The Groundsman

July 2012

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the Groundsman July 2012 FEATURE 43 Turf is the centrepiece of the Charlotte Speedway track - and it is kept in pristine condition Fans can immerse themselves in the sport by taking in an event at the legendary 1.5-mile super speedway, and visit race team shops and the newly- opened NASCAR Hall of Fame. Generating a regional economic impact of approximately $400 million annually, the speedway hosts three premier NASCAR events each year - the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, the Coca Cola 600 and the Bank of America 500 - plus more than three dozen other events for automotive and motor sport enthusiasts of all ages. The speedway complex encompasses nearly 2,000 acres and includes a 2.25- mile road course, a six-tenths-mile karting layout and a quarter-mile oval within the walls of the super speedway. You may ask: what has this got to do with groundsmanship? Well, the answer is that the centrepiece of the circuit is a long strip of turf which is kept in pristine condition by Roger Neale, Vice President of Operation and Development. The turf stretches the length of the huge main grandstand providing a fantastic backdrop for the 140,000 fans. It is clear that under the glare of TV the same pressures for groundsmanship abound, so great care is taken with the presentation of this turf which is a mix of warm and cool season grasses. We arrived in less than perfect weather (the odd tornado being reported in the local area!) and a week before the Coca Cola 600 race, so lots of preparation was underway including stencilling of the turf to satisfy the sponsors. Roger left the impression on the group that he was a person with a cool head and someone with vast experience, a person who the facility's management would be hard pressed to replace. It's not easy to enforce a policy of 'keep off the grass' when you have several hundred horsepower bearing down on you! The group also picked up some other interesting facts about the history of the track: • The land that the speedway occupies was the site of a working plantation during the American Civil War • President George Washington ate lunch and rested in a house that once served as the speedway's offices Charlotte Speedway's Roger Neale • During a typical race weekend, fans consume more than 34,000 slices of pizza, 9,500 gallons of soda and water, 13,500 feet of hot dogs and 309,000 pounds of ice • Charlotte was the first modern super speedway to host night racing in 1992. Towards the end of the day, the IOG Board was able to network with the American delegates and we soon recognised that there was a big difference in the US education system compared to the UK. It became clear that in the US it is usual to gain a degree in sports turf prior to undertaking a career in the profession. Day Two The day started with a tour of the Jacobsen manufacturing facility. The tour was hosted by Kurt Accetta who had been working with the company for nearly 25 years. It was noted that there were some very experienced employees who had been working for the company for as many years, which in itself signifies many positives about the company. Other points that were of interest to the IOG Board at the factory were: • 15 different types of cylinder made • 130 employees on the manufacturing floor • Around 20 different types of sports turf machines manufactured • Great emphasis on health and safety with no serious injury in the last five years • All machinery is thoroughly tested before distribution • There is a total of 2,000 welded parts for all machines.

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