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Behind the scenes of maintaining Maryland Soccerplex’s 24 fields with Jerad Minnick

April 10, 2024  - By

With 24 fields and 160 acres to oversee, Jerad Minnick, director of grounds and environmental management for the Maryland Soccerplex, has his hands full. Located in Boyds, Md., the Maryland Soccerplex is a nonprofit funded by the Maryland Soccer Foundation that hosts more than 16 national-level tournaments.

“It’s not like a lot of other soccer complexes,” Minnick says. “You can be on one field and not know there are 23 other fields around you because they’re not just side-by-side. It’s a big circle and all the fields are at different elevations.”

Before making his way to Maryland, Minnick never considered sports turf management as a career because he didn’t know it was an option for him. It wasn’t until he was already in college, that he started on the path that led him to where he is now.

Maryland Soccerplex features 24 fields. (Photo: Maryland Soccerplex)

Maryland Soccerplex features 24 fields. (Photo: Maryland Soccerplex)

Back to the beginning

From a young age, Minnick has worked outside, with stints at a farm in rural Missouri and local golf courses. That carried over to his college years, where, while studying to become an environmental lawyer, he continued to seek out opportunities to work in turf.

“(A) superintendent (told me), ‘You know you can do this as a career, right?’,” Minnick says. “I think that speaks to where we are in the industry today. People just do not understand that it’s a career choice.”

After that revelation, Minnick found himself studying plant science and turfgrass at the University of Missouri. He secured an internship at a well-known golf course for the summer but decided to change his path once again.

“I was sitting in my advisor’s office one day and the field manager for the Kansas City Royals called asking for interns,” he says. “This was a week before spring break and all of us already had internships, but I gave mine up to work for the Royals.”

As an avid sports fan and athlete, Minnick seized the opportunity. After graduating from Missouri, he secured the position as the Royals’ manager of grounds and remained there for nearly six years. His next step led him to be the director of grounds for Sporting Kansas City, where he was introduced to the Maryland Soccerplex through a friend in the industry.

According to Minnick, once he visited the Maryland Soccerplex, he saw its potential and was hooked immediately.

“At that point, they had no national-level tournaments, so there were about 4,000 matches a year,” Minnick says. “Now, we have 16 national-level tournaments and will probably do 10,000 matches this year.”

The facility hosts 16 national tournaments and over 10,000 matches a year. (Photo: Maryland Soccerplex)

The facility hosts 16 national tournaments and over 10,000 matches a year. (Photo: Maryland Soccerplex)

Sustainable turf

In addition to maintaining the 24 fields, Minnick says his team is constantly researching ways to better the facility’s sustainability efforts.

The complex is in the process of switching all of their grasses to bermudagrass. (Photo: Maryland Soccerplex)

The complex is in the process of switching all of their grasses to bermudagrass. (Photo: Maryland Soccerplex)

One way the Soccerplex has done that is by reducing its diesel consumption by 50 percent with smaller John Deere mowers that use electric motors to turn their reels. Through a partnership with Finch Turf, a distributor that serves the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions, the Soccerplex exclusively uses John Deere equipment.

“We would not be able to achieve what we do without the proper equipment,” Minnick says. “Just in my evolution of being back here, we finally started to succeed to the level that we were happy with conditions.”

In addition to a focus on sustainable equipment, Minnick also concentrates on how to make the grass itself more sustainable. He says his team has accomplished that by switching its fields to bermudagrass, an idea Minnick says would have been “unthinkable” in 2011.

Back then, the complex had no bermudagrass fields whatsoever. Minnick says that his region in Washington D.C. only recently switched to the variant.

“There was a new variety called (Patriot) at that time that was relatively cold tolerant,” he says. “We thought it could be something that would catch on. We’re about four generations beyond that now.”

Minnick says the turfgrass industry has evolved significantly in just the past decade alone due to research.

Safety comes first

The crew at Maryland Soccerplex uses John Deere equipment exclusively. (Photo: Maryland Soccerplex)

The crew at Maryland Soccerplex uses John Deere equipment exclusively. (Photo: Maryland Soccerplex)

As the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down, Minnick says he’s noticed a resurgence in youth sports. With that, has come an increased number of players on the Soccerplex’s fields, and an increased focus on player safety.

“When we started collecting data, we found that the middles of our fields would be 30 to 40 percent more compact than the corners,” he says. “So, if we go out with a piece of equipment and do the whole field evenly, we might lower the compaction level 10 percent across the entire field.”

To combat compaction, the Soccerplex has switched to smaller, lighter-weight maintenance equipment, including its cart fleet. The crew now uses smaller electric GE gators from John Deere.

According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, compaction affects the turf in many ways, including a decrease in total pore space, a decrease in soil oxygen content and an increase in water retention.

All of this causes the turf to become hard and bare, which increases the risk of injuries to athletes.

To protect the turf from organic matter accumulation and compaction, Minnick says the crew will also go out onto the field with blowers to remove debris instead of larger equipment.

Minnick says player safety is extremely important to his crew and the Soccerplex. He says they aim to create consistency across all their surfaces for a better, safer playing experience.

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About the Author:

Sydney is a graduate from Kent State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations with minors in Marketing and Advertising. While attending KSU, she held multiple internships and was a reporter for the Kent Stater.

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