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MPSTMA MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
MATT GROSJEAN
St. Paul Building and Grounds Worker
University of Minnesota

When you started the job how did you come to understand all aspects of the industry?  To be honest, everyday I learn a little more. Mostly just getting to know the people involved, and asking questions, and starting conversations about how we can do things better.

2)  What experiences in your career prepared you to take over leadership of the MPSTMA? I believe that being on the Board of Directors 2013-2015 has helped to see how the MPSTMA works. Being involved with the Spring Workshop Committee and Committee Chair Roger Weinbrenner (Certified Sports Field Manager at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul) has been a great experience. Also, Working for Mike McDonald (Certified Sports Field Manager at TCF Bank Stadium/University of Minnesota in Minneapolis) has given me guidance and insight. I have also taken good lessons from my parents who have owned their own business for over forty years.

What are your current responsibilities at the University of Minnesota? My title is St. Paul Building and Grounds Worker. I am responsible for the grounds and Recreation fields at Student Recreation Fields/Sports Dome, West Bank fields, and St. Paul Soccer fields. All in total about 11 acres. We have Soccer, Softball, Ultimate Frisbee, Rugby, and Flag Football all on grass. We have Soccer, Lacrosse, flag football, and Rugby on synthetic turf. Our Dome is currently scheduled to be moved and rebuilt in December 2017. I am helping with the planning. I also am responsible for the custodial at the Dome, West Bank Clubhouse and the St. Paul Gym, which is mostly staffed by students that I hire and oversee. The Gym is over 100 years old and has: Basketball, racquetball, squash, swimming pool, elevated track and several areas of workout equipment. I typically hire no more that seven students at any given time, but I do average five students.

How did you first become involved in sports turf management and how did you first become involved with MPSTMA? While in college, and after, I worked for Athletic Field Services as an intern that handled field maintenance and construction. I also interned at Sylvania Recreation at Pacesetter Park. Both of those employers were active members of the Ohio Sports Turf Managers Association as well as the Sports Turf Managers Association. I knew when I went to college where I wanted to focus and I went that route. I got involved with the MPSTMA when I started working at the University of Minnesota in the Athletic Department in 2009.

How has your career benefitted from being a member of MPSTMA? The association has welcomed me as a member and helped me meet new people. MPSTMA also helped me get to know a lot of the vendors that we work with. I have gained quite a bit of knowledge attending the workshops as well, and talking with other members. Just getting to know other Sports turf Managers, and talk about what they care for, having that camaraderie for me is extremely helpful. To know that we can all help each other, no matter what level. The biggest thing that MPSTMA has lead me to is the realization that we are all trying to do the same thing, so in one way or another we can all help each other. Somewhere one of us has dealt with an issue that can be the benefit of someone else dealing with it.

What specific challenges do turf managers at the college level face that differ from your peers in other management categories? I believe that Labor at the college level can be a big challenge. We are dealing with a lot of people that may not be as interested, or invested as we are. To keep them motivated, and getting them to do quality work can sometimes be a challenge. Also to keep track of their class schedules, as well as building, and keeping your own is a challenge. The other challenge is competing for capital, and student labor within your own department, let alone the entire University can be frustrating.  One thing that is increasingly becoming a challenge is decreased parking around the University for Staff, and patrons.

What are your passions and interests outside of work? My family who are Elizabeth, Everett, Amelia and Daisy. I put a lot of time and blood, sweat and tears into my lawn. My wife and I enjoy hiking through the different state parks. We also enjoy baking.

Qualifications and Awards? I received a 2001 Ohio Sports Turf Managers Association Scholarship recipient. I have my Degree in Turfgrass Management from Owens Community College-2002.

What are the biggest issues facing the MPSTMA today? I believe one challenge is keeping a pipeline of new members coming, and leading. Another is educating the community leaders on the whole story of Synthetic Turf versus Natural grass. I will say that synthetic turf has its place here in Minnesota, and Wisconsin, but we need to find a way to better educate the community leaders that make these decisions on what the maintenance of each surface costs and what the plan should be. I think that if we don’t there may be less, and less of us.

