Like many other 10-year-old boys, Ryan Moy earned summer spending money by mowing neighbors’ lawns.
But only he ended up here, as the head groundskeeper at Minnesota United’s new $250 million, soccer-specific Allianz Field, responsible for pampering 2½ acres of green smack in St. Paul’s concrete Midway. A self-proclaimed “huge nerd” and “mad scientist,” he says his life calling now at age 36 really is watching the grass grow.
Way back when, a love for the outdoors and the manicured beauty of Parkview golf course near his family’s Eagan home inspired him in his own backyard. “I didn’t know the difference between grass species,” Moy says. “You take Kentucky bluegrass down to putting-green height, it doesn’t do very well. My dad didn’t know that, either, but he found out.”
Educated at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, he also earned a master’s degree in agriculture and for 12 years was Hazeltine National Golf Club’s assistant superintendent. Now he compares his job to a sound engineer who adjusts every knob on his board until the music is mixed perfectly.
His tools, to name but a few, are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium combined expertly to fight his nemeses — turf grass diseases and weather’s dreaded freeze-thaw cycle.
Moy traveled to Colorado last fall to supervise the harvest of sod grown on plastic sheets to precisely control its roots and its journey east on 26 refrigerated semis. As any expectant father would, he accompanied it home from the nursery. In December, he dialed down a technologically advanced heating system buried 10 inches deep under the turf, putting his baby to bed for winter. In February, he turned up the heat and awakened it for spring.
By Allianz Field’s April 13 opener, those 2½ acres will be hallowed ground for every Loon because the “beautiful game” of soccer plays faster on natural grass, which is also more forgiving on their bodies. Team ownership is limiting the number of other events held at the field to protect the playing surface.
You can be sure it’ll look — and play — better than most groundskeepers’ own lawns because very few take their work home with them, including Moy at his Chaska home.
“I live in a community where our lawn gets taken care of by another industry professional,” he says.