The SODA Blog

The official blog of the Sportsplex Operators & Developers Association

Big changes in works for Family First Sports Park in Erie, PA. !



   Erie, PA. may soon be a little icier thanks to renovation plans for a local sports complex.

Family First Sports Park may soon have a new owner, one that promises to bring more ice rinks to the area and turn the complex into one of the best on this side of the country.

Family First Sports Park is currently home to soccer fields, basketball courts and a driving range, but hockey fans say there’s something missing: ice rinks.

Bob Catalde, President of Greater Regional Erie Athletic Team Training or G.R.E.A.T.T. says he’s committed to changing that.

“This whole thing started with me looking for the ideal location to build a new ice rink,” Catalde said. “It became more and more apparent that a standalone ice rink is very difficult to be self-sufficient.”


Catalde is in an agreement to purchase Family First Sports Park and plans on turning it into a premier sports park. He says the new facility would be the best sports park Erie has ever had and one of the best on this side of the country.

“This is an ambitious project, but one that we think its completion will really put Erie on the map for a lot of reasons,” Catalde said.

Erie residents, particularly hockey players and fans, say this is hockey town and that bringing more ice rinks the Erie is exactly what many residents want.

“We are stretched for ice time as it is,” local hockey player Chris Leszek said. “When basketball season gets here and it goes against what the Otters are doing, there’s always room for more rink. We need more ice.”

The plans for Family First Sports Park also include new soccer, baseball, football and lacrosse fields.

Now, G.R.E.A.T.T. is waiting for the state budget to be passed, so that they can get the funding they need.


Local businessman plans to reinvigorate sports complex in MO. !


Joplin, MO – In a way, it’s a homecoming for Jon Buck.

“This is where I grew up,” he said. “It’s what helped make me who I am today. I played a lot of basketball here.”

Buck, a Joplin businessman who has been successful with food and entertainment in downtown Joplin, got the keys earlier this week to the Sports Park of Southwest Missouri, formerly the Four Seasons Sports Complex at the northeast corner of Newman and Prosperity roads.

Buck, now 33, worked there from age 14 to 21.

Local businessman plans to reinvigorate sports complex

“When I was 14, my dad said if I wanted a car at 16, I had better start saving my money,” he said. “I have worked every aspect of this place. I’m coming full circle.”

The property, now called the JOMO Activity and Sports Complex, was last used earlier this year to stage indoor events in the sports park’s 24,000-square-foot gymnasium.

“We’re signing up people for leagues this fall in basketball, futsol, which is indoor soccer, and volleyball.” he said. “We hope to partner with Joplin Parks and Recreation to offer some youth sports programming.”

League sign-ups are being handled through the Live JOMO Facebook page, which Buck uses to encourage people to eat, shop and enjoy entertainment in Joplin.

Buck said he plans to give the sports park a general face-lift. He also plans to redo four baseball fields.




Plans to complete Riverway Sports Park to be considered !


   The Visalia, CA. City Council on Monday will consider whether to approve plans to build the final phase of Riverway Sports Park.

Riverway, in northeast Visalia, opened in 2007, and has become a popular spot because of its numerous soccer and ball fields, as well as it’s playground and water play area.

But only phase one of the five-phase project had been completed at that time — including 10 soccer fields, three sheltered picnic areas, two restroom/concession facilities, two playgrounds, one water feature, parking and general park amenities on 46 acres.

Over the years three additional phases have been finished, adding 20 acres to the park.

At a recent Visalia City Council retreat, the members directed city staff to design phase five, and the city Parks and Recreation Commission voted last month on a design that includes four softball fields with fences at the 300-foot mark located 300 feet from home plate to accommodate adult and youth play.

This design is consistent with the master plan for the park the council approved 15 years ago, according to a report to the City Council.

The fields also would include lighting, a concession/restroom building, parking, warm-up areas for teams, landscaping and park amenities similar to what already has been developed in other areas of the park, the report states.


The new phase will occur in what is now a temporary storm drain basin in the southwest portion of the park. Work cannot begin until a storm drain pipeline is installed along Shannon Parkway, and the drain work may not occur until after construction is finished next year on a new city elementary school in the area.

