Even before the players take the field, before the first hotdog is grilled the first beer is drank and the first tailgater parks, there is another group of people at the stadium. Johnny Unitas Stadium’s maintenance crew is always the first to arrive.
Armed with spray paint, leaf blowers and other field grooming tools, three men are responsible for keeping the Johnny Unitas Stadium in pristine condition for use on a weekly basis, said Towson’s Interim Facilities Director Steve Zamagias.
In 2002, the stadium, which has a capacity of a little more than 11,000 people was renovated by Ellerbe Becket, a Minneapolis based architectural engineering firm, that has done work for many professional sports stadiums, like the renovation of Lambeau Field in Green Bay Wisconsin. The renovation included a 48,000-square-foot field house, which contains offices, locker rooms, classrooms and features a roof top viewing terrace of the field. Then in 2008 a new video scoreboard was added replacing the old scoreboard from the 70’s.
Prior to 2012, many more crewmembers were required for daily maintenance, because of the extensive mowing and landscaping duties that were essential to maintaining the grass field. However, in May of 2012 the grass field was revamped and an artificial FieldTurf Revolution playing surface was installed.
The newly laid turf system designed to replicate real grass was invented in 1990 by the French company Tarkett Inc. and quickly became the leader in the faux-turf industry. This surface results in a compromise of a simulated authentic grass field, with the durability and maintenance requirements of an Astroturf field. Zamagias said, the field still has to be painted weekly like grass, but now there is no need for large expensive deck-mowers, he added the that stadium is cleaned and groomed on a bi-weekly basis.
In addition to the three official field crewmembers, Towson also utilizes other specially trained facilities staff, like Adam Green, a Towson senior who operates the scoreboard and stadium’s control panel during games.
When asked about the rare cases of technical difficulties, Zamagias said. “We have University maintenance and electricians on call for us.”
For night games the Johnny Unitas stadium features eight light poles that each contain a bank of 24 bulbs, 192 in total, enough to illuminate the field of action on the darkest evenings. These bulbs are typically changed every other year. The field’s lights are maintained by specially trained electricians from Musco Sports Lighting llc, the company responsible for lighting installations at National Park and FedEx Field. Zamagias said, Towson University has trained electricians from Musco on call to prevent unnecessary technical interruption, like the one seen during the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans.
Since the opening of the stadium in September of 1978, field crews have spent countless hours preparing for its use not only by the Towson University football team, but many other sports. The stadium is used for track and field events, and rented out to other local tenants for sports camps, and activities. Even Baltimore’s professional lacrosse team, The Bayhawks used the stadium for the team’s home games from 2004 to 2006.
On most Saturdays during the fall and winter, shivering people arrive at the Johnny Unitas stadium in the early morning hours to prepare for a long day of tailgating before a football game. With food and drink aplenty, some attendees like Towson Alumni Nick Demyan say, “The tailgating is the real reason to attend. I love to show up early and hang out before the games; I’ve always done it. Sometimes I even go into the stadium, it’s nicer than you would think.”
After the tailgating is over and before the game is set to begin, the spectators file into the stadium and take their seats, that hours earlier were cleaned by the unsung heroes of the day, the Johnny Unitas Stadium field crew.
When the last pass has been thrown, the final touchdown is scored and all the spectators have left, the field crew remains. Zamagias said, on top of the hours spent preparing the stadium before games, the field crew must remain three to five hours after each home game to tidy the grounds and clean up, especially after tailgaters.