Sports and Golf Across California Turning to a Better Bermudagrass
Delta Bluegrass Company is a full-line sod company in Stockton, California with deep roots servicing the state since 1978. Several years ago, Delta Bluegrass started growing and selling a new turfgrass variety that thrives in the West Coast climate.
Delta Bluegrass’ Sports and Turfgrass Manager, Steve Abella said in 2017 they began hearing impressive feedback about Latitude 36® Bermudagrass from sod producers and sports turfgrass managers around the country. After minor persuasion to give it a try, Delta Bluegrass started growing a small foundation block of Latitude 36 that established into the ground and later expanded.
“We realized it had some enhancements that some of the other varieties didn’t have anymore, or at least outcompeted them. From the way it looked to the way it is maintained, the way it didn’t get certain disease problems that some of the other varieties that we dealt with had,” Abella shared. “Aesthetically nothing beats it as far as bermudas are concerned.
Latitude 36 was developed by renowned Oklahoma State University. Appreciated for its long-lasting green color, the variety has excellent tensile strength making it perfect for golf, sports, and home applications. After a year of trialing Latitude 36, Delta Bluegrass decided it would be their featured bermudagrass.
Abella said that the information that Delta Bluegrass reviewed from the breeding process of Latitude 36 at Oklahoma State matched what he’s observed. He said Latitude holds color longer in the fall, greens up faster than other varieties in the spring and resists dead spot disease that other grasses on the West Coast suffer.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why it has flourished for us, at least out here in Northern California and I think it’s kind of doing the same thing in Southern California,” Abella said. “We’re still pretty young in the Latitude business but it is going to be our main product as far as bermudas go for a while.”
He explained that by the time Latitude was released to the market, there were so many people in California asking for it that Delta Bluegrass had no hesitation to start growing it as soon as they could.
“Especially right now in California with bermuda being so drought tolerant, I think that’s been a big advantage of Latitude as well,” said Katie Piazza-Lesley, who oversees the marketing and project development at Delta Bluegrass.
Northridge Country Club
In 2018, Delta Bluegrass completed its first big project of Latitude 36 with a 200,000 square feet install at Northridge Country Club and Golf Course in Fair Oaks, CA.
Abella said that the Golf Course Superintendent, Larry Johnson, has been satisfied with the Latitude since the installation.
“The feedback that we got from the superintendent and team at Northridge is, they think it’s a spot-on, beautiful product. It’s helped us get into a lot of other projects,” Abella said.
Last year, Stanford University put 126,000 square feet of Latitude 36 big rolls on sand at their soccer practice field and 50,000 square feet of Latitude 36 at the campus’ Student Life Park. Stanford’s Director of Sports Turf since 2019, Blaise Restifo, is a big fan of this turfgrass variety. He said when the Latitude 36 arrived from Delta Bluegrass for both of these projects it was in excellent shape and they’d done a great job growing the turfgrass.
Prior to his position at Stanford, Restifo worked on the East Coast at the Washington Football NFL team’s training facility in Ashburn, VA as an assistant from 2008-11 and then as the Turf and Grounds Manager at FedEx Field from 2014-19. While he worked in these two roles, Restifo became familiar with Latitude 36. He was thrilled to bring this bermudagrass into facilities at Stanford.
“I just knew how efficient it was going to be and knowing that the NFL players had played on it extensively and the way it would hold up against that, I had no doubt in my mind that it would work out well, especially in this climate. ”
Restifo said the university made the decision to put Latitude in last September at the Student Life Park, an acre mixed-use area where students can play frisbee, study and hang out. With the soccer practice field, he decided to install Latitude 36 one year ago, based on his previous experience.
“I made that selection because it’s just really good performing grass. The reason we put it on the soccer practice field was based on what I noticed in the Northern Virginia market with its aggressive growth habit, density, ability to recover and the fine leaf tissue,” Restifo said. “It’s so tightly knit together when it’s managed properly and allows for a really fast, firm surface; that cleat-in, cleat-out play you’re looking for when it comes to athletic fields.”
