Graniteville, SC (Jan. 7, 2021) – When the defending MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew SC opens its new downtown stadium and training complex this summer, they are sure to be the envy of Major League Soccer franchises everywhere. The New Crew Stadium (as it’s known today) and OhioHealth Performance Center will have first-in-class amenities and training facilities for its athletes, and will also have the most advanced, state-of-the-art technology in their fields as well.

The downtown stadium and practice facility will be the first non-golf venues in the United States to use both SubAir Sport Hydronics heating and SubAir Sport aeration and moisture removal system. These facilities are the next generation of SubAir Sports—meaning the complete package of SubAir Sports and SubAir Sport Hydronics.

“Hydronic heating coupled with a SubAir Sport System creates the most efficient field heating system in the world.  SubAir is proud to partner with the Columbus Crew and the Haslam Sports Group at these new facilities,” said Trey Crabill, Vice President of SubAir Sport.

“Companies have been using stand-alone hydronic systems for years. But SubAir has something they don’t and that’s a patented control system (TurfWatch™ Technology) that allows turf managers and organizations to monitor and control their field conditions by the use of in-ground sensors and wireless communication,” Crabill explained.  “With TurfWatch™ Technology, you’re able to have the two most highly advanced stadium field systems in the world automatically working together in real time to maintain the ideal performance requirements of the playing surface.”

The new downtown Columbus stadium field will have both SubAir Sport and SubAir Hydronics in place, while the 42,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art OhioHealth Performance Center will have two natural grass fields supported by both SubAir Sport and SubAir Hydronics. TurfWatch™ Technology will control the hydronics as well as the SubAir operations at both facilities.

“When we were looking at our fields, it was a bit of a no-brainer to go with SubAir.  Our players are our biggest investment and having as high a quality a field as possible is our No. 1 priority,” said Phil Dangerfield, VP Operations, Haslam Sports Group, owners of the Columbus Crew. 


SubAir Sport’s cutting-edge hydronics system circulates a water/glycol fluid through miles of flexible PEX tubing located just underneath the root zone. The fluid travels through a closed loop system to the SubAir Hydronics heating system and delivers heated fluid to four zones of the field to regulate the temperature. When used in combination with the in-ground sensors, the field manager has greater control over the turf temperature and moisture levels to insure a superior playing surface in harsh winter conditions.

While a hydronic heating system on its own solves a lot of issues, it also creates a few problems, says Crabill. If there’s snow or some other kind of frozen precipitation on the field, the heating process can create excess water in the field. With the SubAir Sport system running combined with the field heating, the moisture is pulled down through the subsoil to the drainage network just as fast as it comes in, drying the field and maintaining a firm field and safer playing surface. 

“What a normal field can drain in one hour, we can drain in just a few minutes,” said Crabill.

The other advantage to operating SubAir Sport in conjunction with the SubAir Hydronics system is that it substantially reduces the amount of time it takes to heat the field.

“Without SubAir, you’re waiting on the heat to dissipate up through about 12 inches of sand/soil mix to get to the actual surface,” said Crabill. “With SubAir, the efficiency of the hydronic system increases exponentially. By the use of a 150-horsepower motor/blower assembly, the SubAir Sport system maximizes efficiency by pressurizing the root zone and forcing the heat up rapidly.”

Then there’s the breakthrough TurfWatch™ Technology that SubAir brought to market about two years ago, which maximizes the efficiencies of both systems and allows them to function simultaneously with each other. The in-ground sensors communicate through TurfWatch to automatically engage the SubAir and/or hydronic heating system so that there’s no guesswork for the head groundskeeper or field manager that’s operating the system. If the moisture level gets too high, the SubAir Sport system automatically turns on and pulls the moisture out. If the turf gets too cold, the hydronic heating system will engage and bring it back to the ideal temperature.

“We alleviate the problem before it happens, creating a better foundation that you can control in real time,” said Crabill. “This way, organizations are not having to resod the field as often, wait for it to recover, and not having to play catchup all of the time.”

The faster recovery time was a big selling point for Crew co-owners Jimmy Haslam and Dr. Pete Edwards, the team’s longtime physician. The Haslam Sports Group, which also owns the Cleveland Browns, wanted to build a world-class, multi-purpose stadium downtown that could also host concerts and other events, besides soccer. With the SubAir subsurface ventilation and hydronic systems working together, they’ll be able to lengthen the lifespan of the grass field significantly, even with synthetic flooring down over the field. And with so many sports franchises having lost money due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s vital that they maximize their ROI over the next several years. Having these systems in place will allow them to hold more events while also saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in resodding.

“Your recovery of the field is going to be substantially quicker,” said Crabill, “and aesthetically it’s going to be a better looking, higher performing field.”


The MLS also has a very short off-season, unlike football. In 2020, the Crew began their season in mid-February and ended it with their second MLS Cup Championship in mid-December. They’ll be back on the field again this month, leaving very little time for the field to recover before practices and games resume on it.

Dangerfield said that the Haslam family has had discussions with SubAir for several years now about installing the technology at the Browns’ stadium and practice fields. When they took over ownership of the Crew in January 2019 and made the decision to build a new stadium and training facility, it was an easy decision to go with SubAir.

“We don’t really have a lot of down time and the SubAir technology and hydronics on top of it will really aid the field in the recovery process,” Dangerfield said.  “We’re sold on the technology and believe that it will aid in both the quality of the fields and their ability to bounce back from adverse conditions.”

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