What are the most important changes you’ve seen in sports turf management over your time with sports turf management? I think that there are two big ones: first would be that there is more and more research and better products for Sports Turf Managers; the other is social media, we can connect with Sports turf managers from, Golf Course Superintendents, as well as educators, and extensions specialists around the world to help us with issues, or ideas.

If you watch old footage from NFL Films what memories are stirred up when you see some of the turf situations from “back in the day”? The biggest ones I see are chunks of turf flying around, and stuck in player’s facemasks. The one's I really don’t care for are the football field laid over a baseball field that had to be a challenge for both the players, and the Sports Turf Manager. I do understand that times where different, and that is what they had, so that is what they played on. But, to keep those surfaces level, and then to have traction had to be a challenge.

You know a lot of sports turf managers. What are they saying are the biggest obstacles to overcome for them to be successful today? The labor market, and in some aspects society, is changing with the millennial generation, they have a different outlook than previous generations. Another obstacle is always money, there is never enough. Depending on the level of fields, time on those fields for the different user groups seems to be increasing, while the time to rest them, and maintain them is decreasing. The fallacy that community leaders believe that synthetic fields are the only way to get a perfect field, and that they need little-to-no-maintenance.

How has social media impacted your work? It has connected me with people, and given me some really good ideas, and updated me on weeds and insect issues.

What’s your favorite on-field maintenance task that you still enjoy performing? Mowing, seeding and painting.

How do you think the profession and industry will change in the next 10 years? I think that we will see more synthetic fields, but I don’t think it will be at quite the rate we have been on. We may see a trend back to grass, hopefully. Better, safer pesticides.

How has your career benefitted from being a member of MPSTMA? Just getting to know other Sports turf Managers, and talk about what they care for, having that camaraderie for me is extremely helpful. To know that we can all help each other, no matter what level.

Every soccer pitch in the USA has wear in the goalmouths. Any advice for those at park & rec or school levels on keeping turf growing there? Fertility, and seed, seed, seed! The pitchfork theory works pretty well.

How do you think the natural turf vs. synthetic turf issue will play out over the next decade? As a profession, I do think a lot of this will depend on how we, not just the MPSTMA, but also the STMA, and SAFE do educating the public on what the benefits, as well as the negatives of each surface may be. I also believe that there should be a real cost side-by-side of what the installation and maintenance costs are annually over an 10 year period. I think you will see some of these synthetic surfaces come back to natural grass.

What changes if any are you considering or implementing this year? I am going to attempt to be more diligent on PGR applications, especially at out St. Paul Soccer site. More seeding of Turf Type Tall Fescue at West Bank fields prior to weekend games to try and fill in the bare areas, as well as making it a safer fields.

What specific job responsibilities do find most enjoyable?
Mowing, Painting, Fertilization and seeding.

Who would be included at the table if you could dine with anyone, living or dead? All my Grandparents, Jesus, my family, my parents, sisters, cousins, Aunts and Uncles.

How do you think the STMA should approach the increasing number of synthetic turf fields being built? I believe that the STMA should put together a maintenance plan for a new Synthetic field, as well as a Sand-based natural grass field, and base it on 10years, about the average for a synthetic field. Then they should take the Installation costs, as well as the cost to do the maintenance plan that they developed, include any and all equipment purchased and maintained, as well as labor over that time span. Put it side by side, month to month, or year-to-year and let the numbers, and results do the talking. You may want to develop plans for both bluegrass, and Bermudagrass, and at different levels, college versus High Schools/Parks and Rec.

I also believe that we should be encouraging schools, and recreation departments with synthetic fields, as well as natural grass fields to do these maintenance plans, and to have those Synthetic fields tested regularly. Maybe that means each chapter purchases a Clegg hammer, and an insurance and bond policy, with a few of their member being certified to go and test fields.

Anything else you’d like to add about yourself, family etc… My wife and I moved to Minnesota 8 years ago, in search of better opportunities than what were available in our hometown of Toledo, Ohio. We can honestly say we have really never looked back, and this has been good for us both. The members of the MPSTMA have welcomed me, and I cannot be anymore grateful for that. I look forward to serving you all the next three years and hopefully in to the future in any capacity. Thank you and God Bless.