Turf Line News

December 2011/ January 2012

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Page 35 of 55

CONFERENCE SPEAKER PREVIEW BY A.R. KOWALEWSKI, J.R. CRUM AND J.N. ROGERS, III ATHLETIC FIELD SYSTEM he typical high school athletic field serves as a focal point for social gatherings and adds to a sense of community pride. It is typically one of the few fields in town with lights, making it host to a variety of after school and work events including football, lacrosse, soccer, cheerleading, and band. Therefore, having an aesthetically pleasing and functional high school athletic field is often important to a variety of members in the average community. The Problem In order to have a significant number of events on a natural playing surface and provide reasonable playing conditions throughout the fall, regardless of weather conditions, the The Spartan Cap System is a cost effective renovation procedure... root-zone must be primarily sand- based. Unfortunately, the majority of high school athletic fields are constructed on native soil. These fields rely on surface drainage during periods of heavy rainfall, failing to provide adequate drainage of surplus water. Saturated field conditions substantially reduce soil cohesion if the native soil is high in silt and clay, adversely affecting traction and stability. Reduced stability in combination with heavy use in the typical fall athletic season results in turfgrass failure, decreased overall playability and diminished visual aesthetics. THE SPARTAN CAP The Solutions Current solutions to this problem include complete field conversion to a synthetic or sand-based turfgrass system. Synthetic Field: The first, most expensive, option is the installation of a synthetic athletic field, which ranges from $600,000 – 1,000,000. The typical annual maintenance cost of a synthetic field is $5,000 – $22,000. Sand-Based Field: The second option is a conventional sand-based field with a gravel drainage layer will cost from $400,000 - 600,000, and take your field out of play for half of the year. This involves excavating 12-16" of soil and installing drain tile, a 4" gravel layer and a 12" sand based root zone. This type of field has an annual maintenance cost of approximately $25,000. Sand-Cap Model: The third option for sand-based athletic fields is the sand-cap model, which has been employed many times in Michigan under the direction and guidance of Dr. John N. Rogers and MSU over the last 7-years, and can cost from $150,000 - 300,000. This method is less expensive because only a small layer of topsoil (2-5") is removed from the field, and replaced with a 5-6" layer of specifically blended high sand-based root-zone material. This sand material should be well- graded; particles distributed across a range of sizes, containing approximately 90% sand – 10% silt+clay, to optimize stability and drainage. The turfgrass is then reestablished from seed, which can take up to an entire growing season to be ready for use. THE BEFORE (LOWER IMAGE) AND AFTER OF USING THE SPARTAN SYSTEM Spartan Cap System: Spartan Cap System: The fourth, least expensive, option is an alternative to complete field renovation using drain tile installation and subsequent sand topdressing, providing a built-up sand- capped system known as the "Spartan Cap System". The Spartan Cap System is a cost effective renovation procedure, which can be done for approximately $58,200-103,800 [price includes irrigation system installation ($15,000), 6-20' drain tile spacing ($60,000- 14,400, respectively), and 2 inch sand topdressing layer ($28,800; labor and material) accumulated over time], that does not take the field out of play. Annual maintenance cost for a field such as this is approximately $8,000. Improving the playing surface with this renovation process will substantially reduce the annual maintenance budget of a typical field ($8,000 to $25,000), because annual reestablishment, whether it be by seed or sod, is no longer necessary. The concept behind the Spartan Cap System is to combine the advantages of the sand cap system (drain tiles and a sand-based root-zone) while providing almost uninterrupted availability. The idea is to cut drains in the existing field running lengthwise on 6-20' centers depending on the surface grade and slop, put drain tile in the lines, back fill with pea stone and then sand, or a coarse sand alone. After the drain lines have been backfilled to field level with sand they will need to be fertilized, with a controlled release product, seeded and mulched, with a product like HydroMulch, PennMulch or straw, to ensure repaid turfgrass establishment. At this time it is important to correct any low (wet) spots in the existing slope by leveling them with topsoil; soil removed during drain line installation would be appropriate for this task. Subsequent repair to any irrigation line damage is necessary. Following this begins an aggressive topdressing program during the summer using the well-graded 90% sand – 10% silt+clay root-zone material descried earlier. Root-zone topdressing would be coupled with annual field maintenance, including inter-seeding, fertilization, cultivation, and etc. The goal would be to add at least 2" of root-zone as fast as possible without compromising fall time playing quality. Therefore, if renovations were done in the spring on a field in the Midwest the topdressing program would begin in early June and go only through early August, with each Continued On Facing Page 36 WESTERN CANADA TURFGRASS ASSOCIATION ALL IMAGES COURTESY AUTHORS

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