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Double Trouble Mike Kerns faces some unique dual-sport challenges that make TurfMend even more

Updated: Jan 31

For most turf managers, one sport is more than enough: they focus exclusively on golf, football, lacrosse, etc. But Mike Kerns has double the trouble at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium in because he’s toggling between professional baseball and professional soccer…often from one week to the next.

“It’s a very different animal because we’re a dual sports facility,” says Kerns. “We have a triple-A baseball team (the Tacoma Rainiers) but we also host two pro soccer teams including the OL Reign, the women’s squad that includes a lot of the Olympic athletes like Megan Rapinoe. We need to make sure whatever we do is safe for both soccer and baseball. But the bigger issue is our wear patterns are very different than a normal baseball wear pattern would be.”

Like a lot of turf managers with labor challenges, the need was to find something simple and fast to repair areas where both sports hit hardest. “I can have an inexperienced staff member put TurfMend down with a drop spreader in those beat up areas very quickly. Compare that to giving a staff member a bunch of instructions and a complicated recipe for the mix and how to use it…which they are not likely to get right. It gives us simplicity and consistency.”

Changeovers from one sport to the next present big issues: “When we go out of baseball to soccer you have a lot of wear and tear from the tractors and machines, so we need something that is ready to go. And I know that, in this climate, we’re going to get germination in three or four days.”

What are the labor implications? “Anybody can do it. Take that bag off the pallet, grab that drop spreader and do a ring around home plate. It’s that simple. There have been times when I’ve had guys out there out pre-game because the players are just going to cleat it in nicely.”

But consistency is key for Kerns: “Making your own is not consistent. I find that sports turf managers are willing to try whatever they can if, in the end, it gives them a better playing surface versus ‘this the way we’ve always done it.’ I feel like TurfMend is a great example of that. We quickly saw how much time this saved us and how consistent the results are. The relative costs of ‘making your own’ aren’t as important as that consistency and simplicity.”

Kerns primarily uses the TurfMend Barenbrug RPR ryegrass version. “We’re an all-ryegrass field and we bought two pallets to give it a try. We knew the color might not be exactly the same, but it was close enough it will still be visually appealing to the fans.”

For applications, he uses a Gandy drop-spreader recommended by another TurfMend believer, Joey Elmore of the Salem Red Sox. “We have some areas with double wear. Our soccer goal mouth is torn up but it’s also the same area as the first base coach. Our corner kick area is also the spot where the visiting baseball team walks up to the plate. We go out with the drop spreader before training sessions and put it down in advance right where it’s needed.”

Kerns, a Rutgers turf grad, got his start in the East Coast golf industry before heading to Washington so he understands the conventional wisdom about a pre-mixed product like TurfMend. “Some people think it’s expensive to buy it pre-made and want to mix it themselves to be cheaper. That’s what I learned when I was in the golf business. But think about that in the sense of labor cost. It takes one or two people 45 minutes to go mix a cart full of it and get ready to do fairways. In that same 45 minutes, someone using TurfMend is probably already done with three fairways.”

And the bottom line? “It’s the easiest turf repair mix I’ve ever used. Hands down. I remember the old days mixing it up and trying to remember the right combination of stuff. TurfMend is just sitting on a pallet. There’s no guessing. It’s beyond simple.”


By Pat Jones

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