July 31, 2010
Fields of (very lush) dreams
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland interns, from left, Yoo Hyemin, Alex Michalenko, Jay Distefano, Wayne Wheeler, and Justin Fredenburg put up fencing in the spectator area of the Jets camp main practice fields Thursday.
The grass practice field that the New York Jets used during last summer’s training camp has been replaced by two new ones, side by side next to the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.
Three New York Jets grounds crew spray-painted white hashmarks this week on the two 100-yard fields, while student interns put up fencing. Visitors kept remarking that the fields looked too nice to walk on, more like giant putting greens than places where a football team will prepare for the NFL season.
The fields go east to west with a wide strip between them and a quarter-field area next to one, where linemen can do drills, for a total of about 130,000 square feet of turf.
The fields, made of Kentucky bluegrass blend, were installed in April after the turf was trucked from southern New Jersey, where it was grown at Tuckahoe Turf Farms, a company that has provided turf for athletic fields such as Fenway Park, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisc., and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Heiz Field.
“Hopefully the coaching staff will be happy with it,” said Blake Hoerr, the Jets’ director of fields and grounds. “I’ve been thrilled with it, but their opinion is what matters.”
The camp’s main entrance for fans to use in attending practices, and the merchandise tent, are next to the new fields, closer to the Route 281 parking lot.
The camp, being held at SUNY Cortland for the second year and starting a three-year contract with possible extensions, begins Sunday with the players’ arrival and ends Aug. 20. The first public practice is at 4:20 p.m. Monday.
A green nylon fence stretches between the fields and the stadium itself, decorated with the the Jets corporate partners’ logos: EA Sports, Toyota, the Bergen Record, Atlantic Health, JetBlue, MetLife and SNY.
The practice fields can accommodate more fans in bleachers, as the college purchased two sets of bleachers that will hold about 80 to 100 people each. Other bleachers from last year remain and still others were moved to the site from other college athletic facilities. SUNY Cortland spokesman Pete Koryzno said the seating can hold 1,000 fans.
Fans can park at the lot off Route 281 or at the lot next to Park Center.
The team will have its Green and White Scrimmage at the grass fields one week from today, not in the stadium itself. The Jets plan to practice only on grass to keep the players from getting injured as much as they can. They will move to the stadium’s artificial turf only if it rains.
The large VIP tent for corporate sponsors’ guests and the college’s guests stands next to the merchandise tent.
But the real attraction right now, before it gets torn up by players’ cleats this week, is the wide expanse of lush turf.
Hoerr said the fields were installed between April 12 and April 21, and the turf was cut to 2.5 inches. It was cut in June to an inch, the preferred height for practice or games.
“We specialize in sports turf,” said James Betts, whose father is a co-owner of Tuckahoe Turf Farms in Hammonton, NJ. “Our family started out in the 1930s, growing vegetables, and started growing grass in 1967. Now we’re on the third generation of our family in this business.”
Besides Fenway and Lambeau, the company has provided turf for minor-league baseball parks in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The turf for the Jets’ fields is a blend of bluegrass varieties that grow back quickly when torn up, Betts said. The company uses research from Penn State and Rutgers, and is familiar with turf research at Cornell University, as it tries different blends.
Betts said the company sold the Jets the turf for the grass field installed last year at SUNY Cortland the week before camp started. The turf never really took root properly because the weather turned rainy that week and the rolls of turf sat on truck beds.
“You have to put down sod as fast as you can,” Betts said.
“Sod begins to break down, because it gets hot inside the rolles,” Hoerr said.
He said turf for the Jets’ Atlantic Health Center training facility in Florham Park, N.J., was purchased from a turf farm in Maryland.
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