Twenty tons of clay.

Two-hundred gallons of paint.

No, this isn’t a list of supplies needed for the world’s biggest art project.

They are just a few of the essentials required to maintain Fairfield’s outdoor athletic fields on a yearly basis.

“During the season, we’re pretty much there every day,” said Michael Flowers, president of Championship Turf Services, a Harwinton, Conn.-based company outsourced by the Athletic Department to do work on the fields.

Much of the manual labor is done by Championship Turf, along with Fairfield Athletics and Fairfield Campus Operations, at an annual cost of approximately $250,000.

“They want it green and playable, and we tell them, ‘Here’s what needs to be done,'” said Ted Hunyadi, director of operations.

Flowers said Championship Turf is busiest during Fairfield’s fall and spring seasons. While the company does more than mow lawns, grass cutting is one of its primary obligations during this time.

“We mow every day,” said Flowers, “when [it] starts to grow, until frost.”

Flowers uses “dedicated equipment,” or machines left on campus strictly for Championship Turf for mowing. In a month, these mowers use 35- 40 gallons of diesel and 25- 30 gallons of gasoline.

Fertilizing is a project unto itself.

“The whole chemical application process is part of an integrated pest management control,” said Hunyadi, adding that applications are directly linked to environmental laws.

“We check the fields weekly for activity and problems,” said Flowers.

Fungicides and weed sprays are needed occasionally but used sparingly, according to Flowers.

In the fall, Lessing Field is a chief concern. Flowers said this “modified sand field” provides better drainage than normal grass fields but requires more fertilizer.

Besides fertilizing, Championship Turf must also paint the field before games. Like with mowing, painting requires “dedicated equipment,” this time in the form of a paint machine.

Bridget Nerich ’10, goalie on the women’s varsity soccer team, said these efforts do not go unnoticed.

“In some circumstances, the quality of a playing surface can affect the level of play,” said Nerich via e-mail. “The [women’s soccer] field is always kept well cut and lined,” she said.

Men’s rugby club team president Eddie Mazzaferro ’08 has a slightly different outlook when it comes to Grauert Field, home to the men’s and women’s club rugby teams.

“Overall the [rugby] field is in decent shape, but I do think more grass is needed,” said Mazzaferro.

Despite this shortcoming, Grauert takes a beating from “countless teams” other than club rugby and club sports do receive a different level of field support than varsity sports, according to Mazzaferro.

In the spring, Alumni Softball Field and Alumni Baseball Diamond take up much of Championship Turf’s time and effort.

Before every varsity softball and baseball game, Championship Turf rakes and lines the fields, painting the batter’s box and baselines.

After batting practice, the fields are groomed again.

Flowers said most of the spring-time work involves maintaining the dirt portions of each diamond. Championship Turf uses additional clay to keep these surfaces level. Calcined clay, a water-absorbing substance, is mixed in after rain.

The work does not stop there.

Every year, Championship Turf touches up areas surrounding the fields with regular gravel. Flowers said he uses another ton of stone dust, “a really fine trap rock,” on the warning tracks.

During the winter, Championship Turf maintains University Field, Fairfield’s old astroturf field and Alumni Stadium, by snow blowing. This does not begin until spring practices start in January. Nicholas Papillo, director of purchasing at Fairfield, said snow blowing is done on demand and is not built into Fairfield’s Championship Turf contract.

“We do รก; la carte,” said Papillo, who explained this makes the most sense since one year may require 10 snow-removal jobs and another might require only one.

He said Fairfield allots $20,000 for additional field maintenance like snow blowing or lining fall and spring home playoff games, bringing the total annual budget closer to $270,000. Papillo said the cost of Fairfield’s contract with Championship Turf is reasonable and that Fairfield has been pleased with Flowers and his work.

Papillo said Fairfield recognizes that Flowers’s job is not easy.

“It’s not like he comes once a week and drives away,” he said. “It’s not just a nine to five, see you later [job].”

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