As for when construction on Phase V may begin, the council directed staff to have the plans “shelf ready,” so the city could take action quickly once funds for the project become available.

The park design will be discussed during the council’s work session, which begins at 4 p.m. at the City Council Chambers at 707 W. Acequia Ave.

That will be followed by a close-session meeting immediately afterward, and the regular session will begin at 7 p.m. View the meeting agenda online at


Softball and baseball among proposed sports for Tokyo 2020 Olympic inclusion !


OKLAHOMA CITYThe Olympic Dream for millions of softball athletes across the world is one step closer to realization as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games announced five new sports, including baseball/softball, for inclusion in the Games in 2020.  Announced today by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America/USA Softball welcomes the decision, which paves the way for the sport of softball to be included on the Olympic program for the first time since 2008.

 “We are humbled and excited to continue in the next steps of the process for our sport’s Olympic reinstatement efforts,” said ASA/USA Softball Executive Director Craig Cress. “We are honored that the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee has selected our sport for inclusion onto the Olympic Program.  We will continue to promote our sport and demonstrate the positive aspects of softball to the international world.”

 The top sport in Japan, baseball/softball is the biggest sport not currently featured at the Olympic Games — particularly in terms of youth participation in actual organized competition, as the vast majority of baseball/softball’s estimated 65 million athletes in over 140 countries are between the ages of 5 to 21. 

Tokyo 2020’s proposal for additional events must be reviewed, voted upon and formally approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil next August ahead of the 2016 Games.

 “Tokyo 2020’s decision to propose our sport is a ‘home run’ and giant leap forward for baseball and softball,” said WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari. “On behalf of WBSC and our athletes, I would like to thank Tokyo 2020 as well as IOC President Thomas Bach, whose Olympic Agenda 2020 vision has paved the way for this extraordinary opportunity. The entire baseball and softball world is excited and ready to cross the Olympic home plate. But above all, I am happy for all our male and female athletes who today can see there is a real chance to fulfill their greatest dream of representing their country in the most important sporting spectacle there is — the Olympic Games.”

WBSC President Fraccari added: “Baseball and softball’s global position, expansion and opportunities today are thanks to all of our partners’ contributions and a shared vision to return our sport to the highest stage in sports, the Olympic Games. And we will do everything possible so that baseball and softball, if included, are a great attraction/success for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and IOC’s Agenda 2020, as it remains WBSC’s top priority to demonstrate that our sport aligns with the Olympic Movement and has the qualities to earn a place on the Olympic program in 2020 and in future Games.”

 WBSC’s previous Olympic bid, which proposed baseball and softball for the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games, earned the second-highest amount of votes at the 2013 IOC Session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, finishing behind wrestling.

In four Olympic Games appearances, the USA Softball Women’s National Team claimed three Gold Medals and one Silver Medal finish while setting numerous international records and are one of only two women’s sports involved in the Olympic movement to capture three-consecutive Gold Medals.  In 2012, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Lisa Fernandez and the 2004 U.S. Olympic Softball Team were honored for their accolades with induction into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.  Members of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Softball Team set 18 Olympic records in Athens.  Among the team records set were the most hits (73), highest team batting average (.343) and highest slugging percentage (.559). Fernandez set the individual record for batting average with .545 while Crystl Bustos’ 10 RBI and five home runs were also records.

About the World Baseball Softball Confederation

Headquartered in the Olympic Capital city of Lausanne, Switzerland, the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) was established in April 2013 and granted recognition as the sole competent authority in baseball and softball by the International Olympic Committee at the 125th IOC Session in September 2013. The WBSC represents a united baseball/softball sports movement that encompasses over 65 million athletes worldwide. The WBSC governs all international competitions involving any of the National Teams of its 141 National Federation members.  The WBSC oversees the Softball World Championships, The Premier 12, the World Baseball Classic, and the U12, U15, U18, U21 and Women’s Baseball World Cups.  For further information, please go to or follow the WBSC on Twitter at @WBSC.

