February 2017

SportsTurf provides current, practical and technical content on issues relevant to sports turf managers, including facilities managers. Most readers are athletic field managers from the professional level through parks and recreation, universities.

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Page 40 of 51 February 2017 | SportsTurf 41 FIELD OF THE YEAR room for one of those deserving young turf managers whom I've had the opportunity to network with at the STMA annual conferences. The most rewarding thing that could happen for my team is that when I hand over that wad of keys, and a great team, I could also present them with the Sports Field of the Year Award. Because of their dedication and attention to detail we were among the fi rst six to be awarded the Environmental Facility Certifi cation by STMA for environmentally responsible management. I am extremely proud of my team for their hard work and dedication. I will always cherish that day when an 8-year-old T-Ball player walked up to me and asked "Is this where the Pros play?" and I responded with, "No, this is where champions like you play." That's how Champs Field got its name! SportsTurf: What attracted you to a career in sports turf management? KEN: My childhood passion in sports was always for baseball. When that didn't work out I opted to go to the military instead. Because I knew my way around ballfi elds I was assigned additional duties as the non-commissioned offi cer in charge of base recreation facilities. In that capacity, I had the opportunity to learn from and work with the non- military turf managers assigned to the bases at six different military installations both in America and abroad. After a very successful military career and the experience and knowledge gained in the turf industry I knew that a second career in sports fi eld management was for me. As for Keair, as a youngster, when not involved in sports or school activity he worked for my dad doing contract mainte- nance work on ball fi elds. Keair says that by the age of 16 he really became attracted to the industry for two reasons: First, he enjoyed all the attention from the coaches, spectators and players for his work on the fi elds and second, he made a lot of money at an early age. He says that he is very proud to be a second-generation Sports Turf Manager and wouldn't have it any other way. ST: What are your biggest challenges in providing excellent playing surfaces? And how do you approach those challenges? KEN: The biggest challenges that I faced were staffi ng, scheduling, communications and of course, the weather. Municipal employees always seem to think that they are not paid enough money. I found it challenging to attract, train and maintain a quality group of guys who come to work every day and on time. My turn over rate for employees averages at least three out of fi ve per year. The only option available is to maintain an applicant pool to draw from when someone terminates. Maintenance scheduling is done a year in advance but we are failing to communicate important maintenance practices to all parties. Fields are over booked and get scheduled for use on dates when they should be closed. We must take the politics out of the equation and open the lines of communication through face-to-face discussions. An automated booking system will allow us to block out dates and take away the human factor for those who can't say no to user groups. The weather will always be a challenge. We know we can't control it so we do our best to maintain the fi elds after a severe weather event. Keair says that his biggest challenge so far is the amount of use the fi elds are getting and having the staff to maintain them. He agrees that everyone wants to have safe, playable and aesthetically pleasing fi elds but nobody want to see them closed for maintenance. His approach will be to open the lines of communication with operations and all other interested parties through face-to-face discussions and the use of various other types of social media. ST: Did you implement any changes to the field in 2016? KEAIR: I would like to see Champs Field transformed into a more stadium type setting. Replacing the bleachers with stadium style seating could accommodate that. At current the infi elds are hand watered and that is not working because of the amount of time it takes to do that. I would like to see an automated sprinkler system installed to more effi ciently get moisture to the infi eld dirt. ST: What's the greatest pleasure you derive from your job? KEN: We know that we can't please everyone, but knowing at the end of the day that our team have done their best and created a safe, playable and a good looking facility is rewarding enough for me. My greatest pleasure is passing on to the team the many positive comments received from coaches, players and spectators. My involvement in the STMA, MS Turf Association and the Deep South Turf Expo have brought many pleasurable moments and a network of highly qualifi ed turf managers whom I had the honor of working with. KEAIR: The standards were already set high. My greatest pleasure is the fact that I was accepted for the job as turf manager right out of college. Being a second-generation turf manager and only the second turf manager at the Gulfport facility is rewarding in itself. My pleasure is just being able to get up and go to work every day doing something that I really enjoy. There are no headaches; I see every situation as a challenge. ST: What's the best piece of turf management advice you have ever received? KEN: The best advice I ever received not necessarily related to turf management was a quote given to me by an Army General almost 30 years ago: "Ability is important but to fi nd it in others and then develop it is the true test of a Leader." KEAIR: Don't let the job consume you, issues will arise at the drop of a hat but as long as you can keep your composure and not break down you will be alright. We don't live in a perfect world.

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