The Marion County Parks and Recreation Department’s Tournament Crew is specially trained on sports turf and its related equipment. The Crew is responsible to keep more than 80 acres of sports turf in optimal playing condition. These professionals are also trained to interact with players, coaches, parents and volunteers as well as handle any number of issues that commonly arise during tournaments. “They can take a field that is not playable and make it playable within hours…and [they] can prep a field in five minutes,” noted Park Ranger, Jeremy Harris.
“A common misperception is that turf is grass,” stated Harris, “when, in fact, it is a bunch of tiny plants that grow together.” These plants are extremely temperamental too. Harris added, “while turf grows by the inch, it dies by the foot.” That is why irrigation, pesticides and fertilizers are vitally important to keep the turf healthy and insect free. Therefore, his crew is sent to Turf Rodeos once each year, where they learn the latest techniques and test new equipment to handle various turf issues.
The most common threats to turf are mole crickets, nematodes and sod web worms which can destroy a field in a relatively short time. Another threat, other than vandalism, is a well intentioned parent or coach who is looking to help staff by bringing their personal lawn mower to the field. This results in the transplanting of common grass seeds with the turf. It costs several thousand dollars per field in chemicals, staff time and equipment to correct these issues when they arise.
As a result of the Tournament Crew’s work, Marion County hosted 11 Cal Ripken / Babe Ruth tournaments in 2011 at the Rotary Sportsplex alone, including eight All-Star Tournaments, and is being considered to host two Cal Ripken World Series in 2013 due to the overwhelming support of our community and field conditions when the facility hosted the 2010 Ten Year Old World Series.