 About ASA/USA Softball
Founded in 1933, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA)/USA Softball is the National Governing Body Softball in the United States and a member of the United States Olympic Committee. One of the nation’s largest sports organizations, ASA/USA Softball sanctions competition in every state through a network of 74 local associations and has grown from a few hundred teams in the early days to over 165,000 teams today, representing a membership of more than 2.5 million.  ASA/USA is responsible for training, equipping and promoting the six USA Softball National Teams that compete in international and domestic competitions. The USA Softball Women’s National Team is one of only two women’s sports involved in the Olympic movement to capture three consecutive gold medals at the Olympic Games since 1996. The U.S. women have also won nine World Championship titles as well as claimed eight World Cup of Softball titles. For more information about ASA/USA Softball, please visit

Codi Warren

Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications

Amateur Softball Association of America/USA Softball

Office 405.425.3431 | Cell 405. 420. 2817


Pinellas sports complex brings some big questions !


     An ambitious proposal by a former baseball star and a local developer to create an enormous sports complex on a former landfill in St. Petersburg has some allure. A modern spring training facility that could accommodate perhaps two Major League Baseball teams would be attractive, and so would the prospect of thousands of youths playing all sorts of sports on the many new fields and facilities. But there are plenty of questions for the Pinellas County Commission to consider before it decides to negotiate with the developer — and it should heed MLB’s warning that the first priority is a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

The county-owned landfill along Interstate 275 known as Toytown has been closed for three decades, and over the years a variety of plans for developing the 240-acre site have come and gone. In the latest round, a county panel has ranked first the SportsPark proposal by a group that includes St. Petersburg developer Darryl LeClair and former baseball player Gary Sheffield, who has deep Tampa Bay roots. Most eye-catching is the serious interest by the Atlanta Braves to move their spring training site from the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World to St. Petersburg, and the potential for the complex to add a second team. Perhaps that could keep in Pinellas the Toronto Blue Jays, who train in Dunedin and want a new facility.

As usual, the key issue is money. SportsPark wants more than $10 million a year from the county resort tax for a spring training complex for two teams. That is less money than it would cost to build separate facilities for the Braves in St. Petersburg and the Blue Jays in Dunedin, but it would take a big chunk of the resort tax on hotel rooms. Earmarking that much money for a spring training facility would make it unlikely that Pinellas also could come up with at least another $7 million a year in resort taxes to help pay for a new home for the Rays.

Of course, there would be more clarity if the St. Petersburg City Council would have approved Mayor Rick Kriseman’s reasonable plan to let the Rays look at potential stadium sites in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties for two years. That process would have been well along by now, and the County Commission could make a more informed decision about how to allocate resort tax money. Instead, four council members have created a stalemate and fail to recognize that the city is losing negotiating leverage with the Rays and an opportunity to pursue a $1 billion redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site. Fortunately, two of those obstructionists are term-limited out of office in January and a third, Steve Kornell, is up for re-election in November. In the meantime county commissioners are in a box, poised to decide whether to pursue the SportsPark proposal before the Rays can even look for new stadium sites. And MLB and the Rays are not happy that another sports project has jumped the line.

There are other issues about the SportsPark proposal that deserve close scrutiny. Its big projections of new jobs and tax revenue appear optimistic. It’s unclear whether there is enough demand in the youth and amateur sports world for another large complex. And in addition to the resort tax money it counts on millions in public money for marketing and for significant road projects to access the site.

In short, county commissioners should keep their eye on the ball. It would be foolish to heavily invest in an effort to bring another baseball team in for spring training at the expense of reducing the options for keeping Tampa Bay’s own Major League franchise in the region.



The Real Cost of Sports Field Maintenance Products !


Sep 8, 2015 · 

As the person in charge of buying your sports field maintenance products, you are probably naturally drawn toward selecting the lowest-priced product available. (After all – who doesn’t love a deal?)  I get that. We’re all on limited budgets, but I want to look at the down-the-road impact those decisions have on your sports fields.

It’s easy to think you’re making a sound financial decision when you purchase the cheapest product, but that’s because you’re only considering the short term cost. The impact a low-cost product can have on your grounds crew or on your field is eye opening. Often, when people see a big upfront cost, they shut down that product from further consideration — without doing their due diligence to see if it’s worth the price in the long haul.  That’s a mistake, and I’ll show you why.

