Opportunity of a lifetime: Two ISU graduates to prepare turf at Wembley Stadium


Courtesy of Iowa State News Service

Joshua Lenz and Kevin Hansen will be preparing the turf at Wembley Stadium in London, England for two games in the National Football League International Series.

Dylan Roth

Perfecting the turf at Jack Trice Stadium and preparing the field at two Super Bowls was only the beginning for Iowa State turf management graduate students Joshua Lenz and Kevin Hansen.

A trip across the Atlantic Ocean to London’s renowned Wembley Stadium is next on their agenda.

This will not be their first time on the big stage. In addition to preparing the turf at Jack Trice Stadium for Cyclone game days, Lenz and Hansen have both interned on turf crews at Super Bowls. Lenz interned for Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, and Hansen interned for Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

“Whenever I go to another country, even if it’s in my same profession, they’re going to do stuff that’s different than what I’m used to,” Hansen said.

Lenz and Hansen will be preparing the turf at Wembley Stadium in London, England for two games in the National Football League International Series.

Lenz left for London on Oct. 16 and will tend the turf of Wembley Stadium for the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions game on Oct. 26.

Hansen will be leaving for London on Oct. 29 and will work the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars game on Nov. 9.

The majority of Wembley Stadium’s 90,000 seats will be filled to admire Lenz and Hansen’s handywork.

“I really enjoy game days,” Hansen said. “We work hard and it’s good to see people appreciate it and notice it.”

Lenz and Hansen were contacted by turf managers that they had previously worked with during their Super Bowl internships. The managers presented the graduate students with the chance to prepare Wembley Stadium for the two NFL games.

It was an easy decision for both Lenz and Hansen. They chose to pursue the opportunity to showcase their abilities in London’s illustrious stadium.

“It will be cool to see how other people do turf management,” Hansen said.

Ryan Adams, lecturer in the Department of Horticulture, said that there has been a huge shift to artificial turf in recent years.

Lenz’s and Hansen’s Super Bowl internships dealt with artificial turf fields. Wembley Stadium is a combination of artificial turf and natural grass. Tim Van Loo, Iowa State athletic turf manager, doesn’t think this will be a problem for Lenz and Hansen.

“Natural grass is what guys in the industry prefer and enjoy taking care of,” Van Loo said.

Iowa State’s Department of Horticulture, developed in 1877, is one of the most tenured programs on campus. Horticulture is the science and art of producing and using food crops, fruits and vegetables, nursery crops, trees and turf grass.

Van Loo said that Iowa State’s turf management program leads the country in certain categories of research.

“The turf program at Iowa State is a close-knit family where I can step into someone’s office and get some tips whenever I have a problem or an issue,” Hansen said.

Lenz’s and Hansen’s focus is on the area of athletic turf management. Their job is to cut, paint and transform the natural grass of Jack Trice Stadium into a flawless playing surface.

“The public sees Jack Trice Stadium on TV. They miss all of the science and all of the work and dedication that goes into making the field look good on Saturdays,” Adams said.

With a laugh, Adams said that the worst part of the profession is watching athletes beat up on the turf every single week.

Van Loo is in charge of the turf at Jack Trice Stadium. He also serves as a mentor and teacher to Lenz and Hansen. Van Loo’s principal piece of advice for Lenz and Hansen as they depart for London is to use this trip to learn as much as they can.

“I’ve encouraged Josh and Kevin to use this as a learning experience to take any kind of tips and tricks they can get,” Van Loo said.

Hansen realizes the extensive amount of knowledge that will be available to him in London. This will be his second experience with members of the turf crew that he worked with at Super Bowl XLVII.

“I’m still at the very beginning of my career, so I’m always trying to learn,” Hansen said. “I pick their brains as much as I can.”