Nov. 25, 2011
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern's Ryan Field has been named the 2011 College Football Field of the Year by the SportsTurf Managers Association (STMA), the organization announced this week.
Started in 1992, the STMA Field of the Year Award program is comprised of five field types for which awards may be given: baseball, football, soccer, softball and sporting grounds. For each field type, awards may be given in three categories: professional, college and university, and schools and parks. This year a total of 11 awards were presented.
"The Field of the Year Award validates the intense dedication of our members," said Kim Heck, CEO of the Sports Turf Managers Association. "Each year STMA awards no more than 14 Fields of the Year, so a very small percentage of our members are winners. Randy Stoneberg and his crew are very deserving of this prestigious award for Ryan Field."
A six-member panel independently judges each entry based on the playability and appearance of the playing surfaces, innovative solutions employed, effective use of budget and the development and implementation of a comprehensive, sound agronomic program.
This award marks the second time Supervisor of Grounds Stoneberg and NU groundskeepers Rich Thorn and Joe Berube have been honored by the STMA; Ryan Field also was named the College Football Field of the Year in 2000. Stoneberg, Thorn and Berube will be honored at the STMA's annual awards banquet Jan. 13, 2012, at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, Calif. The crew and Ryan Field also will be featured in a 2012 article in SportsTurf Magazine, the industry's premier publication.
"Each year, evaluating the applicant pool is very difficult," said Allen Johnson, CSFM, STMA Awards Committee Chairman. "The quality of the applicants continues to improve and this year's winners truly deserved the award."
Northwestern earned the award in large part due to its successful program to eradicate Poa Annua grass from the Ryan Field turf. In 2005, Ryan Field was re-sodded and by the fall of 2007, 50 percent of the field was covered with Poa Annua grass.
"Our athletic communications department created a flyer to distribute in the press box explaining was Poa Annua is because media kept saying in the newspaper and on TV that the field was diseased," Stoneberg said. "Even head coach Pat Fitzgerald
said his field had acne because of the pimple effect on TV."
In the spring of 2008, Northwestern sprayed Roundup on the Poa and killed almost half of the field before overseeding with a Ryegrass and Bluegrass mix. Then, in the fall of 2008, NU launched a Poa Annua Game Plan. Started by agronomist Tim Vanloo, CSEM, before he moved on to a position at Iowa State, the Poa Annua Game Plan has been continued by Stoneberg with great success. "We will not stop the program, and have in fact started it on our practice fields," Stoneberg said.
The game plan is comprised of three steps, beginning with the application of selective herbicide "Prograss" during very specific times for best results. While some Poa Annua will survive and come back, the goal is to reduce the amount that does every year. Step two involves overseeding with the same Ryegrass and Bluegrass mix before step three calls for the application of the plant growth regulator "Trimmit" to surviving Poa, allowing the Ryegrass and Bluegrass to have a competitive advantage.
Ryan Field's drainage also was a big factor in NU's award-winning nomination. The field itself boasts a gravity drainage system along with a sideline drainage system to handle excess water from the stands. Both systems are channeled into the storm sewer system and can drain between 10 and 14 inches per hour from the top six inches of the soil profile. Water drains more slowly in the bottom 10 inches to keep moisture available to the turf roots.
This system has proved it can handle even the worst rain events, draining the turf flawlessly during a home game against Southern Illinois on Sept. 12, 2008 -- the second-rainiest day in Chicago history when a drenching system dumped 6.64 inches of rain on the city. While streets flooded around Ryan Field and many fans were unable to make it to the stadium at all, the field itself allowed the game to be played at the level a Big Ten football game should be played.
STMA Awards Program Sponsors
The 2011 STMA Field of the Year Awards are sponsored by Carolina Green Corporation, Ewing Irrigation, Hunter Industries and World Class Athletic Surfaces. The support of these important STMA Commercial Members is necessary to provide our industry with a robust, prestigious awards program; one that recognizes the hard work of each STMA member and rewards those who excel.
STMA is the not-for-profit, professional association for the men and women who manage sports fields. Its more than 2,600 members oversee sports fields and facilities at schools, colleges and universities, parks and recreational facilities and professional sports stadiums. Their goal is to manage natural turf and synthetic surfaces to produce safe and aesthetically pleasing playing surfaces for athletes at all levels of playing abilities. Since 1981, the association and its dozens of local chapters have been providing education, information and sharing practical knowledge in the art and science of sports field management. Visit STMA's website to learn more.
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