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Sports Turf Canada pioneer turns to consulting work following municipal career in Moncton

Gorden Horsman helped Sports Turf Canada expand into Atlantic provinces

March 18, 2024  By  Mike Jiggens

Gorden Horsman of Moncton, N.B. has retired from his position with the city, but is now heavily involved in consulting work. Photo credit: Gorden Horsman

Moncton, N.B.’s Gorden Horsman has achieved several accomplishments during his career in sports field management. He quarterbacked the development of some of Atlantic Canada’s finest sports fields, helping the city become a Mecca for premier national and international tournaments. He served as the liaison that allowed Sports Turf Canada to expand beyond Ontario and into the Maritime provinces. More recently, he was named by the organization as its sports turf manager of the year in 2020.

Late in 2023, Horsman decided to call it a career as superintendent at Moncton’s CN Sportsplex. But his retirement doesn’t mean he plans to stop working.

“My retirement will basically be consulting,” he said. “I’ll go wherever the work is needed.”

Horsman began his career with the city in 2004 after having previously operated his own business – Signature Sand and Soils, which sourced and processed USGA specification sand/peat mixes for use on several New Brunswick golf courses, including the Miramichi Golf & Country Club, Royal Oaks Golf Club, the Algonquin Golf Course and le Club de Golf St-Ignace.


Lending his expertise to help build and renovate sports fields, golf courses and other green spaces has since become the focus of his post-retirement foray into consulting. 

He’s currently working with Rothesay Netherwood School, a private, university-preparatory boarding institution for grades six to 12 students near Saint John.


“I was pretty lucky to get my foot in the door there,” he said.

The campus has four soccer fields, but over the years they had become covered in about 80 to 90 per cent clover. 

“Our goal was to get rid of the clover.”

The school acquired an aerator, topdresser and overseeder and Horsman has since helped turned the fields into a cover of 80 to 90 per cent Kentucky bluegrass.

Horsman’s proficiency in sports turf management, construction and renovations was what led to the career he recently put behind him. Nearing the turn of the millennium, he was hired by the construction contractor for the new Moncton Common project, to look after its blending and sand mixes. Turf Masters wanted him to blend and supply the materials needed for the construction of 10 sand-based ball diamonds and eight soccer fields at the site, which was later renamed the CN Sportsplex.

It was a mammoth project that involved about 50,000 tons of sand, 20,000 yards of topsoil and about 15,000 tons of pea stone for drainage purposes.

Former Moncton parks director Rod Higgins was suitably impressed with Horsman’s work and offered him a full-time position to manage the city’s sports fields.

A new job
The timing of the job offer was impeccable as things weren’t going so well with Signature Sand and Soils. 

“It went from zero to 100 in a matter of three years.”

The official start to his new career with the city in 2004 was a trial by fire as winter kill decimated Moncton’s sports fields.

“What a way to start a job.”

Asked what tools he required to turn the fields around, Horsman answered: an aerator, topdresser and overseeder. Funding was provided, the equipment was ordered, and the machinery remains in use two decades later. 

The ice damage took its toll on 20 of 23 acres of Kentucky bluegrass.

“Once I had the tools to do the work, things when smoothly.”

Overseeing the recovery of the fields was one of the most notable challenges in his sports turf management career. But there were also happier times that rank among his career highlights. In one year alone – 2010 – he was tasked with three projects of significance. 

One was to prepare the infield at the University of Moncton’s stadium for the World Junior Track and Field Championships’ field events. For that international meet, he and his crew laboured marathon-length days to prepare for the championships and then worked from midnight to 6 a.m. to make the necessary field repairs following such turf-damaging events as the shot put and javelin throw.

Following the championships’ closing ceremonies, one of the U.S. coaches sought Horsman out to convey his gratitude for the quality of the field conditions. 

“It was just a feeling I’ve never had before.”

Later that same season, Horsman was asked to prepare the University of Moncton’s sports stadium for a neutral site Canadian Football League game between the Toronto Argonauts and the then-named Edmonton Eskimos (now Elks). The task required the installation of synthetic turf in the end zones, for which he called upon Sports Turf Canada colleague Gord Dol for his expertise.

The CFL experience paid dividends which triggered speculation that Moncton might one day land a franchise of its own to complete an even-numbered 10-team league. A second game was played in Moncton in 2011, followed by a third in 2013, but Horsman said the enthusiastic atmosphere surrounding the first game had all but disappeared by the time the third game was played. 

“The synergy had somehow gone out of it, and I felt it,” he said, adding he doesn’t think the area has the right demographics to support a CFL franchise.

Career highlights
Nevertheless, Horsman rates his CFL experiences and those preparing for the 2010 World Junior Track and Field Championships as his personal career highlights. 

Before both events, the City of Moncton was host to a major national soccer tournament in 2006 on fields at the CN Sportsplex. Tournament officials from Ottawa visited the venue several weeks in advance of the event, noting how rough they looked after coming out of winter. Horsman said the fields typically underwent 800 to 900 hours of use during a season, and the high volume of traffic showed.

“The tournament was in the fall, so I had all summer to get them ready and had all summer to move the fields back and forth.”

The same tournament official returned in the fall to see the results of Horsman’s handiwork, telling him, “I cannot believe what you’ve done in this amount of time. This place is the nicest facility we’ve ever played on.”

News of the fields’ transformation reached Sports Turf Canada which was then an Ontario-based organization called the Sports Turf Association. Then executive director Lee Huether reached out to Horsman to discuss the association branching outward to other parts of Canada, starting with the Maritime provinces. An association field day was scheduled for Moncton which proved to be “an unbelievable success,” drawing delegates from throughout Atlantic Canada.

Horsman took it upon himself to spread the word in Atlantic Canada about what the association offered its membership. Soon afterward, he joined the association’s board of directors to provide a voice for Atlantic Canada.

“That was a blast to open up Atlantic Canada to Sports Turf Canada. I was so fortunate to be involved in that.”

Although he stepped down from the board prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he wishes to return. 

The path that has taken him to where he is today was bumpy at times, but Horsman said hard work and tenacity paved the way to better things. 

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