Seeing the Light

By Larry Gilhuly, director, Northwest Region
January 31, 2012

The combination of shade and traffic will always result in difficult growing conditions as noted in the photo from Safeco Field (L), and other stadiums with large stands (R) that create unique shade issues. (Photos courtesy of SGL)  

Much has been written about the impact trees have on a golf course (Made in the Shade?).  But what about those facilities that do not have the luxury of starting up a chain saw to minimize or eliminate the problem?  No, not golf courses but stadiums used for other sports. 

Safeco Field serves as the home to the Seattle Mariners.  For more than a decade the Kentucky bluegrass/perennial ryegrass field has done very well with the hard work of the grounds crew.  Led by Bob Christopherson, the entire field is treated similar to a putting green with regards to aeration and sand topdressing.  The one-inch mowing height and a sub-surface heating system has created a perfect environment for turf growth.  Add the ability to close the roof with a moveable top and severe winter conditions can be countered.  However, one side of the field (first base line) and the infield suffer from excess shade.  A chain saw is not an option in this case. Over the years several portions of turf have required a complete sod replacement.

Rather than fight a battle of constant resodding, Mr. Christopherson investigated the use of a mobile lighting system that has produced very good results on sports fields in Europe.  In the U.S. the difference it has made for Lambeau Field has been very impressive.  Safeco Field is now conducting a two month study on the use of this lighting in the shaded portion of the field. The goal is enhanced turf density and deeper rooting during the entire year.  Hopefully, the turf will improve in the coming year.  While this type of technology does not apply to a golf course it will provide another example on the importance of light to turf growth.  Now if we could just get more golfers to “see the light” for heavily shaded greens.


Source:  Larry Gilhuly, 


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