Allen Reed – The Man with the Greenest Thumbs in Frisco
The city of Frisco in North Texas is one of the fastest-growing in the country. On the outskirts of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, the city has been home to the MLS franchise FC Dallas since 2005. Since moving to the area, they have called Toyota Stadium home. Considered one of the “crown jewels” of MLS, caring for the natural grass, outdoor stadium under the often harsh North Texas weather is often a Herculean effort.
That task falls upon the shoulders of Allen Reed, the Director of Stadium Grounds at Toyota Stadium. A graduate of Texas A&M University and a member of the Sports Turf Management Association, it is up to Reed to ensure the playing surface is always up to snuff no matter the weather, no matter the time of year, no matter what events are on the calendar.
Reed recently took time from his schedule to talk to Stadium Journey to talk about his career, his love of sports, and what it takes for someone to follow him into his line of work.
Stadium Journey: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today, Allen. Before we get into what you do for Toyota Stadium, let’s talk a little about your background and how you got into turf management. Where are you from originally? Also, how did you get your start in the industry?
Allen Reed: Well, originally I’m from Carthage, Texas, which is in the eastern part of the state. I grew up there, went to high school there and ultimately went to Texas A&M and got my degree in turf management. I started working on the fields there and my senior year, I interned with the Texas Rangers. After graduation I came here and have been in Frisco for 13 years.
Stadium Journey: What got you into turf management originally? Was it just something you always were always interested in?
Allen Reed: I was born and raised on a farm and it was always something that I was around. I’ve always loved sports and I realized early on that this was a way to satisfy my love of taking care of the land and of athletics. I think everyone has their own path into this business though. Either growing up on small farms, like I did, or just having that passion for sports and the outdoors. More and more, kids are seeing Turf Management degrees as an option to continue something they love.
Stadium Journey: That’s a great point. What are some of the main changes that have come along since you’ve started your career – at least since you’ve been with FC Dallas and Toyota Stadium?
Allen Reed: A lot of it, a lot of the technology side, has to do with aeration. Some of this equipment has been brought in from overseas and there are things that they have been doing over there for years. We try to bring some of that equipment into our maintenance program and it has helped us tremendously. We do a lot of testing on our field now, as well. We test it either in between soccer matches and concerts or from soccer match to soccer match. That’s been one of the biggest advancements in our industry.
Stadium Journey: So, for a facility like Toyota Stadium, one that was built for soccer but that also hosts other special events like the concerts you mentioned, are there any extra challenges you have to overcome to keep things up and running?
Allen Reed: Yeah, concerts really do pose a challenge for us because we are covering the field for three days. A lot of it is also dependent on the weather. Weather is the number one factor in maintenance in our business. Rain can hinder our work, it can prevent us from getting the field back to where it needs to be.
It can also create more work for us to get things back into game shape. We host about 150 events throughout the year, so that averages out to an event every three days. We’re pretty proactive in our approach though in maintenance, so we’re really not too surprised by anything in the moment. A lot of pre-planning is done in the off season so we figure out windows that will allow us to do some work. Once the soccer schedule comes out in March, we have things pretty figured out.
Stadium Journey: So, being up there in North Texas, where you get all the “benefits” of all the weather – extreme heat, freezes, sometimes torrential rain, wind storms – how difficult is it to maintain a natural grass playing surface when you have all that working against you at times?
Allen Reed: [Laughs] It is difficult, because not every year is the same. We really haven’t had too cold of a winter the last two years, but then we got really cold for a few days in January this year. One of those days it was 9 degrees outside. We’re growing two types of grass here though to help us through the year.
We’re growing rye grass in the spring and fall and then we transition into Bermuda grass for the summer time. We have very small windows to make the switch and because it is different every year weather-wise, it makes it difficult to plan. There have been some hiccups, but we do what we have to do.
Stadium Journey: How about strictly in terms of the playing surface? Is there anything markedly different between say football and soccer with the playing surface that you have to be mindful of?
Allen Reed: The grass variety is probably the same, but I think one thing would be that our guys like things a little soft. That helps us with our maintenance program though. The way they like is how we can easily keep it. Another difference is that, with soccer, the ball is always down on the playing surface so it has to be smooth. We always have to keep an eye on that, especially with all the events we have. We do roll the surface to keep it smooth. That’s probably the one thing that is different.
Stadium Journey: What would be one thing about your job, your duties there at Toyota Stadium that people would be surprised to know?
Allen Reed: We all do jobs that aren’t really part of our job titles. I guess the main thing would be that we install the concert floor over the field for events like that. That’s really the only non-agronomic thing that I do. It takes us about seven hours to go from field to concert floor and back to field. We start at 5 a.m. and we’ll be done usually by noon. We have to take all the soccer “stuff” out of the stadium, too.
So, when the concert ends, for example at around 11 p.m. on a given night, we have to break down the concessions and chairs and all that and then it takes us another seven hours to break it all down. One of the things unique about Toyota Stadium is that it does have a permanent stage on the north end of the stadium. When we do concerts, since the stage is already there, we can have everything ready to go in a pretty short amount of time.
Stadium Journey: Last thing for you, what would be the one “impression” you would want people to have of Toyota Stadium when they visit?
Allen Reed: Well, they always say that if they aren’t talking about you then you’re doing your job. Obviously, we want the fans to come in and see the pretty green grass and say “Wow, that looks really good.” I guess I take it as a compliment that sometimes folks come in here and think that the players play on artificial turf. [Laughs] I’m always saying “No, that’s real grass.” I guess that’s a good thing!
FC Dallas is currently in the midst of their 2017 campaign; they finish their season on October 22, 2017.
Follow Eric Moreno’s Stadium Journey on Twitter @EricMoreno6477.