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May 24, 2004

But Is It Art? ... Spotlight On Field Adornments

FROM THE OVERSIZED CANVASES OF CREATIVE GROUNDSKEEPERS come the latest techniques in turf aesthetics. No longer is it enough to plock a logo on the 50 yard line and the team name in block letters in the end zones and be done with it.

Nowadays there are creative designs aplenty. Some are mowed and rolled right into the individual blades of natural turf surfaces. Others are intricate and colorful designs artfully painted onto synthetic turf surfaces and infield dirt.

One of the more skilled practitioners of this outsized art is Mike Hebrard, who founded Athletic Field Design in Oregon in 1993. He is particularly adept at painting replicas of team logos and artwork in dimensions large enough to be seen from anyone in the stadium.

This is no easy matter, and Hebrard employs a variety of stencils and grids to insure accuracy and realism. Paint compounds are specially formulated for both natural and synthetic surfaces. The paint grows out of natural turf, and it breaks down and washes away in synthetic turfs.

Less specialized, and more widespread, is the grass pattern artistry that has become all the rage.

Grass patterning is achieved not so much by mowing grass as it is by actually bending it. The primary method of creating bending patterns is by rollers that trail behind lawn tractors. Other methods include rakes, backpack blowers, hand rollers, drag mats and water hoses.

Designs usually are parallel stripes, checkerboards, waves, spirals and starbursts. One observer of the turf art genre mused, “It’s like Etch-a-Sketch for the grown man. A pattern in a field actually becomes more enhanced the more times you go over it.”

Patterned fields are only one of many the peripheral accoutrements that have crept into the world of sports. Since the athletic contests themselves do not always deliver edge-of-seat thrills and entertainment, facilities operators have hedged their bets by developing a panoply of tangential non-game amusement devices.

(this 320 word excerpt—with attendant commentary—was distilled from a 2771 word article from Athletic Business of May 2004)