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The Fast Track

by Kathy Kaiser, Marketing Director

Bender Wells Clark Design

Thoroughbred horse racing is coming to Selma, TX at the Retama Park racing track, scheduled to be complete in April 1995. Bender Wells Clark Design. As the opening date approaches, however, what is uppermost in many minds is the successful establishment of the turf grass.

Sodding was the only option that would provide a well-rooted, stable turf in time for Retama Park's scheduled opening. The Landscape Architect, Larry Clark of Bender Wells Clark Design, oversaw the deployment of 550,000 square feet of a new variety of zoysia in November 1994. The grass was cut into segments 42 inches wide by 112 feet long. Nylon net was placed over the root zones to protect the roots and make the rolls easier to handle. The segments were then rolled onto lengths of PVC pipe. Three light-duty tractors unfurled the rolls of grass in five days, an estimated 1/6th the time it would have taken had the track been sodded by conventional means. A total of twelve acres of the grass was unrolled to cover the track, which measures 1 1/8 miles by 90 feet.

To establish a separation from subsoil moisture, the Landscape Architect specified that a 10-inch soil layer be placed over a gravel drainage layer. Proper technology for providing a high-traffic turf on horse racetracks involves the use of a high sand root zone construction, with an underdrain layer. The high sand content of the root zone allows deep root growth, rapid draining of the soil after a rain, and good footing for racing. The Landscape Architect chose a sod that was propagated and grown off-site with as close as possible to the same particle distribution as the soil used in the root zone layer at the construction site. This avoids creating a "perched hydration zone" of excess water above the interface with the underlying high sand root zone, resulting in large divots and a general deterioration in the turf's surface quality.

The turf used is called ZoyBoy, a recently developed form of zoysia, chosen for the project because it met all of the characteristics considered critical for the track's turf. Developed and grown by David Doguet of Bladerunner Farms in Poteet, TX, ZoyBoy is a fine, deep green, unlike other varieties of zoysia, and grows vigorously, establishing itself quickly. In addition, ZoyBoy recovers easily from damage and divots, which would surely be a necessary characteristic in order to stand up to the thundering hooves of thousand-pound thoroughbred horses.

The company is working with a planting and irrigation budget of about two percent of the overall project tab of $79 million. Other aspects of the project include hardscape, lighting, all track appurtenances, and the environmental graphic design for the entire race park.

Retama Park is set to open April 7, with a green zoysia track that established itself in four months of winter. This accomplishment led Landscape Architect Larry Clark to tell LASN that "zoysia will be the grass of the turn of the century and beyond." LASN

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November 13, 2019, 7:26 pm PDT

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