The Mercer Group


Mercer Group, Your Ohio Sports Turf Contractor


FanFile MAGAZINE - Article 1


Ted Mercer, President of the Mercer Group, Inc., at Valley View High School's stadium renovation site.

It’s the last thing you ever thought of…turf quality at high school football stadiums. Luckily, Ted Mercer did think of it…and has made a living out keeping it green at a field near you.

It’s the last thing you think of when you go to a high school football game. The turf, that is.

If there’s grass and it’s green, we take it for granted. If there isn’t…it’s understandable. Everyone knows, or assumes, that turf management costs money and in the pecking order of high school budgets…that’s an expense that comes way down the list.

It’s not a matter of not being important. For the sake of safety to athletes, the playing surfaces of high school fields are very important; and thanks to the efforts of people like Ted Mercer, the future of turf on Friday nights is brighter…make that greener…than ever before.

Mercer heads up a turf management company in Troy, understandably enough, called the Mercer Group…a business that specializes in the installation and maintenance of sports surfaces in the Miami Valley, the state of Ohio…and yes, they get some calls from around the country, as well. In particular, they do a lot of high school work. It’s an entrepreneurial opportunity that Mercer could see coming…years ago.

“I think there’s more attention to turf now than ever before…for matters of safety to the kids… and because the turf industry has developed so many new products that make better grass an affordable reality,” said Mercer recently while overseeing the installation of Valley View High School’s new field. “Where our work used to be primarily a matter of maintenance, now we’re doing more of the heavy work because we have the equipment and the clients do their own maintenance. There’s also better access to the new products, and better marketing…letting schools know what they need and where they can get it. We still get called in when there’s a disease or systemic issue that’s out of their control, but a lot of field maintenance work is being done in-house now.”

High school stadiums have come a long way in the past 30 years. Even some of the state’s more historic playing fields have seen their share of hardships and ridiculous oversights. Veteran Ironton Tiger fan, Bill Corn, remembers the days when that city’s historic Tank Stadium…the original home of the NFL’s Ironton Tanks… was used as a school parking lot.

“For years, they parked the district school buses on the football field during the summer,” says Corn. “They just left them there all summer…til August when they pulled them out for maintenance. Whatever grass was there was what they played on in September and then there were all those tire ruts from the buses. We had the only high school field in the state where you had to watch out for the oil slicks.”

More locally, Wertz Stadium in Piqua really suffered in its last years as the home of Indians’ football from too much traffic…and Sidney’s Julia Lamb Field is famous for being bare between the hash marks after the 5th week of the season.

Today, the attention given to many high school facilities, compared to the old days, borders on obsession. Mercer points beyond better products…and to individuals and groups who’ve taken it upon themselves to upgrade and maintain their facilities.

“There’s no question that people take more pride in their facilities than they used to,” says Mercer. “I give a lot of credit to what Bob Huelsman has done at Covington. I think the renovation of the Troy stadium a few years ago led to a tremendous improvement in that playing field…and new stadiums like Piqua’s has certainly raised awareness. There’s a lot of individuals and volunteers out there who’ve taken it upon themselves to oversee better maintenance of their facilities.”

Good surfaces like Covington's Smith Field, require periodic check-ups.

Ironton's historic Tanks' Stadium…where they once parked the district's school buses.

With the help of the Mercer group?

“In some cases, yes,” continues Mercer. “For the most part, we get them off on the right foot and then do periodic inspections to make sure they stay on course. The problem is…and this is just human nature…so many people fail to keep up the correct maintenance on a playing field until it’s time to play on it. They need proper nutrition, like anything else that grows, in timely installments…and proper and timely mowing is a must. By the time they call us in August it might be too late. A good playing surface must be maintained properly from the time it greens up in the spring ‘til you’re through playing on it in November.”

Mercer points to many improvements in products that allow for better facility management in-house.

“The products available now are so much better…beginning with grass seed. Because of the stress put on playing fields now through soccer and football, there are more durable grasses now than the old traditional Kentucky bluegrass. The agronomy industry has stepped up in that respect. Fertilizers…you now have turf products that have the built-in weed and insecticide support that allows you to grow better, stronger, healthier turf. You give someone these products who has an interest in doing a good job and they’ll come up with some outstanding results.”

But never without that human element…people who take a lot of pride in the finished product they roll out on Friday night.

“What they do in Covington is just outstanding,” smiles Mercer. “Not only do they have the most plush surface in the area…they have the most artistic, as well. They paint the pirate head in the middle of the field and really do the yard markers and end zones up right. It looks like the best of most college fields. Again, this stems from the pride Bob (Huelsman) initiated years ago in the Covington facilities and the support of some great volunteers who want to keep it that way.”

Being green and weed-free is one thing, but what other elements go into making a good playing surface for soccer and football ?

“Well, a good grass surface is important…but there’s also the factor of the speed of that surface as well. I think a lot of people would say that the new Troy surface is the best in that respect because it’s very fast as well as beautiful. When they redid that field a few years ago we put in a version of the prescription athletic turf…a sand-based, amended sub-surface, with a rye surface that can be kept shorter and is easy to grow.”

Mercer’s group oversaw that project, which he credits for an awareness of better turf in a number of area districts.

“There’s no question the Troy project probably sparked a lot of awareness,” he nods, “and
you’re seeing the impact at a number of schools.”

Some of the more notable upgrades that have been made are Versailles, Valley View, Tipp City, Piqua, and of course, Troy Christian’s new facility that opened last fall. All have benefited from the technological advancements that Mercer mentioned…many from Mercer himself.

“It’s gratifying to see so many people working to have better surfaces for their kids,” he laughs. “Long as they do, I guess I’ll always have a job.”

Sure thing. Long as they don’t park the buses on the football field!

The FanFile


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Ted S. Mercer
Mercer Group, Inc.
Athletic Field Contractors
P O Box 771
Troy, OH 45373
(937) 335-7100

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