Sports Turf Company Inc.
- Written by: Matt Dodge
- Produced by: Ryan Fecteau
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
While the team at Sports Turf Company Inc. has become a group of experts in the design and installation of synthetic and natural grass sports fields over the last 25 years, these fields take a backseat to the athletes who compete on them.
“In our small circle of contractors that do this work, we all kind of judge each other on the product we put together, but that’s not the focal point,” says Todd Wiggins, vice president of Sports Turf. “The focal point is the athlete and we strive to construct a facility that is going to be competitive, allow them to represent their school and be safe.”
Since 1991, the Whitesburg, Georgia-based company has been providing industry-leading sports field design and construction to customers throughout the Southeast, completing 650 projects across the region since its inception.
Serving designers, facility planners, architects and owners primarily in the educational and municipal markets, Sports Turf specializes in football and baseball fields, tennis courts and track and field facilities.
Sports Turf offers a full range of sports field-related services, including design, construction, renovation and repair, laser grading and GPS technology, irrigation, grassing and grow-in. The company installs both grass and synthetic turf sports fields, as well as latex and polyurethane running tracks and Plexipave tennis courts.
Field construction bounces back
Sports Turf has enjoyed unprecedented growth in recent years, logging record revenue in back-to-back years. Wiggins credits this success to a rebounding economy and the resultant loosing of purse strings among educational and municipal clients.
“One of the first things they’ll try to eliminate in times of stress are athletic improvements or new athletic projects, so a little of what we’re seeing is an attempt to catch up on the things that didn’t get done between 2008 and 2013,” he says.
As the construction industry begins to make up for a half-decade of delayed projects, Sports Turf is on track for a record year in 2016, with projected revenues north of $14 million for the first time in the company’s history. “We’re going in the right direction,” says Wiggins.
The company has completed a number of marquee projects in the educational sector in recent years, including field replacement projects at two of the Southeast’s most storied universities.
In 2015, Sports Turf lent a hand in the renovation of University of Alabama’s baseball field, working under a general contractor out of Auburn, Alabama. “We did a total reconstruction of the baseball field itself and it turned out to be a really nice project,” says Wiggins. “It did displace the baseball team for a season, but there is no good way to do a project of that size without making some difficult decisions.”
In the summer of 2016 the company traveled to Oxford, Mississippi, to renovate both the stadium field and practice facility for the University of Mississippi football team. On this project, owners opted to replace the stadium’s synthetic football field with a grass playing surface — a trend that is becoming increasingly popular among some clients.
“I think that most people would prefer to play on natural grass, but it has its limits as far as what you can do,” says Wiggins. “In the case of Ole Miss, they have the expertise on staff to handle who already maintain natural grass on the baseball and soccer fields, so it’s not like they’re not set up for it.”
Synthetic fields are still a popular option among those who can’t afford to maintain full-time greenkeepers. For Wiggins, it is all about establishing a relationship with clients and determining which option will work best for each application and budget. “We want to know what their goals are with the facility and help them understand what may be their best option; what you can afford plays into that sometimes,” he says.
While more clients have begun to prioritize natural grass fields, Wiggins sees the future of the industry as mix of both natural and synthetic surfaces designed to complement one another. By using synthetic surface in high-traffic sidelines areas and reserving natural grass for the field of play, he says clients can enjoy the best of both worlds. “I think that may become more of a trend moving forward,” notes Wiggins.
Younger employees add to technological expertise
While Sports Turf has managed to keep its roster of employees fairly steady at around 50, it is becoming increasingly difficult to retain top talent in a competitive hiring market. “We’ve seen a lot of employees jumping around in the last 18 months because there’s a lot of work out there,” says Wiggins.
With an eye on the future, Wiggins and the Sports Turf team are now working on strategies to entice the next generation of workers to join their corner of the construction industry. “I’m not old, but I’m not close to a millennials, and I see that as a bit of a challenge. The folks in this group have a different perspective on what it means to work – and it’s not necessarily wrong. It’s just different,” he explains.
Company loyalty and work-life balance rank as two areas where Wiggins says millennials and the older generation don’t always see eye to eye, but the vice president says they tend to make up for it in other areas.
“Their strength is in the realm of technology. One of the things we’ve done is hired a millennial on staff who is working in sales and dragging us into the present as far as social media is concerned,” says Wiggins, citing an example when the employee used Twitter to share process photos of the Ole Miss job with the company’s social media followers.
A member of national and state recognized associations such as the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA), Sports Turf Managers Association of America (STMA), Georgia Parks and Recreation Association (GRPA), Sports Turf has built a reputation for delivering top-quality projects across the region.
“We want to build the best facilities for our owners; ones that are going to last a long time and won’t cost folks a lot in maintenance,” he says. “We’re always trying to build a better mousetrap.”
Many in the construction industry might never get a chance to admire their handiwork once they leave the jobsite, but the high-profile nature of Sports Turf’s athletic field work means that Wiggins is likely to stumble across a familiar scene almost every time he turns on the television during football season.
“It’s always nice to be able to sit back and put your feet up and be able to watch the athletes showcase their abilities on something we constructed,” he says.
With more than 25 years of experience, a strong reputation throughout the Southeast and a slate of projects at some of the region’s most recognizable universities, Sports Turf Company Inc. is sure to continue logging record growth for the foreseeable future.
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