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One-on-one: Grant Davisson, turf manager, Minnesota Vikings
Stadia caught up with the Minnesota Vikings’ turf manager to talk about how he and his team deal with the unique challenges of managing the surface at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium – the team’s temporary home while work on the US Bank Stadium continues
Can you talk us through the broad responsibilities of your job includes?
In a nutshell, the responsibility of the turf team is to assure that all Minnesota Vikings facilities not only meet but exceed NFL standards. Without a doubt, our primary concern each week is the safety of the players. Our other goals include the surface’s playability, recovery and aesthetics.
What are the weekly duties for you and your team in a typical week?
While the Minnesota Vikings’ new home – US Bank Stadium – is being constructed, the team plays home games at TCF Bank Stadium. Before each home game, we’re in charge of the transition of the field from the Gophers to the Vikings, which is a bit unusual as we’re the only team in the league to share our facility with an NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) program.
In addition to the TCF Bank Stadium changeover, we are in charge of maintaining the Vikings Winter Park practice facility on a daily basis.
What other responsibilities do you have?
We’ve also assisted the Minnesota State University staff in revamping their facility and its playing surface to meet NFL standards, as this is where Vikings training camp takes place. On top of all of this, we’re in charge of the field that will be installed at US Bank Stadium in time for the start of the 2016 NFL season.
How many people are on your team and what is the scope of their responsibilities?
The turf team consists of myself, turf assistant Dan Sidle and turf technician Jared Kuhn. They play an integral role in preparation and assuring that each facility in the Vikings network exceeds NFL standards for safety and playability.
You’re currently in the unusual position of converting TCF Bank Stadium’s surface on a weekly basis. What are the principal challenges of this situation?
Because of the field changeover between a Gophers and Vikings game, we definitely have a bit extra on our plate compared to others in the league. Luckily I have an incredible team on the turf staff, and we have this down to a science at this point. Our record changeover time is 5 hours, 51 minutes, which depends on weather conditions and a few other factors.
How do you ensure the surface stands up to the challenges of such heavy use?
With regards to the recovery of the real grass surfaces, health is paramount. This process starts early, as we have our Winter Park facility lush and green in the spring, weeks before neighboring lawns.
Maintaining proper moisture levels is also key. Across all of our fields, including those at our training camp facility in Mankato, Minnesota, we have a world-class Toro irrigation system that includes sensors to monitor and adjust moisture levels.
How’s the surface at the new stadium coming along?
Given that US Bank Stadium will be fully enclosed, we are looking for an artificial surface that most closely replicates real grass. In the coming weeks the Vikings and the MSFA (Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority) will issue an RFP to select the specific provider, and the field will be installed in May 2016.
How much of your time is given over to preparations for the move to the new venue?
We’re currently in the process of selecting a specific provider for US Bank Stadium, but preparation for the new stadium will really ramp up between the end of this season and when the field surface is ultimately installed in May. Since we’re in-season now, the majority of my time is spent on the TCF Bank Stadium transition for home games and the maintenance of the Winter Park practice facility.
Will your life be a little simpler once the move takes place?
I wouldn’t necessarily say simpler, but there will be a shift in responsibilities. While the folks at TCF Bank Stadium have been gracious hosts while US Bank Stadium is being constructed, it’ll be great to have the keys to our own facility.
The exciting – yet challenging – part about the new stadium is the multitude of high-profile events we’ll host, including everything from sold-out concerts to the 2018 Super Bowl. Again, while transitioning the venue from event to event, we’ll assure that our goals of safety and playability are not compromised.
How do you think a typical week will change once the team moves?
One major difference is the home field surface. We’ll be going from the real grass of TCF Bank Stadium to an artificial surface designed to closely replicate real grass in US Bank Stadium. Our team is well prepared for this, having extensive experience with artificial surfaces, including at [Vikings’ former home] the Metrodome.
December 11, 2015