Let me give some real world examples from our 3-field Little League complex.

Example 1 – Mound Clay

beaconOf the three fields at our complex, one is a 90’ diamond used by youth aged 13 – 16 years old, all of whom wear metal cleats. Games are played 7 days a week (2-to-3 games/weeknight and 5-to-7 games/weekend), 20 weeks per year and only one opportunity per day to maintain the mound and batter’s boxes. We have used standard bagged mound clay for years and usually blew through one half to one bag of clay per day. The mounds are kept sufficiently moist and are covered whenever not in use to maintain moisture content. The standard mound clay performed satisfactorily, and I never any complaints except from my crew repairing them. This year we decided to try professional grade clay with higher clay content and the most expensive of all mound clays on our field where metal cleats are used. The results were astounding. The amount of damage to the clay areas each night decreased by more than 70%!! The amount of clay required to repair the mound and plate also plummeted by approximately the same amount as well. In addition, we saved tremendously with labor due to the reduction of repair needed. In the end, we had less labor costs in repairing the clay areas because of the reduced wear and we needed far less clay to repair when we did. We anticipate that we can reduce our clay consumption by at least 50% for next year. These savings far outpaced the increase in cost for the product AND we actually provided a better and more stable playing surface for the player!

Example 2-Pitching Rubbers

Pitching rubbers and home plates in recent decades have had their rubber ingredients tweaked as costs for raw materials have increased during that time. The result is product that just doesn’t last or perform like those from a few decades back, and need to be replaced more often. Sure, they are cheap or more affordable but they wear, bubble or deform much more quickly. The problem is that it’s not always easy to do a quick change of either of these on a ball diamond. Especially if one doesn’t do it frequently or has never done it before. So labor hours are sacrificed in order to change them out each time. Compare that to the high quality Bulldog home plates and pitching rubbers that are thicker rubber and structurally more sound. People shy away from them due to their cost, but their longevity and performance far outweigh the upfront cost of the product. Plus, you also save considerably on labor since replacement is needed less frequently. To me, it’s a no-brainer.

Example 3 – Dry Line Markers (chalkers) 

beaconThere are many chalkers on the market, both cheap and  expensive. Again, many customers look at the price tag without ever considering performance and potential savings. The Streamliner Dry Line marker is one of the more expensive dry line markers on the market, yet you can save big money with this machine despite the price tag. Thanks to the Streamliners “variable flow adjustment”, you can control how much chalk you are applying to the field. Most chalkers are either open or closed and offer no other adjustments. Because of the Streamliner’s ability to control chalk flow, customers routinely report a reduction of 30 to 50% of chalk, resulting in huge savings in chalk purchases over the life of a Streamliner machine. Additionally, the quality of the line applied is unparalleled in the industry. Again the extra dollars on the initial investment amounts to huge savings in the long haul.
There are just a few select examples of what I’ve seen during my time as a groundskeeper. The moral of the story is that you get what you pay for. Do your due diligence when considering ALL of your equipment and material purchases. It is your job and obligation as Sports Field MANAGERS to manage your budgets in the most efficient way possible to provide the best return on investment for your organization. Do the math, do the research, collect and analyze the data, and THEN make the purchase. The most expensive product is not always the solution and won’t always fit your application. There are times that a moderately or low priced product absolutely makes more sense than a higher priced or higher quality product. This is where your research and data will flush that point out.

Money is a terrible thing to waste; do it right the first time.

Paul Z.

  •  Beacon Athletics

  • 800-747-5985

  • 8233 Forsythia St., Suite 120

    Middleton, WI 53562

    Customer Service Center M-F 7:00 am – 4:30 pm (CST)

    Toll-Free: 800-747-5985


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NSA Softball Tournament to Generate $2.2 Million !


   Evansville, IN. leaders saying the city paid a relatively small amount for the World Series tournament to be in the Tri-State next summer, a small amount expected to make more than 100 times the down payment. It’s a collaborative effort between Owensboro and Evansville. It’s expected to bring nearly 9,000 people to the area.

