Sports field management

The sports field can be your organisation’s most valuable asset. Properly maintaining your sports field will help it withstand extended high use and provides a safe playing environment for your members and other users.

Find out more about:

Field remediation

The end of a playing season is the ideal time to prepare the turf for the next season, but also allow it to recover and repair from the previous playing season.

A tailored 12-month maintenance plan should be created and adhered to as closely as possible. This will ensure your organisation's allocated field maintenance budget is used efficiently.

All turf remediation practices should commence in the middle of September. This will generally coincide with the club's respective playing schedules and when ideal turf growing conditions commence.

Aeration, fertilising and irrigation should be scheduled in throughout the year to ensure the playing surface is kept in good condition.

Download examples of annual field maintenance plans in your preferred format:

Field management during drought

During drought conditions, it is essential that usage of the field is managed and kept to a minimum as much as possible. During drought, the turf is under significant stress from the weather conditions and may not be able to be brought back to a reasonable standard without returfing. Some suggestions for responsible field management include:

  • ensure training exercises and drills are rotated around the sports field to prevent excessive wear and tear
  • avoid training exercises that involve pivoting or turning int he same spot and cause excessive wear on concentrated areas of the ground
  • where possible, consider completing running drills off the field - go for a road run, or find a hilly street for hill repeats
  • during pre-season training, consider cross-training activities such as swimming, boxing, or gym work to minimise field usage
  • rope off sections of the field outside of games to allow turf to recover. Three to four days of no foot traffic on a selected area makes a huge difference to turf coverage
  • keep training activities away from high-wearing areas (e.g. goal mouths and centre of the field).

Watering

One of the most important factors in maintaining quality sports fields is to correctly manage and schedule an irrigation program.

It is important that watering (irrigation) of the fields is timed correctly, dependent on the time and season. Regular maintenance of the irrigation system is critical to ensuring the sports field is watered correctly. A poorly maintained system will require larger volumes of water and have less of an impact on the turf surface.

From mid-September onwards, as the weather gets warmer, ideally organisations should start to increase their watering schedules. Healthy turf requires around 35 millimetres of water per week, which is equivalent to 350,000 litres of water per hectare. 

For example:

  • A soccer field is approximately 7500 square metres. Therefore, the amount of water required in peak growing conditions is 262,500 litres per week.
  • An AFL field is approximately 16,000 square metres. Therefore, the amount of water required in peak growing conditions would be 560,000 litres per week.

To calculate the litres required per week for watering, multiply the field area in square metres by the number of millimetres of water you are aiming to provide.

Things to consider when watering sports fields:

  • irrigate at night to avoid significant levels of evaporation throughout the day
  • use deep and infrequent applications of water (watering to field capacity)
  • minimise light, frequent hand watering
  • syringing during times of stress (ensuring it's a very fine spray)
  • know your irrigation system and how much it applies
  • avoid hydrophobic conditions (soil too dry to allow water penetration)
  • know your water and turf quality, and have it analysed
  • use wetting agents to prolong the effects of your watering schedule
  • monthly checks of irrigation heads to ensure they are not leaking, and nozzles are inserted correctly to prevent water loss
  • keep the field free of undesirable grasses and weeds to allow the irrigation to be impacting the turf only.

It is important that your organisation considers the cost of watering when developing the annual budget.

Wetting agents

The application of wetting agents should be used as often as possible, especially during warmer months when fields are under most stress. This is extremely important to overall turf health.

Wetting agents can also help reduce water bills and allow your organisation to use more of your allocated budget on other maintenance practices.

Central control water monitoring system

If your organisation has a central control water monitoring system installed at your site, you have the potential to create an annual irrigation program to suit your budget.

The central control system provides Council's community sports club tenants with a water monitoring system that allows the monitoring and controlling of irrigation offsite, which enables flexibility and oversight of the system when operating remotely.

The central control system is designed to maximise irrigation usage and allow you to maintain your fields to the best possible standard.

If you have a rain sensor installed, make sure it is active and working correctly. This device can save you from irrigating fields unnecessarily.

For more information about the central control water monitoring system, or advice/assistance on the setup and operation of the system, phone Council on 07 3403 8888.

Aeration

Aeration is an essential part of sports field maintenance and should be conducted as often as possible. At a minimum, it should be done quarterly.

With the usage on sports fields increasing, regular aeration is key to providing relief to the playing surface.

Solid tine aeration has very little impact on playing surfaces, so no downtime or closure of fields is required.

The benefits of regular aeration are substantial and include:

  • minimises compaction levels on the sports fields
  • reduces surface hardness which can increase a field's safety from a usability perspective
  • allows more air to move through the soil which allows for a stronger root system and becomes more resistant to various stresses
  • reduces weed establishment
  • allows great water infiltration and percolation through the soil profile, with any added amendments/nutrients being able to reach the plant's root zone.

Aeration and fertilising works should be scheduled together to get maximum results.

Fertilising

When managing sports fields, it is vital to implement an efficient and adequate nutrition program. Fertilising, in conjunction with an efficient watering program and other turf maintenance practices, is a pivotal step to ensure healthy turf grass that is suitable for sports fields.

