New York City Football Club is a proud partner of The LandTek Group, where sports facility construction and pitch maintenance are the top priorities when it comes to making sure the Boys in Blue are ready on matchdays.
We spoke to Chris Fox, LandTek’s Head Groundskeeper, and the main man in charge of keeping the grass at the City Football Academy and Yankee Stadium in top form throughout the season.
I along with my assistant, Joe Fitzgerald, perform the tests on match day. We arrive the morning of the match and review with the Yankees ground staff how the temporary sod installation progressed and how the traditional sod areas have been performing. We have a set of 5 tests that we perform on the pitch at Yankee Stadium. These tests measure the strength, hardness, visual appearance, rebound and soil moisture level of the grass. We compare the results to ideal conditions and give the pitch a score. If we see something that is out of range we will give options on how to improve the pitch. The data is charted over the year so we can look back and compare different matches and see how the time of year and weather can affect the pitch.
Weather is always a challenge when dealing with natural grass. Hot and dry days in the summer can make the pitch test and play differently compared to a cool wet game in the fall. The goal is to make sure that the pitch plays and performs consistently throughout the year. Part of that process is working with the team on scheduling and coordinating with other divisions inside The LandTek Group to perform maintenance around the Club’s schedule.
Unlike other sports, soccer players prefer natural grass so the quality of the pitch is always held at high regard. Knowing this always pushes me to make sure we are doing everything we can to give the team an outstanding pitch to train on. I along with my assistant and other divisions at The LandTek Group are always researching and implementing the latest advancements in the industry to help improve the performance on the pitch. With the opening of CFA we now have a state of the art undersoil heating system, which is an essential aspect of ensuring the pitch is top quality during all seasons. Sensors in the soil give us instant data on soil temperature and moisture level that communicate with the boilers to ensure the soil is heated to the correct temperature for optimum health of the grass. In the spring, we use it to help wake the grass up from winter dormancy allowing the Club to train in the cold temperatures in early March. The system also keeps the grass growing in late fall as the team prepares for the playoffs. It gives me a great sense of pride to be a part of the team by giving them a high-quality pitch on which to train and compete.
The most rewarding part of my work with the Club is being able to see all the hard work result in a great looking and performing pitch that allows the players to train and compete at the highest level. Having the ability to be involved with weekly pitch meetings with the team allows me to understand the team’s focus and direction, which gives me insight on how to provide the club with the best pitch possible.