Friday, September 24, 2010

A sod story

Just how do they change the field from baseball to football?

When both sports are still going on, they can convert the field over the course of 8-10 hours, depending on several factors (the weather being chief among them). Of course, they have to pull the seats back out and take down the scoreboard.

But they also have to replace the pitchers mound, which they do by digging out all of the clay, filling in with sand, and then putting a 4'x4' (or so) piece of sod over it, and then tamp it down so the footing is good around it - you don't want a seam.

Then, sometimes they take the piece that's by 3rd base (on the left home plate), and cover it over with astroturf, or another synthetic turf. (Its near the inflatable dolphin thing in this picture). The idea is to give an endzone the appearance of being one piece of grass, so there's not a little clay in one corner. [but they apparently didn't do it for this game]

I believe they actually dig out the clay in that portion.

But the rest they simply level off.

In the meantime, the team uses a "grass farm" somewhere around Naples to grow the grass that's designed for football only. This picture - though its from somewhere around Kentucky - gives an example of what a farm looks like.
Photo from Penn State University

When it comes time to do the big change, they cut the turf with a big machine and roll it up.
Photo from

These rolls are loaded onto a flatbed and driven to Miami.
photo found through Google

Meanwhile, work starts on the stadium itself. This is Auburn's, but its the same thing. They actually clear out all the other grass (by cutting it, and carting it to the farm). They clear it pretty far down, then proceed with putting a base mix of soil and other materials to give it the right feel, and to help with the water removal.
photo from Auburn University

Once the sod arrives, they install it. Its an enormous undertaking. The field is levelled, and they take each roll and lay it down, then using a machine to help it stay level and "hide the edges"...
Photo from Dallas News

photo from
Then its watered. Here's the Sentinel's Sarah Tallay watering the grass at JRS. They do some hand watering to keep everything moist, but as soon as its all in, the sprinklers come on.

The thing is that it takes a week to 10 days to become a playable surface, that's not coming up and doesn't have seams. As you can see in the picture, the sod can be all different colors for those first few days as well.

So, if that's the case, how are they going to make the change this week - in time for the Jets game? And yet still make it available for the last 4 games of the Marlins?

I hear that they want to simply roll sod onto the baseball infield part, much as they do with the pitcher's mound - essentially digging out all the clay and what's under, and then rolling pieces into the slot.

But that may be incorrect and they may lay all new sod. I'm checking on that...

I imagine this will be time consuming, and they likely started Wednesday night, after the Marlins finished their game. Its also probably an expensive proposition to have the field changed for one game.

My other question is what they will do after the Marlins complete their season on 10/3, since the Dolphins are home Monday night 10/4, and the Hurricanes have a home game on the following Saturday?

Perhaps they will make a change to the Marlins field for those couple of games; maybe make it a grass infield except for the bases?

I guess we'll see...
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