“No strings. The future is now!”
That’s what Grant Davisson, turf manager for the Minnesota Vikings, said in an Instragram post when he saw a demonstration of the Beamrider from Fleet.
The Beamrider is a walk-behind laser guided line marker system designed to create straight lines without driving in a stake and setting up strings. It was introduced in 2007 and has taken off in the European market. It is being used by turf managers of high-profile soccer teams like Spain’s Real Madrid F.C. and England’s Manchester City F.C.
The unit comes with a Kombi sprayer and the Beamrider laser-guided sprayer attached, a laser transmitter and telescope, and target reflector plate.
Users set the reflector plate at one end slightly off the field and then set the laser at the other side where they want the line to start. Then they use the naked eye to make sure the reflector plate and laser are level. By using micrometers on the head of the laser, the user can then adjust the emitted red beam until they see it reflect back at them. Finally the user directs the Beamrider receiver into the laser and it goes into ‘seek mode.’ Once the receiver locks onto the laser beam, the user cannot fail to produce a straight line because the spray head will move left to right with the operator.
In an attempt to get the word out about the Beamrider on this side of the pond, Fleet U.S.’s General Manager Liam Philpotts recently spent 70 days traveling around the country providing demonstrations to individual facilities and at conferences.
“We’re a small company and we struggle to get any real exposure for our products. In Europe the higher profile clubs are all using it but here it has been a challenge,” said Philpotts.
Fleet U.S. is making a push now to promote the machine to U.S. field managers, but some facilities have already been using it for years.
At the University of Florida, Gainesville, Wayne Zurburg, maintenance superintendent, and his staff have been using the Beamrider on the 40 acres of natural grass and field turf on the school’s various sports club and recreation fields for four years.
“We were probably the first one in the university systems to try to use it. We kind of worked out a lot of the little issues the machine had,” said Zurburg. “We have intramural fields and club fields for soccer, lacrosse, rugby, cricket, you name it. We put down anywhere from 20 to 25 fields of paint every week.”
To speed up the process Zurburg had his mechanic on staff attach the Beamrider spraying device to a Toro Workman.
“We used to pull lines and strings all over the fields and we don’t have to deal with them anymore. The biggest thing is the operator has to learn to drive a little slower but the accuracy is phenomenal,” said Zurburg. “It has saved us a ridiculous amount of man-hours.”
The Petoskey (Mich.) Youth Soccer Association has invested in a Beamrider but Volunteer Groundskeeper Gary Hunter will admit after two year of using the machine that they don’t save any time compared to stringing fields. Though he doesn’t save time like he had hoped, he does appreciate the money it’s saving him.
“We were looking for something to speed up the system and give us better results,” said Hunter. “I started talking about it with Liam (Philpotts) and he brought up putting a Beamrider with the riding equipment.”
Hunter added that they had a John Deere Gator that was not being used much and they purchased the Fastrider, a device offered from Beamrider that attaches to a utility vehicle with a 40 gallon tank mounted in the back (see photo to the left).
Hunter works with a staff of fellow volunteers to maintain the 28 acres of turf that make up the 11 soccer fields for the Petoskey Youth Soccer Association. The Beamrider has made it managable for Hunter to go paint lines by himself and do a quality job.
Hunter says that it took him a couple of weeks of trial and error before he was painting high quality lines. He adds that one of the selling points pitched to him by Philpotts was the amount of money users can save on paint.
“I like really bright lines. I put more paint down than what they say I need to but it makes them really, super white. With 40 gallons of paint I’m knocking out five to six fields pretty easily,” says Hunter. “It would not be hard to pay off a Beamrider in just paint savings.”
There has been some push back on this technology in favor of more traditional methods but Philpotts is trying to fight that mentality.
New leadership recently took over at a facility in the UK where one of the first systems sold. The recently hired turf manager said he didn’t want the Beamrider because he felt it took away from the skill of the groundsman.
“It’s a good honest point, but painting lines is not the most significant thing they do,” says Philpotts. “Anytime you’ve got something that makes that job easier and produces better results I don’t care what level you are operating at that’s the way to do it.”