Restifo explained that because Latitude 36 is an aggressive growing grass, it can become thatchy but his maintenance team works ahead to make sure they don’t experience that on their fields. He admires the trueness and recovery of the variety, especially in the goalie areas where the grass bounces back quickly.
“Specifically this year we are probably about 8-10 degrees cooler than we normally are this time of year, and it’s still growing like it would if it was 95 degrees and humid,” Restifo said. “And it came out of dormancy kind of better than I thought and bounced back pretty efficiently.”
He encourages other sports turf managers in the area to consider Latitude 36 for upcoming installations due to its durability, recovery, efficiency and playability.
“That goes a long way especially if you’re in a facility that you’re not able to maintain at a super high level, then you probably want to look into this good quality grass because it grows so well here.”
Delta Bluegrass also recently completed several large Latitude 36 installations at UC Davis in Northern California. The installations included 104,000 square feet of sod at the Aggie Soccer Complex, another 56,000 at the Dobbins Baseball Complex and 80,000 at the Aggie Football Practice Field.
Abella said this job consisted of roughly 250,000 square feet of Latitude 36 that performed exceptionally well. They started with the soccer field renovation in 2019, which had old Tifway Bermudagrass that was experiencing diseases over the span of a few years.
Delta Bluegrass completed a rebuild of the soccer field from the ground up. Aside from the irrigation system, Delta Bluegrass created a new playing surface at the complex.
“We do that kind of work for universities, golf courses and our customer base. Obviously, when we get involved on a project like that, we’re going to point out varieties of turf that we handle and varieties of turf that we think are going to be the best for the job,” Abella said.
He explained the former director of fields at UC Davis knew a lot about Latitude 36 from a previous job. Abella said he was satisfied with how quickly Latitude 36 came out of dormancy and was easier to maintain so much he decided to make the other field renovations.
Heart Health Park
Delta Bluegrass installed 120,000 square feet of Latitude 36 at Heart Health Park, formerly known as Papa Murphy Soccer Field which is the home for the minor league soccer team, Sacramento Republic FC.
Previously, the field was Tifway 419 Bermudagrass. As Abella worked with Sports Turf Manager, Anthony Camerena, through the field reconstruction he said he explained Latitude 36 was a new enhanced product. Camerena is a contractor who specializes in maintaining and building sports fields.
“He knew about it from us, went along with it and he loves it,” Abella said.
Camerena said they selected Latitude 36 due to heavy use from soccer training sessions, soccer matches and concerts several times throughout the year. He was looking for something that’d perform well in their climate with a fast recovery time.
“I would recommend Latitude 36 for all sports fields as long as maintenance folks or grounds staff have reel mowers to cut it under 1 inch. It saves water especially with our drought conditions, fewer herbicides and fungicides to spray on it, playability is supreme year-round, turf color during the active growing season is good and if you don’t overseed it during the winter months you’re not mowing weekly or more. “This all depends on use during the winter seasons of course,” Camerena shared.
He said the athletes love playing on the fine-textured grass that he mows at 0.60 HOC, giving them enough cushion for knees and ankles, all while not impeding ball roll or speed of play. Camerena said he verticuts and aerates the field monthly to keep the grass in excellent condition.
Camerena explained the Latitude 36 has held up well so far even though the COVID-19 pandemic slowed activities on the field for a while. “Now we are back in full swing. The field is doing exceptional and getting numerous praises on the conditions from all users and spectators.”
Due to these recent successes, Delta Bluegrass expanded its original five-acre foundation of Latitude 36 to about 30 acres. “Due to the overwhelmingly positive response from clients for Latitude 36, we plan for future expansions of our inventory,” Abella said.
Delta Bluegrass has noticed a demand for Latitude 36 in their market, particularly for the sports and golf industry sports managers that view this variety as a high-end, good quality turfgrass.
“Latitude has shown much earlier Spring green-up and has a longer season. The actual latitude of this variety lives up to its name. The texture and color is superlative and the disease resistance compares to none.” said Delta Bluegrass President Ed Zuckerman.
For more information about Delta Bluegrass click here. For more information about Latitude 36, click here.
This article was written by Cecilia Brown.