OTS 2017 Preview: An interview with Robert Heggie

Posted on Friday, January 20th, 2017

Written by Jessica Proeller

Robert Heggie standing on the BMO Field, Freshly Painted for the Grey Cup
Robert Heggie standing on the BMO Field, Freshly Painted for the Grey Cup

For Immediate Release

Trials, Teamwork and Turf – A Taste of OTS

MLSE Head Groundskeeper, Robert Heggie, on the Rapidly Growing Industry of Turf Management

GUELPH, Jan.17, 2017 - The University of Guelph (UofG) has harvested some of the best turf managers in North America, and there is nothing more humbling than having alumni accredit the teaching staff for their success. Returning to the place he received his diploma, the UofG welcomes Robert Heggie, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) Head Groundskeeper, as a keynote speaker for the 26th annual Ontario Turfgrass Symposium (OTS).

During OTS, faculty and industry professionals will share their most recent research on cool season turfgrasses. Eric Lyons—Director of the Guelph Turfgrass Institute (GTI) and Associate Professor, Department of Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, emphasized the importance of referring to OTS as, “an education first industry conference.” The notion of learning from experienced industry leaders is the pivotal purpose of OTS—a networking event, and an exchange of knowledge between practicing individuals across North America.

“The conference provides education for attendees based on research and cutting edge technology in the industry,” says Lyons. “We will be seeing the most recent research being studied from the UofG and other Universities across North America.”

For Robert Heggie, 2016 was an extremely busy yet crucial year for sports turf management. In a matter of three days, he had to lead his team into converting the turf used on BMO Field from the Grey Cup, to pristine turf for the unanticipated TFC playoff game. Not only did they have to ensure the sod was repaired due to traffic and compaction, they had to ensure the paint lines from the football game could not be seen during the soccer game. This led to lengthy paint trials, and according to Heggie, was one of his biggest challenges.

Heggie accredits the successful conversion of the field―from the Grey Cup to the TFC playoff game—to the diligent work of his team. “After the Grey Cup, some of my guys were there for 24 hours. I didn’t ask them to do that, they are just that dedicated to their jobs.”

Leading up to the three days of madness, and following the success of the field conversion, Heggie and his team have been in the eyes of the media more than ever.

“I think it’s a little intimidating, but great for the turfgrass industry. If this was unsuccessful, it would have shone a very negative light on the [turfgrass management] industry.” Due to the success of Heggie and his team, more people are finding out about the turfgrass industry as a whole, and all of the work that goes into managing sports turf.

Heggie has some relevant advice for aspiring Sports Field Managers. He emphasizes the importance of creating a team of people you can work with. “I see my team more than I see my wife, but I have a great team,” he says jokingly. Six out of nine of his current staff are UofG grads, and he is hiring two more interns from the University in the upcoming months. Heggie’s next task will be re-sodding BMO Field in February for the TFC Home Opener on March 31.

Heggie spoke very highly of his education, and more specifically, his professors. “The professors at the University of Guelph are great. I can call any of my old professors if I need something. If I’m stuck, they’ll know the answer. It’s nice because most of the professors are industry professionals.”

Attendees of OTS will have the opportunity to listen to Heggie further discuss his experiences during his keynote presentation. Conference attendees will also have the opportunity to listen to other industry professionals, including Dr. Pat Vittum, who will discuss recent turf insect management strategies, and Dr. Eric Watkins, who will share his research on low input strategies in turf management.

As a perfect closing statement, Heggie remarks, “Horticulture isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle.”

About the Ontario Turfgrass Symposium

On February 22 and 23, 2017, The University of Guelph will host the 26th annual Ontario Turfgrass Symposium (OTS) at Rozanski Hall. The theme of this year’s conference is “A Changing Landscape.” Designed for turfgrass professionals, OTS is hosted by the University of Guelph, an international leader in the turf sciences.

Participants of this event can expect to grow as turfgrass professionals, network with colleagues in the turf profession, and expand their expertise by attending a variety of high-quality sessions focusing on the areas of sports turf, recreational facilities, lawn care, golf course, and nursery sod.


Hear more from Robert Heggie and the fantastic lineup of OTS guest speakers by registering for OTS.

More information about OTS, please visit:  turfsymposium.ca.


Press release authored by:

Jessica Proeller
Marketing Intern

Open Learning and Educational Support
Johnston Hall, Room 145 | University of Guelph | N1G 2W1
Phone: 519.824.4120 ext. 53400

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