This will be the biggest sporting event Evansville and Owensboro has ever seen. With 40% of all hotel rooms in Owensboro already blocked off and a 1,000 rooms in Evansville, officials say it’s a deal that will bring both communities quite a bit of revenue.

More than 200 softball teams will round the bases of the Deaconess Sports Park in Evansville and Owensboro’s Jack C. Fisher Park in July 2016. A World Series is coming to the Tri-State and it’s generating a lot of revenue for Evansville and Owensboro.

“We paid $20,000 to NSA and then we are responsible for all of the logistical things that will take place,” says Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Bob Warren. 

Warren says the tournament at Deaconess Sports Park provides two things: economic development and a better quality of life.

“We’re providing that quality of life to Evansville and Vanderburgh County and the Deaconess Sports Park is returning us a return on our investment,” he said.  

The Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau is investing $50,000. This will help pay personnel and organize entertainment functions. When it’s all said and done, they’ll be making a lot more. 

“We will see a $2.2 million return on that investment,” Warren said. 

With all those people, you’ve got to have a place for them to sleep.

“The new sports complex being added I think is definitely helping the economy in our area for hotels and commerce just to be able to start to capture some of that additional revenue,” Holiday Inn Manager Stacie Vercellino said. 

Warren says the profit will be split two ways. Both communities will get a major return on their investment, all within seven days. 

“That means a lot to both communities,” Warren said. “They’ll be sharing in some of the financial burden on this as well.”

Deals like this are what Bob Warren hopes The Convention and Visitors Bureau will continue to make.

There are 24 hotels in Evansville and Owensboro that have agreed to block off rooms. There are 15 in Evansville and 9 in Owensboro.



Businessman wants to build extreme Sports park in Lincoln County !


A local businessman and former NASCAR team owner plans on turning a 101-acre vacant industrial plant into an extreme sports training campus and education facility unique to North Carolina.

Whitehouse Extreme Sports Park will host a community meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 22 at its proposed location on Whitehouse Drive. Site plans call for a motocross track, an Arenacross facility, BMX downhill and supercross tracks, an indoor motocross training facility and special event space.

Classroom and housing facilities would also be present at the location, as would basketball and volleyball courts, premium RV sites and an indoor/outdoor Junior Olympic swimming pool.

“We’ve got kids ready to enroll right now,” said Brittan Schnell, who owned Winston Cup teams in the 1990s that included former NASCAR Rookie of the Year Dick Trickle. “We’ve got track designers and we’ve got everybody pretty much lined up. We tried to make sure we got everybody lined up so that once we’re committed, we’re ready to go.”

For 39 years, the facility was used as a manufacturing plant for White House Foods, relying on Lincoln County apples to supply manufacturing lines of applesauce, apple juice and vinegar. It employed around 240 workers at one point and was the county’s largest water user until it closed down in 2009.

Schnell opened The Special Event Linen Co., a hotel and restaurant tablecloth manufacturer, at a portion of the plant in 2004. Almost instantly he envisioned using the location as a sporting facility and educational campus for athletes across the country, including his 14-year-old son Brantley, one of the country’s top young motocross racers.

Through Liberty University’s Online Academy, the park would admit students as young as sixth grade and allow them to earn high school diplomas and associate’s and bachelor’s degrees via online instruction.

“There are a lot of training facilities throughout the country but when you really look at it, many times their emphasis is truly just on the sport,” Schnell said. “We looked at being able to build a foundation with these kids’ lives. Through our partnership with Liberty University, we’re able to have these kids in a nontraditional educational role in a structured educational environment.”

The facility could host up to 800 people in its event space area. No other facility in the county can host more than 400 people, according to the company’s rezoning application.

A cold storage building would become home to classrooms and dorms, while vacant land would be converted into tracks and trails. Through an association with Joe Gibbs Racing, the facility plans to host regional racing events. According to a packet attached to the rezoning application, the park could host a national motocross event broadcast on FOX Sports or NBC Sports.

The park plans to have up to nine competition volleyball courts to host club volleyball tournaments. It can be up-fitted to house six basketball courts.

The company’s plan is to welcome 26 students initially, with most coming from outside county lines. Housing will be set up for 50 students, allowing for eventual expansion.