The two aspects to take into consideration when preparing a fertiliser program are:

  • what the plant requires
  • what the soil requires to support healthy plant growth.

The general ‘rule of thumb’ for plant nutrition should be ‘little and often’ and only applying nutrients/fertiliser when absolutely necessary.

A common mistake among ground staff is producing a field that is aesthetically pleasing in colour and appearance, without consideration of plant and soil health. This can lead to numerous issues including disease, pests, excess thatch and wear problems.

A good place to start when establishing a nutrition program is to conduct soil and leaf tissue testing, accompanied by an evaluation of turf health and quality. Without the inclusion of these tests and data, any fertiliser applications to the sports field will be guess work, which can be inaccurate and costly.

You can seek the services of a reputable and specialised turf consulting company to undertake soil or leaf tissue tests on the organisation's behalf. Alternatively, Council undertakes soil tests on a regular basis and can provide the latest turf audit reports on request.

Scarifying

Light scarifying is recommended before and after the playing season. This is an important turf management process that involves the removal of the dead thatch layer that accumulates over a playing season.

Herbicide

The control of foreign weeds in sports fields is also an integral part of ongoing turf maintenance.

To prevent the germination and spread of weeds, it is recommended that a pre-emergent herbicide is applied to the sports field to minimise weed infestations and prevent seeds from germinating on the field.

Pre-emergent herbicides generally have a residual effect of six (6) months and need to be reapplied halfway through the year for cover across the entire playing season.

When turf in sports fields is kept healthy, it will out-compete invasive weed grass species from establishing. However, when weed infestations become prevalent, one-off herbicide treatments are recommended.

Herbicide treatments should only be applied when weeds and turf are actively growing and when the soil has at least normal amounts of moisture.

Herbicides should not be applied when the turf is under drought stress.

Mowing

Regular mowing of sports fields is very important and often overlooked.

Increasing the frequency of mowing promotes lateral grass growth and a thick sward. The turf will become very dense and have the ability to recover faster.

The mowing height of your sport field turf should remain consistent throughout the year. The specific height requirements for your sport should also be considered.

Council recommends mowing three times per week during the growing season to thicken up the turf, which will provide a far superior standard during the cooler months. The frequency of mowing should reduce only slightly during the cooler months.

Only a third of the leaf blade should be cut at any time to prevent stress on the turf.

Regular mowing to the appropriate height:

  • promotes regrowth
  • promotes turf hardiness
  • improves turf quality
  • protects the field from excessive wear during winter play.

If significant grass clippings remain on the surface of your sports field, this indicates that you are not mowing regularly enough. This will increase thatch levels and cause problems such as dead patches, water logging and poor drainage.

To mitigate excessive wear, you should change the direction in which fields are mowed. View the directional mowing chart below.

Directional moving chart with mowing direction marked out for Monday, Wednesday and Friday. For more information, phone Council on 07 3403 8888.


 


 

Top soil

In accordance with Council policy, any fill or soil material imported to Council parks needs to be certified clean (free of contaminants), or from a quarry source.

Under the Biosecurity Act 2014, everyone, including individuals and organisations has a general biosecurity obligation to take all reasonable steps to ensure they do not spread fire ants. To view a map of the fire ant biosecurity zones and learn more about what you need to do to prevent the spread of fire ants, refer to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website.

Sports field condition audits

To further support tenants in managing and maintaining their premises, condition audits of all sports fields are undertaken by Council every year.

The purpose of these audits is to assist Council in understanding the condition of the city's sports fields and to provide tenants with essential information for the development of a proactive turf management program.

The assessment involves a scientific evaluation (i.e. agronomic assessment) of the sports field/s, along with the collection of data to support field performance and safety.

A report summarises the findings of the audit and provides practical management advice.

Sports field closures

Whilst community facility tenants are expected to be supportive of the public accessing their leased premises when they are not using them for their activities, tenants can restrict access to areas that are being remediated or rested.

If you need to restrict public access to undertake remediation works, you should erect safe, temporary fencing (e.g. bunting (orange tape) with capped star pickets) and provide signage to explain why the field has been closed and for how long.

Resources and support

Irrigation Australia Ltd is Australia's peak, national, not-for-profit organisation representing the Australian irrigation industry in all sectors and provides information on a range of irrigation-related areas including rainwater harvesting, waterwise programs, types of irrigation and design guidelines, as well as accredited training and education.

The Sports Turf Association, Qld Inc. (STA Qld) provides a network of turf grounds managers who are involved in managing sports and passive turf facilities in Queensland. STA Qld is a not-for-profit association committed to providing education, training opportunities, and enhancing the professionalism of turf grounds managers within the state.

A reputable turf management company can also provide advice and deliver services that may assist your organisation to maintain and/or remediate your sports fields.

If you are looking to upgrade or develop your sports field/s, you first need to obtain written approval from Council, as landlord. Visit our Application for works on community leased/licensed premises page to learn how to apply for Council approval.

More information

For further advice on sports field maintenance or obtain a copy of your latest sports field audit, phone Council on 07 3403 8888.

Last updated: 9 January 2023

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