Student Stories: Turf grad overseeing New York soccer venue

Dan Shemesh's earliest and fondest memories involve sports. So it was only natural that he chose a career related to fields where they are played.

Recently named director of grounds for Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls at only 29, the 2003 Penn State graduate in Turfgrass Management already has left his footprint on the fields of many respected professional stadiums.

After summer internships at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., with the New England Patriots football team and nearly seven years as assistant groundskeeper and then sports field director with the Philadelphia Eagles, Shemesh has earned a great deal of respect within the turfgrass community. His reputation landed him in Harrison, N.J., home of the Red Bulls soccer franchise.

Shemesh attributes this steady rise to his love for sports and his passion for turfgrass science. However, he credits the program in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences for combining the two. "It is phenomenal," he said. "The professors were able to engage me in their lectures, but more importantly, they were able to pull sports into the picture. The moment I realized I could combine the two, I was interested."

As director of grounds, his responsibilities include overseeing field-related operations at Red Bull Arena, a brand new, 25,000-seat, soccer-specific stadium, as well as maintaining the team's practice field, surrounding landscape and newly constructed training facility.

"There's no question that the field has to be grass," he said. "While artificial turf has its uses, a soccer-specific field deserves natural grass. The players prefer natural grass, and the fans do as well. Players are less prone to injury on natural grass, and aesthetically natural grass is more pristine."
 

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Last Updated March 21, 2011