2017 marks the 28th time the Sports Turf Managers Association’s (STMA) members have come together for its national conference. Over the five days attendees have taken advantage of scheduled networking, learning, golfing, bowling, walking, running and also some time away from the convention center.
Chase Martin, head groundskeeper with the San Jose Mets, was not able to make it down to San Diego for last year’s conference so he made the trip across the country to Orlando for his third STMA Conference. Because of that distance from his home he hasn’t seen as many familiar faces but the amount of attendees is familiar.
“Crowd-wise honestly it feels right about where I have seen it before,” says Martin. “This year I only recognize a handful of attendees when in the past I’m running into people I know all the time. It’s kind of a bummer but it has been great for networking and meeting new guys.”
Those crowds are appreciated by Rich Behan, President of Nordic Plow, a product used for collecting core aeration plugs and snow, which he has been exhibiting at the conference for the last five years.
“We go to other trade shows and some times you look around and think, ’where did everybody go?’ but here there is constant flow of foot traffic passing by the booth,” says Behan, whose product is being used by major league franchises like the New York Mets, Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Twins. “Honestly our product is not a perfect fit for everyone in this industry but we feel like they want us here at this event. I just wish there were more professional stadiums.”
Walking around the STMA exhibition floor for the first time was John Ledwidge, grounds manager of the Leicester (England) City Football Club. Back home he is a member of his country’s equivalent of the STMA, the Institute Of Groundsmanship, and says that while their annual trade show is bigger, he likes what he sees at STMA.
“There are some things that the STMA does over here that I wish we could adopt back home,” says Ledwidge. “Plus, I just love the camaraderie feeling among the guys here at the show.”
Steve Dugas, CSFM and supervisor, athletic-fields & irrigation at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, went to his first STMA Conference in 1995. Dugas estimates in that time he has attended the conference almost 20 times, and he most looks forward to meeting up with old friends and the opportunity to learn something new.
“I see this show growing and is very healthy. It’s a very good indication on the industry. The fact that there are as many people attending that there are, the fact that we have grown another chapter… it’s exciting,” says Dugas. “I’ve been around long enough to remember the old days meeting in the Holiday Inn. I’m excited for the future of the association.”