Former national champion motocross racer and AMA National Motorcycle Hall of Famer Mark Barnett is slated to design and build the facility’s motocross tracks. An indoor bowl would accommodate skaters and include halfpipes, quarterpipes, banked ramps and handrails.

A paintball course and remote control car dirt track are listed as amenities for the facility, which plans on operating during regular business hours and hosting indoor events in the evenings.

Zoning administrator Randy Hawkins said that while buildings are in place, they still need to be up-fitted. Construction won’t begin on the outdoor areas until the property is rezoned to planned development mixed use at a future Board of Commissioners meeting.



Way up in the sky, beautiful balloons returning to Ripon, Mistlin Sports Park !


Modesto, CA –  Folks will head up, up and not too far away as colorful balloons again pepper the skies for two days over Ripon.

Labor Day weekend heralds the 10th Color the Skies Hot Air Balloon & Kite Festival at Mistlin Sports Park – but the first for a new organizer of the event.

The Ripon Chamber Foundation has taken over the festival from founders Greg and Jessica Coleman this year, with proceeds going to traditional benefactor Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera, as well as to youth programs in Ripon.

“It was important to keep it in Ripon and continue the Colemans’ hard work, so the Ripon Chamber Foundation decided to take it over,” Ripon Chamber of Commerce CEO Tamra Spade said in an email interview. The chamber foundation is a 1-year-old group that gives back to community youths through leadership training, scholarships and programs.


Color the Skies is the largest hot air balloon festival in Central California, according to a press release. For this 10th anniversary celebration, more colorful balloons will pepper the park than in past years, Spade said. In addition, the Patriot Jet Team will fly over the festival Saturday and there will be live evening entertainment.

The festival was founded in 2006 by the Colemans to bring awareness and build financial support for Valley Children’s Hospital. About 10,000 people generally turn out for the two-day event, Spade said.

The festival begins at dawn, shortly after which – weather permitting – hot air balloons will be inflated and lifted into the skies. Tethered balloon rides for $10 begin as soon as the balloons are inflated.


Tamra Spade, Ripon Chamber of Commerce CEO –

The kite show features kite performances, candy drops from the sky, kite making and kite flying. In addition, Bay Area Skydivers will take to the skies both days.

The Air George Helicopter, the medical transport team from Children’s Hospital, will land on the field during Color the Skies on Saturday and Sunday with an opportunity for kids to meet the pilots.

The free festival also features a pancake breakfast, a 5k/10k run, children’s fun run, food for sale, carnival rides, local authors and concerts Friday and Saturday nights.

Spade said the event will stay true to the Colemans’ vision.

“Even though the event has changed hands, the idea of giving back to the Ripon Community and to continue the efforts of the Colemans is still very much alive,” she said. “This is an amazing hot air balloon festival and the only one in the Valley. It offers a wide variety of entertainment for the whole family.”


When: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5, and Sunday, Sept. 6; carnival and live music 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4

Where: Mistlin Sports Park, 1201 W. River Road, Ripon

Cost: Festival free; $5 parking. Tethered balloon rides $10



A Rake is a Rake…Or Is It ?


Aug 24, 2015 · Paul Zwaska

Rakes of all shapes, sizes and configurations are vital crafting tools for the ballfield groundskeeper. Like the tools in a cabinetmaker’s toolbox, each tool has its preferred use and specialty on a ball diamond. Some can be fairly specialized while others can be used for a wide variety of operations. Just like a supermarket’s cereal or chip aisle, there are more choices then one knows what to do with sometimes. Most of the chores you will perform with your rakes/grooming tools include the following:

  • General raking – Just moving soil around, raking out the trash, rocks, and spoils
  • Rough grade work – When the grade doesn’t need to be precise and totally smooth
  • Fine grading – Sod prep, infield skin leveling or game ready finish
  • Back raking – Using the rake in a reverse direction (pushing) in order to fluff up or cut shallow fine textured valleys and ridges in the infield soil or topdressing to speed drying of the surface of an infield skin after a rain event
  • Scarification – Cutting down high spots on clay or infield skin areas, loosening the surface of the soil areas
  • Lip Removal – Loosening and removing soil and topdressing that is glued into the turf edges of the skinned area or warning track by rain and irrigation

Which tools work best for each operation? Below is a chart that looks at the various tasks and ranks how each of the tool’s performances typically pan out. Keep in mind that ultimately the choice of tools for a task usually falls on the personal preference of the groundskeeper performing the task. Everyone has their favorites but the chart should give you a place to start if you are looking for the right tool for the job.

