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So Cal’s Premier Sports Complex — Home Depot Center

By Kevin Burrows, LSMP assistant editor




Both the United States women’s and men’s national soccer teams use the facility for training camps and select home matches. It was the site of the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup final, as well as the 2003 MLS All-Star Game. The MLS Cup, (Major League Soccer’s championship game) was played there in 2003 and 2004 and it is slated to host the championship for the third time in 2008.

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One of the most heavily used athletic facilities in the country can be found a few miles south of Los Angeles. It is not home to an NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA, or NHL team… and it never will be. No, instead of catering to the big four U.S. spectator sports, this multi-sport compound was built with other ideas in mind.

The Home Depot Center, an athletic complex located on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson, Calif., is often referred to as “The Cathedral of Soccer” in America. Opened in 2003 the HDC houses a 27,000 seat stadium designed specifically for soccer, along with a 2,500-seat velodrome (cycling), a 13,000-seat tennis stadium and a 20,000-seat outdoor track and field facility.

Only the second stadium in America designed specifically for Major League Soccer teams, it is home to both the Los Angeles Galaxy (David Beckham’s team) and Chivas USA. Since 2004, the facility has also been the home to ESPN’s Summer X Games. The soccer and tennis stadiums transform each August to host skateboarding, in-line skating, auto rally racing, motorcyle racing, and BMX events. In addition, the Los Angeles Riptide of Major League Lacrosse play their home games at the track and field stadium, which doubles as the home of the Adidas Running Club, a member of the USA Elite Running Circuit, and the Adidas Track Classic.






Since 2004, the Home Depot Center has been the home to ESPN’s Summer X Games. The soccer and tennis stadiums transform each August to host skateboarding, in-line skating, auto rally racing, motorcyle racing, and BMX events.







The entrance of the Home Depot Center is lined with palm trees as well as impatiens, petunias and snap dragons. Petunias and impatiens are planted around March and will last through December or January depending on frost. The crew plants two color changes a year, with stalk and snap dragons planted in November to replace those that die during winter.


Landscaping Crew

Director of Turf and Grounds, Kyle Waters heads a grounds crew of 14. He graduated from Oklahoma State with a Bachelor of Science in turf management in 2002, where he worked as a baseball field groundskeeper. He then spent a year as the groundskeeper of the Triple A Buffalo Bisons in upstate New York before coming to the HDC. His full time staff each have unique training and responsibilities in and around the grounds to maintain the facility. Bob Adams, a licensed pesticide applicator, performs all of the chemical spraying of any turf, trees and ornamentals. Turf Superintendent Brian Holtzapfel coordinates the foliar spraying and the flushing of the sports turf to combat the salts in the reclaimed water. Shawn Ilten is the Turf Supervisor. Ben Garcia and Brian Orabuena are charged with painting the lines and logos on the fields. “They painted 230 soccer fields since May 1,” said Waters. Landscape Foreman, Domingo Guarrama has crew of six who do all planting and mowing of ornamental turf. Martin Espinsa can found aerifying turf at least twice a month, and Jesus Estrada and Pedro Ortiz are in charge of all the irrigation.

Turf

The facility operates 32 acres of sports surfaces, consisting of 10 natural grass playing fields and 2 synthetic practice fields. The crew plants 1 acre of seasonal color through the ornamental fescue as well. “We would normally be overseeded by mid September, but since we had 50 teams training on practice fields, we weren’t been able to do it,” said Waters. “We had to wait until the second week of October to finally overseed all the practice fields.”

Equipment

Most of the equipment used at the HDC is made by John Deere. Two John Deere 3235 and 2653 reel mowers are used for the sports turf. In addition, two John Deere Pro Gators and eight Turf Gators are used to haul equipment and materials around the large facility. An important detail was overlooked while designing the stadium however: how to mow some of the raised grassy slopes. “The stadium has slopes around it, so we have to use 48” and 42” Husqavarna hydrostatic mowers. We then have to take a forklift and lift the mowers up there,” said Waters. “The architect didn’t think about mowing when he designed the place, I guess.”






One of the 1,800 trees on the grounds of HDC, this coral tree is trimmed twice a year. Most of the facility’s tree trimming is done in house but larger trees are contracted out to certified arborists.


Spraying

They spray for grey leaf spot in April and to accommodate for field use, make sure to spray early in the morning or after the teams are done with practice.

They try to spray early because the wind is normally stronger as the day goes on. Common turf problems that the crew sees are grey leaf spot and pythium. In addition, for the first time since Waters came to HDC, grubs were spotted this year. “We were hit with a lot of disease this year because of reclaimed water,” said Waters. “High nitrogen usually leads to the turf being hit with pythium.” To combat these problems, the pesticide applicators use a number of chemicals such as Subdue, Protect, Banner, Daconil, Insignia, 26GT, and Heritage. They make sure to flush the fields every day, again because of the salt from the reclaimed water. They also use Calflex, Pervade, and a foliar spray on the stadium every week to 10 days.

Irrigation

All of the fields at the HDC are irrigated with reclaimed water. “We are the only pro stadium in the country that does this that I know of,” said Waters. “We aerify the fields twice a month to combat the sulfates in the water.” The crew employs a Rainmaster Evolution 2000 system with Rainbird heads. They previously used Hunter products but recently switched. The central irrigation system controls the satellites from a single computer in their office.

Throughout the 125-acre facility there are 8,900 heads, 800 valves and 17 satellites.






On top of 55-60 soccer games played at HDC annually are eight Southern California CIF high school football playoff games. Held the last weekend of November and first two weekends of December each year, they require different logos to be painted on the field as well as additional field maintenance to keep grass in top form. “This year was very tough on the field with rain during back-to-back weekends,” said Waters.







