Dan Bergstrom

Dan Bergstrom, CSFM
Director of Turf and Grounds // BBVA Stadium
2021 Class of Pioneers in the Field

Dan Bergstrom

Mastery begins with humility.
- Robin Sharma.

If I had to choose an individual who has not only mastered his craft several times over, but has also mastered the art of humility, Dan Bergstrom fits the bill.

When discussing his career and passion for sports turf, Dan Bergstrom, Director of Turf and Grounds for BBVA Stadium, focused on the facts. No matter how prompted, he strayed from talking about himself and his long list of accomplishments. It wasn’t until I called on several of his colleagues that I realized this approach and his humble nature are things he is admired greatly for throughout the industry.

Weston Appelfeller, Senior Director of Grounds for Austin FC, provided us insight into the character of his Texas neighbor. “With my move to soccer in Texas, I relied heavily on Dan. I was able to watch Dan and his crew in action and what resonated with me was how much his crew respected him. When I think of someone in this industry I’d want to emulate, Dan embodies all those qualities. He makes me want to be a more approachable groundskeeper. He’s taught me that being humble and helping others is what makes this industry thrive.”

Bergstrom’s discovery of sports turf was similar to that of many of his peers in the industry. He initially didn’t realize managing grass and dirt was a career option, but was hooked as soon as he got a taste for the gig. What makes his story different is that he had one of the best turf programs right in his backyard. Bergstrom said, “my father helped guide me to sports turf, which led me to working at a golf course before joining the Iowa State Turfgrass program. I’m Iowa born and raised. Before I discovered turf, I didn’t even realize it was a career option, let alone that I had access to one of the most highly respected educational programs in my own backyard.”

It didn’t take long for Bergstrom to catch, what he calls, “the bug”. Bergstrom said, “the sports turf industry, it’s difficult to explain, but once you catch the bug, you’re all in for life. I love seeing it when new students come in and experience a taste of the job for the first time. It’s a unique career, but I can’t imagine doing anything else. The job is all encompassing. When you work in a highly visible place, you’re going to be on the clock a lot more than you’re off. It’s a lifestyle, not a job. That’s why it’s important to have people in your life that understand and support that. I’m especially thankful for my wife, Krista, and all the ways she’s supported me through this lifestyle over the years.”

After catching the bug himself and becoming a Cyclone alumnus, Bergstrom went on to have success in several different arenas of sports turf. Before finding his current home with the Houston Dynamo and Dash, Bergstrom worked with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, spent time at the universities of Nebraska and Kentucky, and 12 seasons with MLB’s Houston Astros. Today, Bergstrom oversees operations for the two facilities while simultaneously playing the role of department head. While he loves hopping on a mower or gathering data about grass, Bergstrom admits he enjoys the administrative side of the gig as well, spreadsheets and all.

Dan on field Dan at match

Bergstrom started to make a name for himself early on in his career because of his wealth of knowledge and ability to make out-of-the-box solutions successful. Steve Torske, University of Nebraska, worked underneath Bergstrom after meeting over 20 years ago. Torske credited Bergstrom’s attention to detail as an attribute that would continue to make an impact on Torske’s career. Torske said, “Dan taught me about all the little details that will take a baseball field to the next level. He loved to preach that grass is our friend, treat it with respect. Don’t walk on the grass or drag a hose through the infield. Those little details made his work stand out. But it’s truly his wealth of knowledge and his ability to empower a crew that made a lasting impression on me.”

During his work at University of Kentucky and Nebraska, Bergstrom continued to build the foundation for which he’d be remembered by. It was when Bergstrom took his talents to Houston that his reputation started to gain some speed. Growing grass in a shaded stadium is a challenging task to be put up against. By not only growing grass, but perfecting it with a solution that wasn’t exactly textbook, Bergstrom’s work garnered admiratation.

Tom Nielsen, a veteran in sports turf, spoke of Bergstrom’s incredible feat and accomplishments: “Dan is one of the smartest professionals I’ve had the pleasure to know. We first met while he was working at University of Kentucky and his approach has been impressing me since. What he was able to do at Minute Maid park for the Houston Astros was remarkable. That dome was daunting and he met the challenge with success. I don’t know if anyone could have done a better job. His approach is scientific and resourceful. If you want to see out-of-box solutions that actually work, Dan is someone to follow.”

Bergstrom hopes his fields will speak for themselves, and it’s clear that his innovations on the field and his expansive knowledge have made his work memorable. But his other passion has always been to be a helpful and contributing member of the industry. Bergstrom has been an active member of STMA since early on in his career. Through serving on the board or his constant commitment to aid peers who are struggling with challenges on the field, he’s proving his character and leadership will impact the industry for years to come.

Appelfeller, Torske, Nielsen and others all attributed Bergstrom’s willingness to help others as his most admirable quality.

Appelfeller said, “through working with Dan on the STMA board, he taught me the importance of helping others who are searching for advice. He’s lent me his fair share of guidance at times as well. The grass here in Austin wouldn’t have been possible without Dan’s advice and suggestions. I especially benefited from his support when I chose a grass variety that people questioned for the shaded stadium. It reassured me that Dan, someone who I’d consider an expert in growing grass in the shade, told me to follow through with my plans, despite what others thought.”

Torske praised Bergstrom’s helpful nature and said, “it’s the way he presents himself and his professionalism that I see impacting this industry. But it’s the crews he mentored and the peers he’s aided that will serve as his legacy.”

Nielsen described Bergstrom as the poster child for STMA. “Dan is the perfect example of what you want in leadership and a mentor for the future of sports turf management. He is a great advocate for our industry and if I had to come up with a definition for STMA, Dan would be it. Dan is special because he has a way of making you feel like you always have an ally in whatever you might be struggling with on the field. When I transitioned from baseball to soccer, he was always checking in and reassuring me of his support. Dan is always trying to better the groundskeeper’s situation, help the younger ones coming up, and push the industry forward.”

In closing, Dan Bergstrom and his crews have found success where others haven’t. He has discovered ways to accomplish tasks whether or not it’s what the textbook says, all the while making a positive impact on the industry he loves. For someone who is known for his quiet, reserved and humble presence, Bergstrom’s work, industry impact and character scream success.