grounds management

Overcoming the Challenges of Stadium Grounds Care

Head groundskeeper for Reno Aces shares tips for field maintenance.   November 3, 2022

By Dan Weltin, Editor-in-Chief

Grounds make an immediate impression for visitors. It doesn’t matter if the facility is a hospital campus, a high school football field or a professional stadium, visitors notice the condition of the facility’s grounds and will judge the rest of the building and the organization in general based on this opinion. 

In addition to first impressions, a well-kept landscape can improve mental health for staff, increase the buildings value, make an impact on utilities, and can improve safety. Today, Nov. 3, a panel of sports field professionals will discuss these benefits and share best practices for maintaining grounds during the presentation "Trends in Grounds Management" at NFMT Remix.  

One panel member is Leah Withrow, Head Groundskeeper for the Reno Aces, the triple A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. She is the youngest Triple A head groundskeeper and one of only four female head groundskeepers in all of major league baseball. 

NFMT: What is your biggest challenge during the Aces' season? 

Withrow: The biggest challenge I have during the season is staffing. Baseball is a long season and we host 75 home games. People get burnt out and it can be hard to make sure I have enough help to do my job but also make sure people are getting the breaks they need. I’m also the only salaried staff in the grounds department so finding a balance between giving myself a break and watching hours is a challenge. 

NFMT: How do you maintain the grass to stadium specifications with water and drought challenges of the area? 

Withrow: We use a [smart technology] system that tracks water usage and efficiency. I know if a head is leaking or the pump is running as soon it happens so my field gets the water it needs and we don’t waste any. We also have a heat and drought tolerant variety of Kentucky Bluegrass that does well in our area and allows me to save water. 

NFMT: What keeps you busy in the offseason? 

Withrow: Many projects! We do small projects like reorganizing our garage and maintenancing our equipment, all the way to renovating the field and installing all new wall pads. We work really closely with our stadium operations department to help them with stadium projects as well. 

NFMT: It sounds like you have a small staff. How many are on your team? As a small staff, what equipment do you rely on and how do you get it all done? 

Withrow: My team consists of myself and an assistant groundskeeper as full-time, year-round staff. I also have a 9 month seasonal assistant and an intern to help during the season. We have a full equipment fleet which helps us tremendously. Prioritizing and thoughtful scheduling get us through most weeks. Weather and other outside forces can be a variable, but for the most part we make sure to get the important things done first and everything else is a bonus. 

NFMT: What is one tip you like to share with your stadium groundskeeper peers? 

Withrow: Off days are a cultural practice. The field needs a day without anyone on it as much as you need a day away. 

NFMT: What do you enjoy most about your job? 

Withrow: I love getting to be outside and being hands on with my work. There’s such satisfaction right before the first pitch knowing that everything I did that day was for something bigger. 

Dan Weltin is the editor-in-chief for the facility market. He has nearly 20 years of experience covering the facility management and commercial cleaning industries. 


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