Published on
February 9, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM PST February 9, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM PSTth, February 9, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM PST

Tips From The Pros

Ross Kurcab is a Certified Sports Field Manager (CSFM) and a professional sports field consultant with 30 years’ experience
as a head turf manager in professional football. He graduated from Colorado State University’s Turfgrass Management program
and now operates and owns Championship Sports Turf Systems.


It seems like only a few years ago that we were using ¾” plywood on top of blankets to protect our sports fields during concerts and other large stadium events.

It was laborious and didn’t work that well, but it was better than nothing. Then, slowly, in the mid 1990’s things began to change and turf protection flooring is available in many different designs and capabilities to handle the specific needs of a major concert production on a grass or turf stadium playing surfaces. The speed at which the technology has advanced has left some field and facility managers behind the times when planning for big events.

To get us caught up, Tips from the Pro’s talked with Michael: Beane, President and CEO of Terraplas USA about latest trends and technologies, and to take an early look at the 2015 stadium concert tour season.

TFTP: Tell our readers a little about yourself.

Michael:: Sure, I got into the business in 1994, so this is the 20th year of Terraplas USA, and Terraplas as a product here in the US. My background is education and administration, I was a high school football and baseball coach as well as an athletic director. After several years in administration, I decided it was time to make a change in 1994. Terraplas gave me a connection back to my athletic roots, and as a person who has built and maintained athletic fields. At the same time, it was a whole new product line here in the US. So I went from athletics to business and my background gave me the experience to communicate all levels of a facilities management, whether they are the turf managers, stadium operations or administration.

TFTP: How did you hear about Terraplas?

Michael:: I had partnered with Don Lockerbie, who had seen it in 1993 during his travels to Europe. He was doing research as part of his committee work for the Men’s World Cup soccer that was to be played in the USA in 1994. When he stopped by Wembley stadium in London, he saw the system and met Robert Else, the creator and owner of Terraplas. He told me that they were manufacturing a system for a 2-night Pink Floyd concert in May of 1994 at Foxboro Stadium (then the natural grass home of the NFL’s New England Patriots). If they liked it, it would be purchased, if not it would be sent back to Europe. We were impressed at the performance and followed that up the next year at Soldier Field in Chicago, then after that we did shows at Giants Stadium (New Jersey), Mile High Stadium in Denver. So initially it was a major stadium system that began to finds its way into smaller venues at the collegiate and minor league levels as well as municipalities. In the last 20 years it has grown from just Terraplas into a product line of about 11 products.

TFTP: That must have been a bit unnerving to use it the first time at Foxboro.

Michael:: It was. I mean, it was the first time I had ever seen the product! Robert was there to lean on and so it wasn’t bad. It’s a pretty repetitive installation process that doesn’t change much in the basics. Once you’ve done it once or twice, you get the hang of it. We did learn many nuances over the years, and get input from the groundskeepers that we have used in the design of our newer products.

TFTP: What are some of the newer product lines?

Michael:: We have several different options for two basic types of flooring, patron flooring and drivable roadway flooring. We have developed a variety of designs in each type to accommodate the specific needs of our clients and their particular situation. In addition, we have improved the efficiency of the field build process by designing the different options to seamlessly adjoin each other. So for example, we have developed TerraPlas HD that allows the roadway flooring around the stage and perimeters of a field to “marry” seamlessly with the patron flooring. It’s the only type of flooring in the US with this type of technology.

TFTP: Wow that would really save time on the production load-in and load-out because you don’t have to wait for a flooring change to start the work. What else?

Michael:: We’ve put a flat back on some of our products that allow for the same efficiencies deeper into our line. It’s all intended to give our clients the best range of options to fit their particular needs. We are working to get the chairs on and off faster, allow forklifts out on the floor on show day to more easily build and strike comfort stations, merchandising and concessions. It also allows our clients to custom design their flooring needs based on the show. They can now easily add a more rigid, but turf friendly flooring around these areas where heavy foot traffic is concentrated and anywhere else they may need drivable roadway throughout the show. The whole operation becomes safer and more efficient, just a better deal all around.

TFTP: This is all pretty new and it’s a major advancement in my opinion. How has the roll-out gone on this new way of flooring a concert field?

Michael:: Levis Stadium (the new Santa Clara home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49er’s) just purchased a custom system. They now have 15,000 sq. ft. of TerraTrak Plus for around the stage. This is where the heavy equipment traffic is and where the grass typically is most stressed. TerraTrak Plus, with its vertical cams, will give the best protection against rutting and sinking. The rest of the field will be ringed in a U-shape with Terraplas HD, for roadway use right through the show. The rest of the field will be covered using TerraPlas with footers. We made an extra 20,000 sq. ft. of TerraPlas HD and used it on all our major league baseball parks this past year. This year, we have a number of NFL stadiums planning to purchase TerraPlas HD so they can marry this to their either their existing TerraPlas flooring, or a TerraPlas floor they will rent.

TFTP: It’s a great new way to floor and protect your playing surface for a concert or other large field event. What drove TUSA to innovate in this direction?

Michael:: It’s been kind of a natural progression. At first, we were trying to perfect the patron flooring and we pretty much let the show handle the staging roadways and the drivables on the sides. They used everything from the plywood roadways to the Bravo-Mats and Rhino-Mats. Quite honestly, I remember you (the author) asking at an NFL Turf Symposium in Chicago. “If you can make TerraPlas that is translucent and gives the grass some usable light, why can’t you do this with roadway flooring?” I thought “Well, we can. It’s just a matter of time and investment.”

