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Maryland SoccerPlex completes more than $2M in upgrades on native soil natural grass fields

April 23, 2024

Maryland Soccerplex recently completed a drainage project for its 20 native soil natural fields after receiving a $2.1 million investment. GreenOne Industries, Landscapes Unlimited and Hummer Turfgrass Systems supported the project. Hummer Turfgrass Systems completed the project during the off-season in December 2023 after more than 10 years of work.

Maryland SoccerPlex boasts some of the highest quality natural grass fields in the country using the most cutting-edge technology and environmentally sound practices to maintain the more than 50 acres of high-level, high-use turf. This most recent improvement to drainage aimed to decrease the number of cancellations due to the weather.

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)

“We have more than 12,000 games scheduled on our fields each year,” said Matt Libber, executive director of the Maryland Soccerplex. “When we have to cancel that trickle-down affects hundreds of players and guests to our facility. This effort allows us to provide safe playing surfaces for our athletes in a way that also protects our investment in our fields.”

Before this project, SoccerPlex Stadium was the only natural grass field with drainage and sand soil versus the native soil of the other 20 natural grass fields. Native soil natural grass fields only drain and dry via surface runoff, as native (existing) soil does not drain quickly on its own. The project added drainage and six inches of sand soil to two fields, then moved to install a unique sand-slit drainage system to the other 18 native soil fields.

Only disturbing three percent of the field surface, sand slit drainage greatly increases infiltration and eliminates standing water. To fill the sand slits, 35 miles of drainage pipe and 5,000 tons of sand were installed across the park. The fields then periodically have sand added to the surface via a maintenance practice known as topdressing. The sand not only improves drainage but also creates a softer surface to increase safety and increase playability (ball roll & footing).

In addition to allowing play to continue on the fields, the improvements greatly reduce grass damage that typically happens on a wet field surface, reducing the need for increased field maintenance after a wet weekend.

Sand-slit drainage is part of a Facility Improvement Plan adopted by the Maryland Soccer Foundation (MSF) Board of Directors in 2013. According to the facility. the board’s goal was to increase field use and decrease or eliminate rain cancellations while being efficient and impactful with each dollar. The SoccerPlex SportsTurf Team has worked to reach those goals field by field between SoccerPlex’s major events, which require all 24 fields to be available. At no point was a field able to be out of play for more than eight weeks and at no point could more than two fields be off-line at the same time during spring or fall.

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

Photo: Maryland Soccerplex

Ultimately the average time offline, for fraze mowing, drainage work and re-growing the grass, was six weeks. During this 10-plus year period, three directors of Sports Turf and Grounds pushed the initiative forward. Jerad Minnick, director of sports turf and grounds at Maryland Soccerplex, both started and ended the project. Ryan Bjorn, now field superintendent at Gillette Stadium, and Mitch Litz, now director of sports turf for FC Cincinnati, both carried it forward as well.

“Ultimately we could not reach the goals of this project without the support from some terrific contractors and partners,” said Minnick. “When we started this in 2013, GreenOne Industries was the only contractor with the specialized equipment for the unique approach we wanted to utilize. We are so thankful that Leroy Butler and his GreenOne team were willing to come to the East Coast to help get us started.”

Landscapes Unlimited also supported the work off and on throughout. In 2016, SoccerPlex formed an alliance with Hummer Turfgrass Systems that supercharged the progress of the project.

“The SoccerPlex project is an excellent example of creative collaboration, industry expertise and the power of sharing an aligned mission to deliver top-notch solutions that stand the test of time,” said Matt Wimer, president of Hummer Turfgrass Systems. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with the SoccerPlex and I look forward to continued collaborations.”

The Maryland SoccerPlex is ready to host an expected 1.3 million visitors this year for an array of different sports including youth, college and professional soccer, lacrosse, flag football and college and professional rugby.

Read more about the Maryland Soccerplex and how Jerad Minnick maintains the fields here.

This article is tagged with , and posted in Football/Soccer, Industry, News, Parks/Recreation, Turf Use

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