leagues.
The green space plays an important role outside of organized athletics, too. Weinbrenner says he sees students on the infield playing pick-up games of ultimate Frisbee or football. When not in use, the North Athletic Field is the largest open green space available to students on the campus, and it’s bordered on two sides by student dorms.
Weinbrenner says the challenge is keeping the field up around the demands of each sport or event.
“You have to work around the rain and the schedules, it’s quite a few things to juggle,” he adds.
Synthetic turf on the infield of Koch Diamond was installed in 2006. Once snow is moved off the surface, it’s ready for play, which has allowed the baseball team to begin practice earlier in the spring. The outfield is natural turf that Weinbrenner aerates frequently to invigorate the grass cover. Paint on the outfield has to be changed for each sport, too, which are often scheduled back-to-back in the summers.
How turf managers overcome challenges is one of the aspects considered by the MPSTMA when choosing a Field of the Year, along with resourcefulness with budget and staff, and the number and type of games and events held at the facility.
“Roger Weinbrenner’s long commitment to the fields he oversees and the students that use them is exemplary, and the North Athletic Field has benefitted generations of students attending the University of St. Thomas,” says Greg Brodd, of Turfco, who presented the Field of the Year plaque to Weinbrenner. “Turfco is proud to sponsor this program and we want to continue spotlighting the work of cities and schools across our home state in supporting the health and wellness of Minnesota’s population.”