TFTP: I’ve noticed in Europe they have adopted more use of the flat-backed flooring for all over the field, and the preference in the US is still for flooring with footers is this correct?

Michael: There are some stadiums in Europe that cover the whole field with a vertical-cam roadway, TerraTrak Plus, for the entire show week. It hasn’t caught ahold here in the US nearly as much because the summer concert season falls during the sports of baseball, soccer and even football, compared to Europe where soccer is off-season in the summer. So they typically have more time for turf repair. Also, it’s not as sunny and hot of a place, for the most part, as it is in North America and the flat-back floors will be more stressful to grass for longer duration coverings.

TFTP: What new technologies do you have in the hopper, anything you can share?

Michael: The LED light flooring system is moving along well. It does two things. One, it’s a navigational and emergency assistance. Green arrows can show patrons the way to their seats after lights-out, for example, or delineate seating sections. Second, it allows us the opportunity to do advertising on the floor. So maybe when it’s time for a beer, a set of arrows leads the way to concessions areas, or bathrooms. We are still in the early stages of development, but we already have a buyer at Stade de France, the French national stadium just north of Paris. They want to enhance their new Terraplas HD system with LED lighting. They use Terratrak Plus for roadway to set up the LED advert boards for games anyway, so they thought “Why don’t we just make it into an on-the-field video board?” And that’s exactly what we are working on.

TFTP: Finally, how is the 2015 stadium summer concert season shaping up in North America?

Michael: Well, it’s still early but we know AEG has Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney on tour with a very, very full schedule starting in May and going until the end of October. So lots and lots of stadium shows with them this year. Neither one of them was on tour last year (2014). We know that Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean both will be on tour. And then we have the traditional “one-off’s” like Jimmy Buffet and some of the country music festivals like the Florida Country Super Fest in Jacksonville. We haven’t seen the full schedules for some of the other artists going out yet, and there are certainly rumors about who else may go out, but it’s going to be a super-busy schedule in 2015 I think. You never know until they sign the contracts, but all indications are that it’s going to be really busy.

TFTP: Good stuff Michael. Thanks for your time and insights.

Michael: My pleasure, Ross.

Turf Tips 101: Ground Frost

Last month, I briefly discussed some of the issues involved with a canopy frost on grass. So let’s move on to ground frost because that can be an important issue this time of year with many facilities making preparations to open soon for spring play. The water in between the soil particles can freeze solid, making the turf surface hard. Depending on the local climatic conditions, and year-to-year variability in weather, part or all of the soil in a playing field can freeze solid for up to several months each winter. It can be somewhat deceptive, as there are no tell-tale above-ground signs or symptoms to frozen ground in an athletic field. Sometimes, you can get an indication of ground frost when cleated players start skating and having difficulties in getting the cleats into the soil. You’ve got to poke around into the soil to feel it. As always, you want to locate any underground hazards before you poke around. A fairly wide Philips screw-driver is what my old turf teacher used to recommend.

Ground frost is dynamic, it can change fairly quickly. It can reach several inches to several feet deep in certain conditions. Sometimes, with warm weather spells in the later winter months, the frozen field can temporarily thaw in the top few inches of the soil profile. This is no guarantee that the field is suitable to safe play as any hard objects or layers in the top few inches of a field’s soil profile can affect the impact attenuation, or hardness, of the surface. The best practice is to test your fields for hardness on an appropriate schedule, and to scientifically accepted standards, to determine if the field is suitable for play. Shaded parts of a field will freeze first and thaw last. It is common to see some playing fields in late winter and early spring have spotty ground frost, as thinned areas from last fall’s traffic lack the insulating potential of thicker grassed areas. You’ve got to check the entire field for ground frost.

There is often the desire to get out and clear any snow cover off the fields to get them ready earlier. Who can forget spring 2014? This can work well if done carefully, but there is a word of caution. Snow is a great insulator and clearing it off a field too early, and then leaving it exposed to a subsequent cold snap can actually drive the frost in deeper as the field is no longer insulated by the snow.

The important takeaway here is to be aware that the soil in the field can freeze, potentially creating a hazard for the athletes. Though less common, the infill particles in an artificial infill turf field can also freeze, creating the same concerns for the athletes. However, with the rapid drainage and drying rates of a typical infill turf field, there is less water in the infill to freeze, even if low temperatures would indicate it. Again, professional testing is the best practice.

There is often pressure from coaches and leagues to get out on the fields in late winter and early spring as teams prepare for the seasons. Patience is often the best approach for the teams. Many fields are routinely compromised or even ruined for the entire spring/summer/fall seasons simply because we set use schedules by the calendar and not by Mother Nature. Late winter dormant or semi-dormant turf can be trafficked carefully, but it is in a precarious position this time of year, and it can’t repair itself as well as other times of year. If you’re not mowing, and the turf’s not growing, play should be slowing.

Resources of the Month:

North Carolina State University TurfFiles has an interactive turfgrass identification tool online. Wow your friends, family and coworkers!

Michigan State University Turfgrass has a site dedicated to athletic turfgrass maintenance, and is a good resource for issues around mandated phosphorus limits.

The Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) has a free set of record-keeping forms of all kinds for sports field management. Downloadable forms are available for employee management, equipment management, field maintenance records and more.

End Quote:

People who write about spring training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball. –Sandy Koufax