10 questions with Ryder Haulk

Thanks to the SFMA’s PR arm, Buffalo.Agency, for providing us this interview with Ryder Haulk, assistant sports field manager at Purdue University, to learn more about his winning “Stars and Stripes” contest entry last summer. “Red, White and Purdue” received a record 2,019 votes.

When and why did you decide to enter the “Stars and Stripes” contest?

The thought crossed our mind after one of our former students, Andrew Marking, won the contest last year, but we never really had a chance to enter in previous years because we don’t usually have events during the summer. That changed this year, when we found out we’d be hosting the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) state softball championships in mid-June. We decided to lay out the pattern as soon as the championships ended so we were ready for the start of the contest. We thought it would be something fun to do and get publicity for not only the sports turf crew but for the Purdue softball team and Purdue Athletics as a whole.

When did you start brainstorming the design and what was your inspiration?

Brian Bornino, CSFM, agreed that we could enter the competition if a good enough design was agreed upon within our staff. We started throwing designs up on our white board and discussing them. The one that was the overall winner within our breakroom was the idea to broom “USA” into the outfield grass with the Purdue “P” below it painted like an American flag. It was a combination of a few previous designs. We really liked what University of North Carolina Sports Turf did by turning their logo into an American flag, so we tweaked that a bit and added our own touch. We wanted to make sure we got all 50 stars and 13 stripes into the “P” logo. We had seen other entries mow/broom stars or a flag into an outfield, but never the letters “USA.”

How did you create each of the aspects of your design?

For the “P” logo, we ran a string from center field to home plate, and another string from the inside corners of each foul line where the grass and warning track meet. We did this so that the logo wasn’t in the exact middle of the outfield where the center fielder stands, but just inside that and outside the edge of the infield. The logo was bordered with an 8-inch gray line, and before we painted the stripes, we laid out the blue area for the stars. We mixed our royal blue and black paint together to get navy blue and a staff member from our carpenter shop, Mark Douglas, made us a small star stencil. We then spaced the red and white stripes out evenly, so we could fit all 13, using strings to lay each stripe out. Once the “P” logo was completed, we moved onto creating the “USA” in the outfield. Using multiple strings and tape measures to get the ideal location for each letter, the letters were then outlined with strings, so we knew where they were until they were more defined from rolling/brooming. Each letter was 4½ feet wide and 25 feet tall.

How long did each part (and the finished product) take to create?

Each part took a little longer than we wanted due to weather. It took us around 2 days to get the “USA” in and around 2 days to paint the “P” logo. Overall, I would say it took us a week to get all the fine details and mowing pattern looking how we wanted it to.

What was the most challenging part?

The most challenging part was measuring and laying out the “USA.” The second most challenging part was trying to decide how we wanted to showcase the design in photos. That part became easier once we made contact with a local photographer, Dave Wegiel, who owned a drone and had done some amazing shots of our facilities.

How many gallons of paint did you use?

We used around 20 gallons of paint.

How many people were involved and what were their roles?

There were five people involved: four students and me. I mowed the field, layed out and painted the “P” logo and helped with the “USA.” Lane Zink helped lay out and paint the “P” logo. Matt Homco, Brett Shoults and Anthony Maquet measured and broomed/rolled in the “USA” logo.

How did you decide to create the design on the softball field?

The summer for us is a time without games or events so our fields aren’t typically game-conditioned. Our soccer and football fields are bermudagrass, which were still in the grow-in phase at that point. As mentioned earlier, we had just wrapped up the IHSAA championships at the softball facility so that was a natural choice.

What type of grass is it?

The field is a blend from Tuckahoe Turf Farms in New Jersey that contains Ginny, P105, Bewitched and Moonlight Kentucky bluegrass.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote and share our photo. We want to especially thank Dave Wegiel for taking the time out of his day with short notice to fly his drone over the complex and capture these pictures for us. We had a great battle for votes with the Columbia Fireflies. It was a tight race the whole week; they had a great design as well.