You might be surprised to learn what it takes, behind the scenes, to make various sports possible in Oklahoma. If you follow local baseball, soccer, or golf, you’ve likely caught some action on grounds that are renovated and maintained by Jonesplan. The 20-year-old company, founded by Matt and Justin Jones, is recognized for work at ONEOK Field, Southern Hills, The Gathering Place and Tulsa Botanic Garden. It services clients as far away as Ohio, and continues to expand while bringing out the best on its home turf.
Oklahoma weather is not kind. Flooding conditions followed by heat, drought and freezing temps can be a challenge to a company with the ad slogan “Think Outside.” One weather-sensitive job that Jonesplan digs into on a regular basis is transitioning ONEOK Field from a baseball field to a soccer pitch and vice-versa. That highly involved changeover often must happen overnight.
“The Drillers organization bought the USL [United Soccer League] expansion franchise back in 2015,” said Tulsa Drillers’ President and General Manager Mike Melega. “When we began play, one of our big challenges was to covert the field from baseball to soccer, then back again. We knew that ONEOK Field was going to become very, very busy once we brought the soccer team in, and we were thrilled to be able to find a more than competent partner locally in Jonesplan to oversee those conversions with us and work with our head groundskeeper Gary Shepherd on those conversions.”
Shepherd shared that the process begins about 7 a.m. Changing from baseball to soccer is tricky because, first, the infield dirt and pitcher’s mound have to disappear. It’s a project that requires elbow grease, rakes and shovels, and a hydraulic lift that drops the pitcher’s mound below ground.
Explained Shepherd, “Jonesplan removes the dirt. They assist in lowering our pitcher’s mound into the ground 15 inches and getting it leveled. At its lowest point, it’s five inches below the grade.” The mound is then covered with foam inserts and sandy loam. With the dirt from the infield cleared and the pitcher’s mound gone, a layer of six-ounce fabric is laid down. The fabric protects the infill and keeps contamination from happening between the infill and the sod, which comes last, said Shepherd.
The pitcher’s mound is probably the hardest thing to put back together when going from soccer back to baseball, noted Russell Huff, Jonesplan’s Director of Golf and Sports Field Construction. That conversion also calls for regrading the field. All surfaces are evened out so that no player trips. “The last thing you want to do is cause injury to a professional athlete,” emphasized Huff.
When Jonesplan started working with the Tulsa Roughnecks at ONEOK in 2015, the soccer field orientation was different, said Huff. “The Craft Brothers, who bought the team (now FC Tulsa), conducted studies that suggested a different field orientation might offer better fan interaction, so the field was reoriented to where one goal is now on the third base foul line and the other goal is in right field.” The change meant an increase from 9,000 to 13,000 square feet of needed sod. Coming this fall, Huff added, the entire ONEOK field will be renovated — tearing everything out, including the warning tracks and bullpen — starting from scratch.
Fortunately, for sports fields and golf courses around Oklahoma and elsewhere, Riverview Sod Ranch is located in nearby Leonard. Charles Binney, who has helmed Riverview for more than four decades, recounted that his company has grown the Drillers’ turf for years. It currently provides ONEOK Field with a Bermuda grass called Tahoma 31, developed by Oklahoma State University. He detailed that sod is cut fresh the morning of installation. Rolls are 400 square feet and 115 feet long with a grass depth of at least an inch, but less than two. He’s been a supplier to Jonesplan since its inception. “They’re just good, honest people, and they do a great job,” he offered.
Jonesplan’s Marketing Manager Mary Jones said her company also is very “golf-centric,” having done work at nearly every golf course in the area. A current project is a course in Blanchard, Oklahoma. In her role as an architect, she and Jonesplan’s Brad Kmita are heading up outdoor classroom projects, three in Youngstown, Ohio. Other ventures include expanded projects at Tulsa Botanic Garden. “We built their first two major gardens, and now we are wrapping up on their next two,” she said.
Additionally, the company is tackling an exciting new attraction near The Gathering Place. The completed project will make it possible for kayaks and canoes to navigate the Arkansas River. Said Jones, “Everyone has talked about it forever, and it’s finally happening.”
Whether it’s baseball, soccer, golf or water sports, there’s a continuing emphasis on outdoor recreation in Oklahoma. Widely recognized for its proven project expertise, Jonesplan works in a league of its own.