Article : Duke University: Lords of the Landscape

Duke University: Lords of the Landscape

By David Jackson and Phil Martin, Duke University Facilities Management Dept.

Local contractor Carolina Green arrives in midsummer to re-sod the stadium’s midfield before the Duke University Blue Devils logo is repainted. The backhoe is removing soil containing last season’s paint, which can limit turf growth. This view offers a good look at the sand-soil mix that can drain as much as nine inches of rain per hour. Photos courtesy of Duke University Facilities Management Dept.

Duke University’s Facilities Management Department took the Professional Grounds Management Society’s Grand Award for Athletic or Professional Fields in 2004. A look at the school’s historic stadium shows that the grounds team is still doing things right.

Wallace Wade Stadium, home of the Duke Blue Devils since 1929, ranks among the finest collegiate football stadiums in the country. The horseshoe-shaped structure built in a natural ravine, seats 33,941 fans, thereby making it an intimate setting for events.

Wallace Wade stadium’s turf gets deep-tine aeration in this view taken last summer. A Kubota tractor pulls the aerifying unit. The job is done in mid-summer, when the Bermudagrass turf is at the height of its growth cycle.

Duke’s grounds team worried when a crew arrived on campus to set up for a rock concert featuring the Rolling Stones in Oct. 2005. Turfgrass damage, however, was kept to a minimum with the use of a permeable, protective plastic carpet laid under the stage and sound towers.

The stadium owns a special niche in college football history in that it is the only facility outside of Pasadena, Calif. to host the Rose Bowl. The 1942 Rose Bowl came to Durham when government officials decided, due to World War II, gatherings of large crowds on the West Coast might be vulnerable to Japanese attack. In recent years, the stadium’s synthetic track surrounding the playing field has entertained the American/Pan African track meet (1971), the Martin Luther King track meet (1973), and the USA-USSR track and field meet (1974).

Both men and women’s NCAA championship track and field events were held at this site in 1990 and 2000 respectively. Annually, the Duke Invitational track meet, the Russell E. Blunt East Coast Invitational track meet and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Football championship games are hosted in Wallace Wade Stadium. In addition to sporting events, the venue also serves as the site for the city of Durham’s Fourth of July fireworks display as well as the setting for Duke University’s Commencement Ceremony every May, hosting world renowned speakers to address the graduates.

A pair of outside contractors spread sand to fill in gaps after re-sodding the stadium’s midfield. The area around the 50-yard line is re-sodded each summer to offset damage from annual painting of the team logo here with latex, water-based paint.

Supervisors pull core samples throughout the year to gauge pH and soil nutrient levels. Holding the soil sampler here is Assistant Superintendent Phil Martin. At left is Superintendent David Jackson.

The stadium’s maintenance team is made up of five full-time employees: Jamie Fuqua, Calin Scripa, Jonathan Nance, Lamont Ballentine and Jerry Wallace.

In 1997, the field surface of Tifton 57 hybrid Bermuda grass growing on native soil was renovated. The renovation consisted of a designed sub-surface drainage system, laser graded, “sand base” growing medium, automatic irrigation system and sprigged Tifway certified 419 hybrid Bermudagrass.

A view down the running lane for the javelin event looks towards the stadium’s scoreboard. The foliage on either side here is part of the Durham, N.C. area’s natural oak and hardwood forest.

Grounds crew member Calin Scripa wields a hedge trimmer on American holly that borders the stadium’s scoreboard. Note Scripa’s use of eye protection for the job. Plant material here serves to separate the stadium from practice fields beyond.

With these improvements, teams are able to play on the field following extreme downpours with minimum loss of traction. The combination of up-grades allows nine inches of rainfall to percolate from the playing surface in an hour! Turf recovery time is lessened and maintenance activities may be performed as scheduled.

The crew of five under Assistant Director Joe Jackson, Superintendent David Jackson, Assistant Superintendent Phil Martin and Supervisor Curt Farmer perform all facets of turf and landscape maintenance at the stadium while maintaining an additional 70 acres of athletic fields and landscape. Whether routine maintenance, such as mowing, aerifying, field marking, or providing game support, the athletic grounds maintenance team employees take pride in their work at this sports facility.

“Teams are able to play on the field following extreme downpours with minimum loss of traction.”

The “Durham Rose Bowl” of 1942

“Sunday used to be a day of rest and quiet” lamented The Duke Chronicle on Dec. 9, 1941. That sentiment was expressed because the campus mood swung widely as the month unfolded. Two sundays previously, the announcement of Oregon State’s scheduled game with Duke for the 1942 Rose Bowl had set off one of the wildest celebrations in Duke history.

In anticipation, Duke students were crowded around every teletype machine in town. Upon confirmation, a continuous parade of cars circled Main Street.

Groundskeepers of 1941-42 had just 18 days to get ready for the nation’s biggest football game of the year. Extra seating was rushed to the “open horseshoe” end of the stadium. The final score was Oregon 20, Duke 16.

Sunday evening, Dec. 7, found the same students at the same teletype machines in a much more somber mood. Students had rushed downtown when Durham’s Herald-Sun proclaimed “Hitler’s War Explodes In World Conflict As Japanese Attack U.S.”

The Chronicle writer said that he hoped the next Sunday would not bring the announcement that Pasadena was bombed. His premonition was close, because fearing such a possibility, the next Sunday’s news announced the canceling of the Rose Bowl game.

However, Duke University’s offer to host the game was accepted, setting off another celebration, although a decidedly quieter one. The overriding concern was how to get ready for the momentous event in just 18 days.

Not everyone was elated. The football team was disappointed over the loss of their trip to California. With war declared, Duke groundskeepers were not pleased at the prospect of Christmas spent away from family in preparation for a home game.

Neither were students oblivious to unfolding world events. In an eerily accurate editorial appearing two days before the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, a columnist wrote “bowl invitations, dances, plays, and approaching Christmas holidays all obscure the unpleasant fact that America is on the very brink of war. Jan. 1 will see Duke men in blue football uniform playing in the Rose Bowl. It may also find other Duke men in blue naval uniforms fighting a war.”

The transplanted Rose Bowl game was played in Durham on Jan. 1. Borrowed bleachers from the University of North Carolina and NC State boosted stadium capacity from 35,000 to 55,000 spectators. A flood of East Coast sportswriters descended upon Durham for their first Rose Bowl, while only a single writer came from Southern California. The heavily favored Duke team lost on a cold, rainy day to an underestimated defensive team that successfully protected an early lead. Coach Wade later stated he spent too much time being host and too little time preparing the team. He also gave the team several days off to go home for Christmas.

Nevertheless, the university community and nation had more important concerns to face the next day, on Jan. 2, 1942.

—William E. King

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June 29, 2016, 7:26 pm EST

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