The Guys Behind The Grass: Making The Transition From Baseball Field To Football Field At Legends Field – A Thankful And Important Job

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One site, two distinct appearances and uses – that’s what the field team at Legends Field in Kansas City, Kansas is doing with their behind-the-scenes work to convert the playing surface from a baseball-friendly surface to one. other capable of hosting professional football matches.

Shaun Goodwin / Briar Napier photos

Tyler Stelter had no time to celebrate when the Kansas City Monarchs beat the Winnipeg Goldeyes 9-8 with a draw victory Sunday at Legends Field.

In fact, by the time the game ended, Legends Field’s head gardener’s job had begun. In less than 72 hours, Stelter’s job was to lead a team of workers to convert a baseball field that had been trampled, trampled and slipped for six consecutive days into a bright, peaceful and scenic football field for a KC NWSL game. vs. Orlando Pride on Wednesday.

As Sunday brought the bats, Monday brought the bulldozers. Construction noises echoed throughout Legends Field as Stelter’s team upset the basic earth-covered areas in favor of natural turf. The manpower was large enough for such an operation that few people see; it’s not like the Monarchs or the NWSL are checking every hour to make sure everything is going well. The pitch better be fair on game day.

Being anonymous is not a bad thing, says Stelter. In his field of work, it is actually preferred.

“I keep telling my guys we’re the offensive line,” Stelter said. “If no one knows who you are, you are doing something right.”

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Transforming Legends Field from a baseball stadium to a football stadium, and back again, is no easy task. But it happens regularly, and apparently seamlessly, at the stadium in Kansas City, Kansas. Heather Napier [email protected]

Stelter, a 2019 Kansas State graduate with a sports turf management degree, started his job in March, just in time for the T-Bones’ Monarchs rebranding and a new tenant to KC NWSL. As a famous “baseball guy” at heart, the news made his experience with the Boston Red Sox in 2018 worthwhile.

Fenway Park, where the Red Sox play, has been reassigned over the years for soccer, football, hockey, and even a ski and snowboard competition. There probably won’t be any snow sports coming to Legends Field anytime soon, but there had to be football, and Stelter had to find bodies to help him – both through the brain and through the muscles. .

First, the workforce – Legends Field outsources Midwest Laser Leveling to Topeka for all of its transitions. Then came the advice, which Stelter asked acquaintances in Boston and Tacoma, Wash., Who host Tacoma Rainiers of minor league baseball and the NWSL’s OL Reign football team at Cheney Stadium. Since Legends Field made their first pitch change for a KC NWSL game on May 3, the team has started to get used to it. If all goes well and there are no incidents (miscalculations, weather conditions, etc.), the process can be completed in about 24 hours.

“You respect the amount of work that goes into it behind the scenes,” Stelter said. “Football will come here ready to play a game at 1 pm and will have no idea what we have been up to in the last few days. They just walked in and said, ‘Oh, there’s a soccer field here,’ which is great, and that’s how we like it.

The transition from baseball to football is much easier than the other way around, Stelter says. This process simply involves tearing apart baseball pieces while laying sod and watering it, along with other details such as pitch dimensions, placement of removable bleachers on the pitch, and hanging of specific signage. at the NWSL. Yet the dimensions of the football field at Legends Field are 110 meters by 70 meters, the smallest field size allowed by league rules. Corner kicks are often awkward and against the wall of the outfield at one end; moose can change surfaces from land to grass halfway to each other.

Baseball requires more attention to detail, with a lot of time spent on what Stelter thinks is the most boring part of the makeover: the mound. When there is a football-to-baseball transition, the football turf is removed and the surface is leveled to impeccable degrees, especially where dirt and grass meet. Moisture levels in dirt must be properly maintained – perfect levels are achieved when a cleat does not remove extra chunks from the floor.

But all the priorities are pale compared to the mound.

“It’s really the focal point of the whole game,” Stelter said. “Having to remove all that clay and then put it back in place, it has to be perfect to the inch, to the centimeter at the bottom of the slope, where you throw efficiently on it and you also comply with the regulations. . If we leave, then we are in trouble by the association. … This is 100% the most tedious thing.

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Legends Field is all dressed up for football on Wednesday before the Kansas City NWSL Women’s Professional Football game against Orlando Pride kicks off. Shaun goodwin Special to the star

How receptive were the players to the conditions on the ground? There are mixed feelings, Stelter said.

There has been no major criticism so far from either side, but baseball interests here want the infield – all grassy except the mound and small areas of dirt around bases – has a more standard look and feel, unlike balls on the ground. play the same on the grass. Stelter wishes he could achieve this, but said he couldn’t with the resources available. Football, meanwhile, called “phenomenal” to work with.

The Monarchs, in a team statement, underscored the uniqueness of the conditions on the ground and appreciated the work of Stelter and Midwest Laser Leveling.

“On behalf of the Monarchs, we can add that it is a great endeavor to transform a natural grass playground from baseball to football or vice versa,” the statement said. “But to do it 17 times in a very short period of time is a phenomenal achievement. Especially if the weather comes into play.

“The initial feeling of playing on a grass field is new to many baseball players and when visiting teams enter the stadium for the first time they are always a little surprised – you don’t see that very often. “

Maybe the final touch of detail is that each team has a specially designed clubhouse to call their own, and with the recently rebranded baseball team and football just moved in, they’re both freshly designed. . The Monarchs (and football visitors) clubhouse is decorated in crimson and navy decor, while the KC NWSL (and baseball visitors) clubhouse is white and teal.

With two occupants in a stadium intended for just one of their sports, Legends Field is a unique and complicated home.

But this is my home.

“We have two teams here who are both professional athletes,” Stetler said. “We want them both to feel like they have a home stadium, even if it’s a little unorthodox. Ultimately, if the grass is flat and it’s cut and moves the ball well over it, there’s really nothing to be upset about.

This story was originally published June 24, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.

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