Hidden beneath greens – and fields

Hidden beneath greens – and fields

SubAir Systems helping sports venues improve playing surfaces.

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August 17, 2018
GCI Staff
On the surface, the serenity of the greens at Pebble Beach Golf Links on a Sunday afternoon have little in common with the intensity on the 50-yard line at Mile High Stadium on game day for the Denver Broncos.

However, under the surface – literally, under the playing surface – the two are alike, each with equipment specially designed and installed by SubAir Systems.

Hidden underground, or beneath stadium seating, the SubAir units manage aeration and moisture – at speeds 36 times faster than natural drainage alone – with the most advanced technology available to control the turf subsurface environment.

“Golf and football are two different worlds, but the expectations are the same, championship turf to play on,” says Jay Penney, president of SubAir Systems. “And we are getting superior results in both worlds.” 

Through its vacuum and forced-air process, SubAir Systems support the overall health of the turf and expedites drainage, all without any interruption to tee times or touchdown drives. All with the touch on a screen. “The TurfWatch Technology really defines us. It puts us far ahead of everyone else in the world,” Penney added.

TurfWatch Technology allows turf managers to monitor field conditions via smart phones, tablets or computers round the clock. The proprietary technology receives real time sensor data on field conditions, activates automatically to adjust air or moisture levels, or allows the turf manager to review data and activate the equipment via web access. TurfWatch also retains historical data, providing information on the impact of agronomic practices, natural phenomena, and weather events on turf conditions.

In the golf world, where system use is primarily for putting greens (which range from 3,000 to 5,000 square feet each), a small unit is plenty. The largest unit is typically used for football practice field complexes (200 horsepower for 200,000 square feet), while a football stadium unit is generally 100 horsepower.

Designed to connect to the existing the underground drainage network – no need to tear up a field or green to install – the SubAir System components create a closed system that operates in two different modes: Vacuum (for drainage) and Pressure (for air circulation and temperature control).

At golf courses, each custom designed mechanical system (fans, blowers, a water separator and vents) are installed underground next to the putting greens, while for sports fields they typically are built in a dedicated mechanical room under the stadium seating.

It takes roughly 10 to 12 work days to install a sports stadium system, longer for a multi-field complex. By comparison, a putting green requires two workdays to install, which can be a big project when multiplying that by 18, 27 or 36, depending on the number of holes where the units are to be installed. 

SubAir Systems cut its teeth in the golf industry: It originated in 1994 under founder Marsh Benson, longtime senior director of golf course and grounds at Augusta National Golf Club. Today the Graniteville, S.C.-based company has extended its reach into virtually all sports, becoming part of the turf management landscape in Major League Baseball, cricket, and professional soccer around the world, including this past summer’s World Cup in Russia.

“The turf managers we work with are the best in the business,” Penney said. “They know what they are doing. But they face immense challenges from Mother Nature, stadium environments and multi-use issues. We just give them the best chance to keep the turf healthy and recover faster.”