As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, most of Greater Houston and its surrounding areas were ordered to stay home and practice social distancing to decrease the spread of the virus. Many of us were sent away from our professional establishments to work from home for the foreseeable future.
However, for BBVA Stadium Turf Manager Russell Rafter, things were going to go a different direction. From the very first moment Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued the ‘Stay Home, Work Safe’ order, Rafter knew that “working from home” was going to mean something completely different to him and the entire Grounds Team.
Rafter graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Turfgrass Science and has worked for the Club since June of 2017, and has since gotten the opportunity be a vital participant of some incredible moments.
“My fondest memory was in 2018 winning the US Open Cup,” Rafter stated. “You could just feel the energy from the team to the fans to the employees. It was just an overall exciting experience to be a part of.”
When he and the Grounds guys aren’t posted-up on the sideline on gamedays, making final preparations to ensure a championship-level playing surface, they spend their days providing quality maintenance to the turf at BBVA Stadium and Houston Sports Park. During this pandemic, their assigned duties have not altered much, with the exception of a little less background noise and the observance of Social Distancing while they accomplish their tasks.
“This pandemic has affected a lot of people. But from a grass standpoint, I am still coming in to keep up with the daily maintenance of mowing, irrigation and fertilizers needed. It definitely has been quiet at the stadium and a little freaky when all you hear are the birds,” said the TAMU graduate.
The work that goes into an element as prestigious as a stadium pitch can be extremely tedious, and although the Grounds crew is not able to gather at playing sites and work closely together at this point, they are coordinating to make magic happen regardless of the conditions currently taking place and have a little more time to do further research in order to elevate the quality of their work.
“One of the pros about this situation is it allows us to do more reading about different situations that may arise within a sports field. I can go back and study about diseases, weed management and see what new products are available,” Rafter added. “The one thing I’m looking forward to the most is getting back into a normal routine and being around the crew providing the best playing surface for the team.”
As of today, there is no definite date set for the next time there will be professional action at BBVA Stadium and/or the Houston Sports Park, but one thing is certain, when the action resumes, it will all take place in immaculate conditions thanks to the Grounds crew working daily to keep things in pristine conditions.