The Home Depot Center features this 13,000-seat tennis stadium, along with 22 practice courts (4 clay, 18 hard), used by the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) west coast player development operation. A number of events are held here throughout the year, such as the East West Bank Classic, Davis Cup matches, the USTA International Spring Championships, the USTA Challenger and the USTA Jr. Team Tennis Spring Section Championships.


Trees and Plants

There are 1800 trees on the Home Depot Center property. One hundred-sixty-four palm trees line the streets as you enter the complex along with two miles of oleander and 16 coral trees. In the concourse 125 potted plants with trees and bougainvilla are watered by hand daily. Ninety ficus trees inside the stadium are potted and watered 3 times a week as well.

Most of the tree trimming is done in house but larger trees are contracted out to certified arborists. The coral trees are trimmed twice a year and as of yet have not had any disease problems. A number of oleanders were recently diagnosed with Xylella fastidiosa, a disease transferred by grassy winged sharp shooters. “It’s fatal, said Waters. “We will have to replace them as they die with Carolina cherry and privet. Some of the effects include leaf scorch so we will have to cut them back,” Waters went on. “It will be about 6-8 months before they die.”

When it comes to treating tree pests or diseases, “Bob Adams sprays the pine trees for red spider. Subdue treatment is used on the palm trees once or twice a year as well,” said Waters. “He is currently spraying the ficus trees with Talstar to eliminate thrips.”

Soccer

The Soccer season begins in April and lasts through October. The Galaxy and Chivas each have 16 home games each year, not counting the playoffs. The official home for all U.S. soccer teams, both the United States women’s and men’s national soccer teams use the facility for training camps and select home matches. These add an extra 25 games, totaling between 55-60 soccer games played at HDC throughout the year.






Director of Turf and Grounds, Kyle Waters holds up a remarkable piece of turf and roots after 25 days of an intense foliar spraying program using Floratine Products, Per-4-Maxx and Astron at a 3-5 oz. rate weekly for 5-6 weeks after sodding. They also fertilize with Gro Power 3-12-12.


X Games

The X Games are a major undertaking to say the least. Given the scale of the event, Waters is given the bare minimum of time to get the stadiums ready.

This past year was no different as he had to have the stadiums back to soccer shape within a week of the last event. Held in August, staging began immediately after a soccer game on July 24. Irrigation heads were removed and the process of covering the field with dirt began. In the course of two and a half days 9,000 yards of dirt were unloaded from between 750 and 800 tractor trailers. It took another two and a half days for the ESPN crew to shape the mounds into ramps for the events. After another two days they had to be leveled for the rally car race on Sunday. “Kurt Kitchens and his company Just Pushing Dirt Inc. took a day and a half and by Saturday night they had flattened the course,” said Waters.

“The course was built and games were held, then in 72 hours we had the dirt removed,” said Waters. This was no easy task however because the week the crews needed to remove the dirt, a tennis tournament that was being held next door, forcing them to work at night. “We had to work from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.,” said Waters. In 36 hours they had the dirt completely removed and had the field back to the root zone. By Tuesday the ground was tilled and the irrigation heads were put back on. “Bill Barkshire then came and laser leveled the field throughout the night Tuesday,” said Waters. On Wednesday the crew worked 18 to 20 hours, along with West Coast Sod on the field. They layed 50,000 square feet of 42 inch wide by 1 inch thick bulls-eye sod all day and into Thursday. The process required them to add 500 tons of sand to the seems and roll the field on Friday. The lines were painted and by Saturday, Aug. 11, the field was ready for action.

Other Facilities

Besides the soccer stadium, the HDC has a number of other sports facilities on site. There are four clay tennis courts as well as 18 hard courts. A 1.5 mile decomposed granite running trail circles the facility. The LA Riptide of the Major League Lacrosse League play six home matches on the track and field complex each season.






Getting the HDC ready for the X Games was a major undertaking for the landscaping crew. 2007 was no different as they had to have the stadiums back to soccer shape within a six days of the last event. The games, held from August 2 – 7, required staging to began immediately after soccer game on July 24. The difficult part however, came when they had to have to field back into soccer playing shape by August 11th. When you factor in 9,000 yards of dirt unloaded and reloaded onto between 750-800 semis, you begin to grasp the scale of the project.









Constant Use

The HDC is constantly in use. Every day, between soccer practices, lacrosse games, and tennis matches one of the fields or stadiums is being utilized.

Because of this, Waters’ team barely has time to take a breath before the next event. For example, The David Beckham Academy, a camp for kids, was held on the soccer practice fields during the summer. On top of that there are around 16 high school football playoff games the held the last weekend of November and first two weekends of December.

If that weren’t enough, in 2007 there were four major music concerts as well.

They do get some time off however. That would be the weekend of October 6 — the first open weekend the facility had since February. “We stay busy,” said Waters with a smile.

“We stay busy.” —Kyle Waters, Director of Turf and Grounds

Challenges

While Waters is very proud of the fact that HDC is a trendsetter in using reclaimed water, he admits it has come with its fair share of problems. The high nitrates–90 parts per million–has led to problems with phytrophthora, a soil pathogen that causes root rot. The salt content in the water has also been an issue. “One of our biggest challenges is managing the salts,” said Waters.

To make matters worse, “while the water was in the pipes it was (contaminated with) ammonia, which is like throwing gas on a fire,” explained Waters.

Because of this, the facility experienced its worst year for disease on its flowers and turf. “We spent close $70,000 on fungicides alone in 2007,” he said. Waters has been working with the West Basin Water District and they think they’ve got the problem solved, however. He expects as they get more comfortable with the challenges involved with reclaimed water, the issues that they overcame this year will lead to others to begin following suit at their facilities.


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May 24, 2019, 6:59 pm PDT

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