CLEVELAND - For the fifth consecutive year, Pioneer Athletics has recognized Purdue’s women’s soccer home pitch, Folk Field, as a winner of a Fields of Excellence award.
The Fields of Excellence award program honors outstanding athletic fields and the hardworking field crews who diligently maintain them. It was established in 1997 and has honored over 750 athletic fields from around the country since its creation. Folk Field entered the Fields of Excellence Club after being recognized for the fifth straight year.
Nick Lievense and Steve Vonderheide are the primary sports turf managers responsible for the playing surface at Folk Field. Lievense says that the help from the part-time turf science student employees and the coaching staff are also critical to their success.
Folk Field features a cold-tolerant bermudagrass field as one of the most northern-most facilities in the country with that style of playing surface. Bermudagrass is not native to west central Indiana and therefore presents an additional challenge to maintain it throughout the year.
“We fraze mowed for the third time in four years,” Lievense says. “It continues to be an innovative practice as well as something that is essential and unique because we grow bermudagrass so far north.”
Fraze mowing is a common practice in Europe to renovate fields and continues to take hold in the United States. Folk Field was the first collegiate bermudagrass field in the United States to use this technique and remains the northern-most bermudagrass field to fraze mow, as well as the only school in the Big Ten. The machine strips off the top half of the field (depths vary). The process removes organic matter, thatch and weeds while smoothing the surface.
“The most noteworthy part of last year was how quickly the field recovered from the fraze mowing,” Lievense continued. “We were able to get the field back to playable 28 days after stripping it off. In the past, it took as long as six to eight weeks to recover; and this time we did not resurface the pitch, we grew back what was there. Because we had such a tight window of recovery, we used our past experience with fraze mowing to adjust our recovery program to focus on plant health.
“The fraze mowing, extra aerification and topdressing all help to create a strong pitch that stays consistent from the first match to the last. It also allows for the team to train on Folk Field as many as three to four times on a game week, without affecting the surface for the match. This gives them the advantage of being very familiar with the pace and condition of the surface for their home matches.”
During the 2017 calendar year, Folk Field hosted 13 games. That total includes Purdue’s 11 home dates during the fall season and two exhibition games in the spring. Visiting players and coaches remain very complimentary about the quality of the playing surface at Folk Field.
Including a preseason exhibition vs. Iowa State, the Boilermakers won eight of their 11 home dates this past fall en route to enjoying their finest season of the decade. Six of Purdue’s seven regular-season home wins came in shutout fashion. The Boilermakers posted a program-record shutout streak of 470 consecutive minutes at home in 2017.
The sports turf staff utilizes aggressive turf management techniques to keep the goal mouths in pristine condition all season. This includes extensive aerifying, topdressing and seeding.
Lievense says the professional maintenance at a mowing height lower than many fields provides an extremely fast, smooth and dense surface. This allows for predictable ball roll and bounce for the players. He added that the staff maintains the field at a professional level without the benefit of a pro sports level budget.
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