The training camp fields for the Los Angeles Chargers are utilized for youth soccer in the fall, winter, and spring. In the summer they undergo a transformation to prepare them for the NFL training camp. Ryan Rowland is the Chargers’ sports field manager for these fields as well as for the practice fields at the Chargers’ headquarters in Costa Mesa, the Hoag Performance Center. The Jack Hammett Sports Complex is a City of Costa Mesa-owned facility that is leased to the Chargers during the summer. The Chargers “take over” the fields at Jack Hammett Sports Complex in early-June (June 6 this year). To get a leg up on the field transformation process, Ryan and crew begin some enhanced fertilizer practices in April and May.

Once the Chargers have possession of the fields, the renovation begins in earnest. The renovation practices include more aggressive fertility practices, enhanced mowing, and a fine-tuned irrigation schedule.   According to Rowland, “One of the biggest challenges is to recover the turf in the high-wear areas in the goal mouth and center field sections.”

To control thatch and even out the growth of the bermudagrass turf a practice called “verticutting” is employed. Verticutting is sometimes referred to as “power raking” in the lawn industry. The verticutter machine removes an immense amount of vegetative material and at first the field appearance looks worse than before verticutting.

Using proper maintenance, the turf springs back stronger and more uniform following renovation. Mechanical aeration for soil decompaction and sand topdressing is practices also employed during renovation to facilitate the transformation.

Come July 27, Ryan and his crew are hard at work with the final touches including fresh striping and field markings preparing for training camp opening on July 28. While it may appear that much of the field preparation focuses on aesthetic appeal, the real focus is on field performance.   A dense, tight-knit sod is formed in the process to hold up to traffic from intense NFL player practice while providing sound footing and surface. Good soil aeration and drainage is provided by the modified soil profile (the modification was completed prior to training camp in 2017) and by the ongoing maintenance practices, so as to promote healthy turf and a high-performance athletic surface.

Hats off to Ryan Rowland and his LA Chargers athletic field maintenance crew.

Michael DePew is Consulting Sports Field Agronomist for Environmental Technical Services.

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