By Jason Kirksey
UA Media Relations
If you have ever hosted a party or a family gathering at your house you know just how much goes into getting the place ready. You also know what goes into cleaning up after everyone leaves. Imagine you threw a party for 92,138 guests and had 300-pound men running up and down your yard for three hours. Wearing cleats. Welcome to the world of Scott Urbantke, Director of Athletic Grounds and Facilities, and his two crews.
Alabama plays on one of the finest playing surfaces in the country at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Making it so is no small task. It takes work, hard work, and long hours.
“The field prep is a year round job,” said Urbantke. “As soon as the Auburn game ends we will begin preparing for first game next August.”
Bryant-Denny’s playing surface is made up of a Bermuda 419 grass that is currently over-seeded with rye grass for when the weather gets cooler this fall. On game week, the field crew begins painting the lines on the field first thing Thursday morning. Once the lines are painted, the endzones and field logos are stenciled out and painted. On Friday they come back and touch up the details of the logos and paint the second color of trim on the numbers and end zones. This gives the paint time to dry overnight and the crews do not have to work around wet paint. The crew uses a special paint that will not harm the soil or the grass, made especially for athletic fields.
While the field crew is getting the playing surface ready the inside crew is busy cleaning the stadium. They are responsible for everything from the cleaning of skyboxes and the locker room to getting tables and chairs set up for an event.
So, once Urbantke and his two crews gets everything ready on the field and inside the stadium they sit back and watch the game from his office in the northeast corner right? Not even close.
“On game day I may not even see a single play,” said Urbantke. “Once the game gets going, I could be involved with everything from an electrical issue to first aid and everything in between.”
Once the game has ended, the stands have cleared, and people are headed to the Quad to celebrate another Alabama victory, Urbantke and his crews are still working. As soon as the game has concluded the field crew fires up the lawnmower and cuts the entire playing surface.
“It is not uncommon for our guys to put in a 14-16 hour day on Saturday, these guys take a lot of pride in every part of this stadium,” Urbantke said. “This is our part of Alabama football.”
On Sunday morning following a home game, at 7:00 a.m. both crews, along with about 60-80 campus volunteers, university custodians, and some temp workers, begin the process of cleaning up the mess that 90,000 people leave. With the new north endzone expansion, it takes until Monday afternoon for the stadium to be completely cleaned. First, anything larger than a gum wrapper is picked up by hand and put into garbage bags. Everything else, such as peanut shells and sunflower seeds, is blown into piles, then swept up and put into garbage bags. Then, if necessary, they will pressure wash parts of the stadium.
After a game enough trash is accumulated to fill five dumpsters that are 30 yards long and about eight feet deep, and sometimes fill a garbage truck up as well.
So, once Monday comes everyone sleeps in and relaxes right? Not hardly. Urbantke and his crew are responsible for all of the athletic grounds at the University of Alabama. That includes the three football practice fields, Sewell-Thomas Stadium (Baseball), the soccer complex, and the softball stadium.