Nov. 3, 2005
It’s game day. The stadium is filling up. The cheerleaders are on each sideline as “Let’s go Florida State,” echoes through the heads of all fans. The Marching Chiefs begin with the familiar drumbeat of the War Chant. The players are on the field, determination in their eyes and passion in their hearts. This is Doak Campbell Stadium – a second home to any Seminole football fan.
Game day in Tallahassee wouldn’t be possible without the help of an important team that knows Bobby Bowden field better than anyone else in town. A 10-man crew under the supervision of head grounds keeper, Brian Donaway, creates a masterpiece on the field for every home game. Starting with a blank green canvas, the team adds just four colors, and with precise measurements, flawless detail and impeccable design, they create a work of art – the football field.
Designing the Bobby Bowden field is a continuous process. For Saturday games, the “painting” team begins work at 7 a.m. on Thursday morning. Continuing throughout the day, the crew works until approximately 7 p.m. and is back to work at 6 a.m. on Friday morning. The field will be finished by 3 p.m. on Friday. After the paint dries, Donaway waters the field one last time before Seminole fans view it on game day.
Unfortunately, the paint does not last through the next home game.
“The grass grows so fast and we mow it, we cut a lot of the paint out during the week and it thins it out pretty well,” Donaway said.
The process is very expensive and takes a lot of paint. The white lines, numbers and hash marks use the paint in 12 five-gallon jugs. The sidelines, Seminole symbol at midfield and end zone uses 360 gallons of paint. And this is every time the field is painted.
Aside from ordering the paint, Donaway and his crews most important job is to keep up with the weather.
“If it looks like it is going to rain on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, we will start earlier in the week,” Donaway said.
Four years ago, the Seminoles’ game against Clemson was scheduled for a Saturday. The crew had intended to begin painting on Friday morning but a tropical storm hit and the field was saturated with water except for a 10-foot wide patch in the middle of the field. The crew waited until 7 p.m. hoping that the water would drain but at 7:15, the crew left for the evening unable to paint. The crew was back at 4 a.m. on Saturday and painted until the last second possible. This was the only time the field has ever been painted on game day.
The Seminoles’ game against Miami was played this year on a Monday night with another home game following just five days later. To prepare, the crew began production at the beginning of the weekend.
“I was here Monday morning about 6:30 a.m. and didn’t go home until about 4 p.m. on Tuesday,” Donaway said.
The crew is not only in charge of the artwork at Doak, but they are the clean up crew as well. ROTC helps clean the stadium but in the case of the Monday night game, ROTC was in school Tuesday and wasn’t able to help. On a typical game weekend, the crew and ROTC come in on Sunday morning and begin the cleanup process. While the crew is hauling out the trash barrels, ROTC is walking through the stands and grabbing the big trash items. Everyone returns Monday and they use blowers to sweep the trash away into piles. It takes seven to eight people all day Monday to get the stands clean.
When the stands are clean, the field is ready to be tended to. The design on the field is so precise. It takes a crew of elite workers to paint the field exactly the same each game. There are four metal rods designated as the corner points on the field that are the starting points. The corner points determine the perimeter of the field and are the first parts of the field to be painted. Once this boarder is completed, everything falls into place. There is a blueprint for the end zone so it is exactly the same each week. The crew puts nails at every crucial marking point and then attaches a string from each nail. The Seminole symbol and ACC logo are a little easier. Each one has an individual stencil that fits together like a puzzle piece. The crew paints around the edges and then fills in the colors.
The paint is placed on the field through a little machine that looks like an exterminator’s spray can with an air tank, a tank for the paint and a wand that sprays the paint on the field. Only one layer is necessary and it takes about two hours on a sunny day to fully dry.
Of course there has to be a history of mistakes or at least rumors of one. Prior to Donaway’s reign, there were two mistakes while painting the field. The first happened when the extra point line, which is supposed to be on the three yard line, was placed on the eight yard line. This mistake was realized before the game and painted over to correct it. There is a green paint that is used in the case of mistakes but the green paint is impossible to match with the specific color of the grass so it is a noticeable correction.
One mistake that was not corrected for the game was when a worker painted the directional arrows in the wrong direction. The arrows, which are supposed to point towards the nearest end zone, were instead painted the opposite way facing the 50-yard line. By the time the mistake was noticed, too much work had been done painting over all the arrows in green would have been too obvious.
“The average fan doesn’t notice the direction of the arrows so they just decided to leave it,” Donaway said.
The field has basically stayed with the same layout for as long as Donaway can remember. The white on the background of the end zone used to go all the way to the goal line — now there is a two to three foot buffer between the end of the white background and the goal line. Some of the stencils have also changed. In 2002, the ACC celebrated its 50th year anniversary. A logo was on the field for each home game in honor of it. The ACC stencil has changed throughout the years. Last year, the logo was made “in house” but this year the ACC required every school in the conference to have the same logo but in the respective schools colors.
The field has only ever been painted as a football field, but every few years the high school state championships are held at Doak. The hash marks are different and they add a special logo for the event.
“I am friends with a lot of grounds keepers in ACC and on game days, we’ll call each other and rag on whose field is better. It’s for braggin’ rights,” Donaway said. “And we all know we’re better than those SEC guys.”
Sylvester Dickey is the grounds mechanic. Dickey has a son who plays football for the University of Florida and he enjoys ragging on his son and saying that he wished his son got to play football on a real field, “one that was as nice as ours.”
The football field is an important symbol of each game and the crew respects their job to maintain it. They also take care of the soccer, softball, baseball and track fields. You would assume that this crew had the best yard in town.
“We have the worst in the nation because when we go home at night, the last thing we want to do is work on our yard.”
By Jennifer Marcus
Sports Information Student Assistant