Student crew helps to prepare football field at Jack Trice each week


Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Daily

Tim Van Loo, the manager of athletic turf, shows the different levels of the turf on the field at Jack Trice Stadium. One of the biggest challenges of the turf is cold fall weather.

Jared Stansbury

There are very few students whose majors allow them to showcase their work six times a year in front of 50,000 screaming fans.

For the eight student members of the crew taking care of the natural grass at Jack Trice Stadium they get to do just that.

“It is all a learning experience for us,” said Josh Lenz, senior in horticulture, not to be confused with the wide receiver who graduated last spring. “It helps us learn what it will be like in the future when we are sports turf managers.”

Lenz isn’t the only member of the crew saying the opportunity will be very helpful in the future. 

“It is a big thing for our horticulture department,” said Kevin Hansen, graduate in professional agriculture. “It also puts students a little bit ahead of other people coming out of college.”

Hansen, who has interned for the Green Bay Packers and spent a week interning with the Super Bowl last February, thinks work at Jack Trice is something that can be very appealing to future employers.

“It is a great thing for students to put on their resume coming out of college,” Hansen said. 

Lenz has been working on the field at Jack Trice for nearly two years. The painting of the logos and yard markers on the playing surface is where Lenz makes his biggest contribution during game week.

“I come from an art background, and I was a design major my first two years of college,” Lenz said. “I bring the artsy side to our crew.”

The process of preparing the playing surface during game week is a very long process led by Tim Van Loo, manager of athletic turf.

The crew mows the field at least four times each week, and during game weeks, it spends as many as 50 man hours painting the field. The student crew also does the seeding, fertilizing and cultivating to maintain the field.

Nearly all of the actual labor done on the field is done by students. Van Loo is not only the manager of the process, he is also the only nonstudent worker. 

One of the biggest challenges the crew can face is battling the fall weather and its effects on the grass.

“The biggest challenge is just to keep the grass growing,” Van Loo said. “As it gets colder, the growth slows, and we just need to make sure and maintain the growing process through the whole season.”

Another of the most important parts of Van Loo’s job is making sure the surface is safe for the players. 

“It would be my worst nightmare for an athlete to be injured because of something we did wrong,” Van Loo said. “We make sure the field is not coming up in chunks and there aren’t divots in the field.”

Jack Trice is one of only four stadiums in the Big 12 featuring a natural playing surface. The bye week this week will help Van Loo and his crew prepare the field for in-state rival Iowa on Sept. 14.

“The field will for sure be at or near 100 percent,” Van Loo said.