23 mai 2024

Le gazon de Place TD, un travail d’amour pour Aiden Maher

Playing Surfaces Supervisor Aiden Maher has been working at TD Place for roughly eight years, caring for both the turf outside, and the ice during the hockey season.

With aid from Scott Elson, and occasionally Franky Quang, Maher ensures the changeover between sports goes smoothly, but there’s much more to it than meets the eye. Scrubbing away the soccer lines to make way for a REDBLACKS game, sometimes with as little as 12 hours to get everything ready, the grounds crew have their work cut out for them, but they have things down to a science.

Working into the early hours of the morning, Maher and his crew always have the field looking neat when the ball gets kicked off. It’s because of their high standards that the job gets done on time, every time.

“In this job, it’s good to be hard on yourself,” Maher said. “If all of a sudden, I walk in here one day and say ‘well, that’s good enough,’ then I know it will be time to hang it up. I’m only 28, so I don’t think that’s coming any time soon.”

This season, REDBLACKS fans will notice a brand new addition to the field – logos in the endzones. In the west endzone, the classic sawblade logo acknowledges the club’s history, which now spans 10 seasons, and in the east endzone, a nod to the future with the brand new ‘R’ logo.

It’s something that has been a long time in the making, Maher said, recalling the hundreds of conversations with the higher-ups before it eventually became a reality.

“This has been coming since literally day one,” he explained. “I remember sitting in the stands with my Dad at the first home game in 2014, and saying there should be a logo in the endzone. Since I’ve gotten here, we’ve been fighting for this, and I know the fans have been too.”

In just one day, the logos suddenly appeared on the field, but the process was anything but short. Over the span of 12 hours, Maher and Elson carefully measured and placed their templates, which were massive sheets of plywood with removable parts.

“We used plywood,” Maher said. “With the wind here, we had to because it’s heavier. Once we got that down and squared up, we started moving pieces in and out and painting.”

Pulling pieces away, they were able to keep their lines sharp. The pair didn’t leave the stadium until well after dark on that night, and as the raindrops started to fall, Maher waited patiently to see if their hard work would be all for not.

“We painted it a bunch of times,” Maher said. “I woke up at 2 a.m. to look at my in-house camera, and the logos were still there. I woke up again at 4 a.m., they were still there. Scott and I both believed they would be gone, but we got lucky. Once the logo goes down, it is what it is, if it gets ruined, we’ll fix it.”

When they are lucky enough to have some time between events, TD Place is never totally quiet for very long. With numerous different events, including a plethora of sports teams that call the venue home, there is only a limited window available to work on the playing surface.

Maher’s days are irregular, and overnight shifts are routinely required, all just to avoid time slots when teams are using the faculty, as well as the less predictable weather.

“The biggest things here are the weather, and with this facility especially, it’s about time,” Maher said. “With the REDBLACKS and Atlético Ottawa practicing and playing here, there is never really time to do everything at once. Other places can take up to a day to paint, but we [have to do it in chunks].”

Having now been on the field for a little over a week, exposed to strong rain and baking heat, Maher says the only noted fixes to be made thus far are the track marks from players repeatedly running drills in the endzone.

You can be certain, however, that when it comes time, that will be fixed, the paint will be colourful, and the field will be ready to allow the athletes to take centre stage.