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Sports turf Field Managers have full-time demands managing top-notch turf throughout a regular-season schedule. Add in youth tournaments, charity events, wrestling, weddings, and the (dreaded) music concert and the scale and scope of responsibility can become a true challenge.
However, concerts on baseball fields have become increasingly common in recent years, and Field Managers and grounds crews absolutely must be equipped to host at least one per season. With the right baseball field maintenance equipment and planning, concerts can be turned from a night of terror and chaos into an enjoyable, gratifying challenge to really showcase a crew’s skills.
When a concert date is set, an abundance of pre-planning begins. If you’re a Field Manager, managing details in advance is the only way to keep your sanity with all of the moving parts on a concert day.
The pre-planning process begins by establishing communication with the General Manager of the organization and the department of Operations and Media Relations. An especially helpful tactic is to look to past events as a reference. Research the artist to determine what type and size of crowd is expected. Take special note of the type of music, which will directly impact what type of baseball field maintenance equipment is required.
Rap concerts require more speakers but typically no instruments (generally an auxiliary cord is plugged into a laptop to play the music). In contrast, rock and pop concerts require a grounds crew to assist in transporting equipment and instruments back and forth to the buses.
Determine stage size and placement with a rough sketch for a layout of the concert. Do not overlook or undervalue the front office staff’s previous experiences; they may have prior drawings and records that will provide an excellent template to submit to the production company.
Working with a minimal budget is a challenge every minor league Field Manager faces. These limited budgets simply do not allow for full-field coverage with plastic flooring, and re-sodding deposits are just not possible for smaller events. Spending roughly $80,000 dollars every five-to-seven years to get a new playing surface installed can be a stretch. So how can you handle the inevitable wear and tear of hosting a concert? How do you protect a plant from getting killed for a night of loud music? As a Head Groundskeeper in this position, you must be willing to a) ask for assistance and b) be smart with bartering.
Typically, production companies have money set aside in their budget to cover rentals that can be charged to the concert. Renting baseball field maintenance equipment like a soil air injector to pump air back down to the roots after the grass is covered for days can do wonders. You can use the air injector before and after the concert in all turf areas that will be impacted during the show. Preventative as well as post-concert spraying programs are also available and can be charged directly to the production company.
If your stadium has a positive connection with your city, use that relationship to your advantage. Trading for tickets is something that is very common in MiLB and is an ideal bartering chip when managing concerts or similar events. Tickets or specials on food and drink could be exchanged for: an extra forklift, plywood to make the road to the stage, or a bike rack to corral all the fans.
Local golf courses can serve as another excellent resource. If you’re truly stumped with how to overcome a specific difficulty, bear in mind the plethora of other Field Managers around the country that are willing to give advice.
Weeks prior to an actual concert date, the management of the baseball field maintenance program for spraying and granular applications is crucial. Planning ahead to slow down the growth of the grass before the event is a usual routine.
Sod farms are a resource in case of an emergency and they need to be full of healthy grass to plan for the worst. Field Managers need to have additional protective measures set in place. For example, geofabrics (turf reinforcement mats) can be a cost-effective way to prevent ruts from heavy generator cables and damage from stage footings. The geofabrics will give some breathing room between the grass and any items placed on the turf for an extended period of time.
Insulative, permeable fabrics are also a strong alternative to putting down a barrier right before concerts begin to deal with foot traffic and possible damage to the turf. Look for medium weight UV protected fabric that allows for the grass to breathe. The fabric provides an excellent side-benefit: crews can hugely speed up the cleaning process by rolling all the trash up inside the fabric post-concert.
The stage for a concert will usually arrive at the ballpark one day prior to the show. Pull your crew aside and express specific concerns, answer questions, and provide detailed rules and expectations.
Each member of the crew needs to internalize the risks: the field’s recovery and playability is key to the very livelihood of the players, the program, and the grounds crew. All specifics should be detailed, including layout, transportation, waste management, and irrigation (turn off all relevant irrigation well before the stage arrives in order to avoid a gigantic and very expensive problem).
Transporting the stage should be done over plywood or stage flooring to distribute the weight more evenly. Overlapping is key with the plywood to avoid large ridges in the soil caused by such extreme weight. All irrigation heads should be marked for reference to prevent accidents, and any items left on the turf at the end of the evening must be removed to prevent further damage caused by hours of overnight pressure.
Concert day is when the magic happens and begins bright and early around 6am. Grounds crew members will be overseeing turf operations as well as transporting items from tour buses to the stage. Basic overwatch to protect the field and checking for hot spots is key. For areas experiencing drought, hand watering can help prevent these areas from dying.
Approximately two hours before gates open, all items that will need to be on the playing surface are brought on; this is a choreographed setup with help of the front office staff using the layout planned ahead of time. When the gates are open, the grounds crew will work in shifts on the field to walk the perimeter and monitor trash cans, check on barriers, and ensure roped off areas are still secure.
Post-concert is when your field crew has the most work. As concertgoers exit, assess for any clean up around the field such as trash left behind by guests and areas of special concern for turf health.
Each crew member should have a detailed understanding of their responsibilities including waste disposal and removing fencing. Fluffing of the grass in order to stand it back up with backpack blowers can be done at this time. Standing the blades back up vertically allows the grass to dry out after being compressed to prevent damaging it further. Running an aerator or soil air injector unit at this time will assist with healing of the grass by getting air down to the roots.
Continuing to manage the stagehands from damaging the surface is imperative at this point. They will be rushing to leave and so will the rest of the staff. When all items are removed from the field, wait until the following day to assess the damage further.
Seeing everything in the daylight the following day, or in some cases just a few hours after the event, can show what damage has been done. Discolorations in the turf are an indication of damage and will determine what steps must be taken to repair the damage. Re-sodding areas in exceptionally bad shape, fixing edges, adjusting uneven areas of the soil have to be done before finally putting some water down.
Coordinating and executing quality baseball field maintenance for such a major event can be challenging. However, with sufficient pre-planning, good communication, and committed hard-working staff, you can be confident about protecting your pride and joy: a playable surface.
To learn more about infield grooming strategies and equipment to take your turf management to the next level, call a product specialist today at (877) 788-7253.