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Sandy Journal

Rio Tinto named Field of the Year

Jan 30, 2020 12:20PM ● By Ron Bevan

Rio Tinto’s pitch receives Field of the Year honors nationally, recognized for its playability, appearance and use of innovative solutions. (Photo provided by RSL)

By Ron Bevan | [email protected]

He is known for his water-saving television commercials, where he yells at the grass, “I said stretch those roots down and get some water.” But now Dan Farnes’ work at Rio Tinto Stadium has been recognized nationally.

Rio Tinto’s pitch, as a soccer field is known, was selected as the nation’s Field of the Year by the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA), a nonprofit organization that recognizes excellence in sports field management. Rio Tinto Stadium is home to Real Salt Lake as well as the Utah Royals.

“We are extremely proud of Dan Farnes and his whole crew for the work they do to keep the field at Rio Tinto Stadium in the best shape possible,” Craig Martin, general manager of facility operations at Rio Tinto Stadium, said. “They deal with snow, rain, heat and everything in between, sometimes all in a course of a few days or weeks. They never let the climate be a hindrance towards keeping the grass in peak condition. For them to be recognized like this is confirmation of what we have believed all along, that they are the best in the business.”

Farnes has managed the Kentucky blue grass field at Rio Tinto since 2011. He uses a crew of just three, including himself, to keep Rio Tinto’s pitch in the best shape possible. But, although he has the title of director of fields and grounds for Rio Tinto, Farnes gives all the credit to his helpers, Dustin Pixton and Spencer King. 

“It is because of the work those two do that we have such a great pitch,” Farnes said. “This award is amazing for us to get the recognition for the crew that works for me. I do the silly commercials. They do all the work.”

Each year the STMA’s 2,700 professionals overseeing playing fields vote on a variety of fields, recognizing Fields of the Year at the local school and park level to colleges and universities. In addition, each year the members vote for the Field of the Year in both baseball and soccer professional ranks.

Rio Tinto’s honors were announced last November, but the awards were given at a banquet held January 16 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Farnes and his entire crew were on hand to receive the award.

“It is great to work for a group like RSL that is willing to send me and my crew to Florida to receive this award,” Farnes said.

According to Farnes, managing the grass at Rio Tinto takes a lot of careful planning, from just small steps to large, long-range plans.

“We have a yearly plan, a monthly plan, a weekly plan and even a daily plan,” Farnes said. “We have to coordinate all of those together to make the pitch as pristine as possible. We also have to watch the weather and adjust what we do to match what the weather is doing.”

The crew’s work doesn’t just happen during the soccer season. Farnes and his crew are busy monitoring what the pitch is being put through even in the winter months.

“We are about to wake up the grass from its winter hibernation,” Farnes said. “We have heaters under the grass that help us to accomplish this when we need it to wake up sooner than Mother Nature plans.”