Seminar on Wheels with Brett Hoyer

One of the greatest parts of the SFMA Conference each year is getting to see fellow sports turf colleagues’ fields and facilities during the Seminar on Wheels.

It’s the perfect way for the hosts to show off their operations and “fruits of their labor,” while the visitors can experience a behind-the-scenes tour of NFL stadiums, MLB spring training sites, NCAA programs’ sports campuses and even the heralded gems of cities’ parks systems. Each SFMA Conference usually has one to two Seminar on Wheels sessions, one at the beginning of the week and/or one to cap things off at the close of the week.

This year in Savannah, there was only one Seminar on Wheels session that took us to historic Grayson Stadium. Nearly 100 years old, the old ballpark has seen some of baseball’s greatest players step foot on its field, including Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron. President Roosevelt addressed a crowd of 35,000 in 1933 commemorating Georgia’s bicentennial. As we walked the small stadium, you could just sense all the history that has preceded itself. Sitting in the old wooden bench seats in the stands, I embraced that nostalgia and tried visualizing what it looked like back in the days of those legends.

Seminar on Wheels with Brett Hoyer
Seminar on Wheels with Brett Hoyer
Seminar on Wheels with Brett Hoyer

From 1926 until 2015, it was the host of ten different minor league teams within the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets farm systems. Nowadays, it is home to something a little different. The Savannah Bananas are a collegiate summer league team that plays their own form of baseball, Banana Ball, which is designed to speed up the game while also maximizing the fan experience. Each game has a script full of entertainment for its fans, such as players in kilts, dancing coaches and obscure rules like stealing first base. To me, they are like the Harlem Globetrotters of baseball and people love it. They’ve sold out their season tickets each year since they’ve started in 2016. Judging by the checkout line wrapping around the Bananas team shop by SFMA’ers at the end of our tour, the team just gained another bunch of fans.

As for the field itself, it’s a TifSport Bermudagrass turf maintained by a volunteer crew who also works for the City of Savannah’s parks and recreation department. Their infield skin is a blend of sand and clay from Turface products as well. The field is well-kept and game ready, even in the offseason.

Seminar on Wheels bus
Seminar on Wheels drinks
Seminar on Wheels sign

Our visit to Grayson Stadium was to be followed up with a stop at another local park in Savannah. Unfortunately, the hosts at the park had to cancel due to COVID-19. Thankfully, the Bananas staff stepped up to help and entertained us with some more ballpark conversation and a beverage to extend our visit.

Having been in attendance for five Seminar on Wheels sessions, I can say that if you haven’t joined one yet, I highly recommend you should. It’s the perfect opportunity to see some amazing facilities and connect with many colleagues within the sports field management industry. I definitely cannot wait until the next SFMA Conference and Seminar on Wheels experience.