Long Tooth Aluminum Grading Rake:

Your basic standard issue ground crew rake. Nothing special here, but it can do most basic jobs fairly well and usually comes in several different widths, from 24” to as wide as 60”, depending on the tooth style chosen. These rakes tend to be the workhorse of a ground crew. They can take the real “bull” work of rough grading and general raking better than any other rakes.

Short Tooth Aluminum Grading Rake:

The short tooth rake leaves a fine grade, good for finish work after trash (pebbles, dead grass clippings, clay chunks, etc.) has been removed on skin areas. The sharper teeth are suitable for shallow scarifying. Will struggle if used for general raking or rough grading. You really need the longer teeth for that operation.

Double Play Aluminum Grading Rake:

The best of both worlds! Short and long teeth on one rake makes this rake more versatile. It can be used in many different applications. This rake is not for everyone though. Some people prefer to have the straight edge on one side of the rake instead of teeth on both sides.


 Wooden Grading Rake:

A great all-around rake, a wooden grading rake is not as bulky and awkward as an aluminum grading rake. This lightweight rake truly excels with finesse work where detailed finish grading is desired. I’ve found that groundskeepers either really love this rake or they hate it. It all comes down to personal preference. The teeth are easily replaced if broken. Unfortunately the main manufacturer in the U.S. recently moved their plant and the over 100 year old machine that creates these rakes is proving very testy as they attempt to get it up and running. We hope it returns soon.

 Aluminum Screening Rake:

If you are dealing with pebbles and rocks on your infield skin, this rake can be your best friend. The screening rake, combined with a steel mat drag and a sifter scoop shovel will help to greatly reduce the population of pebbles and stones in the infield skin over time. This rake will also do an adequate job in rough grading and removing other trash from the soil as it is graded.

 Iron Rake:

There are several things to look for in order to have the right iron rake that can be productive for you.

1) Use a “level head” rake (T-shaped head as pictured to the left).   Avoid a “bow rake” as these tend to vibrate or jump when pulled on hardened soil.

2) Make sure it has curved teeth. The curve places the teeth at a better angle for cutting into soil.

3) Sharpen the tines on the back. Grind the bottom ¼ of the tine of the rake on the back side down to a sharp point as illustrated to the left. A sharpened rake reduces the amount of effort the operator must apply in order for the rake to cut into the soil. This is especially true when shaving down high spots in mound and home plate clay areas and shaving out the small hardened lips along the turf edges of the infield skin.

Fan/Leaf Rake:

Used mainly for removing loose infield soil and topdressing out of turf edges before rain or irrigation glues it in tightly.

Lute Rake:

There are lots of different lute scarifying rakes available on the market, but the key to this lute rake is the curve in the rake head. That simple improvement over the other flat lute heads improves its ability to pull larger amounts of soil on the flat edge side without excessive operator fatigue. The curve also improves the performance of this tool for back raking wet infield skins on the serrated edge, especially those using infield topdressing.

Level Board:

The level board is the best fine hand grading and leveling tool available for groundskeepers. The stainless steel reinforced edge insures a strong cutting edge while the relief angle on the back of the level board head allows the tool to float on the surface more easily than the back of any metal rake. The 54” wide head improves grading and leveling on large areas. You should pperate it in much the same manner as a road grader operates its blade.

 This blog provides a general direction as to the grooming tools to use for the tasks listed but every groundskeeper has an opinion or favorite tool. Lets get some feedback from our readers/groundskeepers out there. Tell us your preferred grooming rakes for various tasks or whether you agree with our ranking of the tools.

    •  Beacon Athletics

    • 800-747-5985

    • 8233 Forsythia St., Suite 120

      Middleton, WI 53562

      Customer Service Center M-F 7:00 am – 4:30 pm (CST)

      Toll-Free: 800-747-5985