In this week’s Spotlight, I spoke with members of the Chiefs Stadium Operations crew to find out how they maintain the field, Arrowhead Stadium and The University of Kansas Hospital Training Complex.
Stadium Operations is spilt into three sections, including Facilities, Customer Relations and Events. Facilities is then split three ways as well, to Grounds, Services and Systems.
“The Grounds crew holds responsibility of maintaining the playing fields, while the Services Department takes care of housekeeping and carpentry and the Systems Department does all of the engineering,” Brandon Hamilton, Chiefs Director of Facilities, explained.
The Grounds crew manages the landscape around the stadium and works on the fields, all year long. They are responsible for maintaining the playing field, the practice fields, ensuring each is ready to go when the players are back in the building.
“We are responsible for the stadium field, the practice fields, which are the two outdoor natural-grass fields and one artificial turf field, along with an indoor artificial field,” Jay Warnick, Sports Field Manager, said.
In preparation for OTAs, the crews top priority right now is the practice facility fields.
“The best way to have a successful playing field is to be doing the hard work right now,” Warnick explained. “Currently, we are focused on the practice facility’s fields. We’re trying to wake them up and get them ready, so that when OTAs start in a few weeks, the field will be ready to go.”
While the team is away, the crew uses “growth covers,” a tarp that covers the field, keeping the heat in.
“The best way to think about it is like a little green house that’s holding in the heat over the field,” Warnick said. “Those covers also allow us to wake up the field two to three weeks sooner than if we didn’t have them.”
The field at Arrowhead Stadium is a completely different animal, however. While the practice fields need to be strengthened and ready to withstand hours of practice every day, the stadium field needs to look good, for games and events.
“With all of the concerts, the fantasy camp, the Chiefs 5k, there’s a lot that happens on that field, throughout the year,” Warnick noted. “We are trying to get it to look as good as possible, whereas with the practice facility, the focus is to strengthen the field.”
Due to a number of events held at Arrowhead Stadium, during this offseason, the crew needed to re-sod the entire field.
“It’s basically erasing everything on a chalkboard and starting over,” Warnick explained. “The focus is then on growing that sod in and making it as healthy as possible. Large events can really destroy the field, so we have to strip the whole field out and re-sod.”
During the season, the Grounds crew is responsible for painting the field, which sometimes takes two to three days to complete. Once the paint is dry, the crew lays a tarp over the field, which is league-mandated. On game day, the crew removes the tarp from the field, sets up the team area, including the benches, the heaters or coolers and prepares the sidelines for the team.
Throughout the game, the crew is on hand for support, monitoring the heaters or the cooling system and pulling the net up behind the goal posts. Immediately following the game, the crew puts all the equipment back and then mows the field.
“It is one of the ways to help restore the field,” Warnick commented. “It’s a good way to get it back to normal and then we water it, which is extremely important for the recovery of the field.”
While the Grounds crew is working on the field, a group goes through the stadium and the parking lot, picking up the recyclables, the compostable items and the trash.
The next day, another group comes through and sorts even further, pulling out aluminum, plastic and compostable materials.
“This past season, we reached a 50% diversion rate, meaning 50% of the waste we generate in a 12-month period gets recycled, instead of going to the landfill,” Hamilton noted. “That’s about 350 tons in the last year that we have recycled. This goes along with our Extra Yard for the Environment program, our annual recycle drive.”
As part of the Extra Yard for the Environment program, Arrowhead Stadium is hosting the second-annual community-wide recycling drive and will feature a number of local vendors, accepting everything from bathtubs, to lumber to cable boxes. To donate, visit Arrowhead Stadium on May 3rd from 8:00 a.m. to noon.
The Stadium Operations department is an unbelievable crew that works around the clock, maintaining the matchless beauty of Arrowhead Stadium for the best fans in the NFL.