CHICAGO – Soldier Field has had its fair share of critics over the years.
“The grass is what it is. With our speed, we would like to have something a little tighter, but we will probably have one of the worst fields in the league at this point.”
This was Jay Cutler in 2010. Luffy Smith didn’t even allow his team to take the field at Family Fest the following season.
But, this year, Matt Eberfels did something the Bears coach hadn’t done before. Sod substitution request.
“Quite amazed,” Soldier Field General Manager Tim Lefour commented.
So, Kentucky Bluegrass came out with Bermuda grass in it, which Eberlus saw firsthand on the training ground in Indianapolis.
“Summer is the most stressful time in Kentucky Bluegrass. It’s not really at its weakest point than it was at the end of summer,” said agronomist and Carolina Green Corp. Vice President of Field Maintenance and Superintendent Chris Acton. “Bermuda grass is a warm season grass, so It was his favorite time of the year. She will never be stronger than she is now.”
“It’s more compact — plant and foundation,” Leffor added. “The players are going to feel that difference. It’s going to be a faster game, I think, that you’ll see on this lawn. We would have gone these past years if we felt we could plant it longer in the fall season.”
“Bermuda loves warmth. Bermuda loves the heat. With the color Kentucky Blue, we won’t be running our heating system until mid-October, the third week of October. We’re going to turn on our heating system tonight.”
This strain is called Tahoma 31. It began growing in South Carolina last fall. Then in early April, a 50-acre plot was planted in a plastic net in North Carolina. Since the Carolina Green staff only slices the meat and not the bottom, you don’t have to worry about the grass rooting.
“You don’t cut half the roots. The roots grow. They hit the plastic and they start growing horizontally,” explained Acton, who has worked for the Steelers for 20 years.
“It’s like planting a plant in a pot,” said Chad Price, president of Carolina Green. “We take out a potted plant and it’s all attached to the roots. You can’t rip it. That’s exactly what happens with Bermuda on plastic. It makes the roots really taut and hold together. When we harvest it, we bring it all here. That plus its weight makes it so you can play on it right away. “.
The new crop was harvested Sunday and Monday before being shipped in 38 tractor trailers from North Carolina to the lake.
After completing the surface installation on Tuesday, it will be rolled with 40 tons of sand on Wednesday, with only a few days left until the Bears begin the season against the 49ers.
“It’s nice to have a week,” Acton said. “On the field, you don’t always have a week.”
“That’s typical of what you’ll see. We’ll finish pre-season with the Bears and we’ll always want to give them some fresh space to start the season,” added Levfor. “We will see how long the field will be. For us, we will usually replace the field two to three times a season. Learn what we learn so far about Bermuda grass, it could be a full season. It could be another alternative.”
Chad and his team Carolina Green have had similar launches in the past, pinning NFL fields for the Ravens, Titans and Chiefs.
“The evidence is in the candy,” Price said. “Kansas City played a full year in our stadium last year and played deep in the season. It held up really well and the weather in Kansas City is very harsh in the winter.”
Fans may notice that it starts turning brown as it gets cooler, but they’ll add rye to help keep it green.
But will players feel the difference right away?
“Oh, I think they would,” replied Acton. “I think they’ll definitely notice a higher sternum.”
Going from more than one inch to three quarters may be a welcome change for all involved.
Only time will prove that.
“I hope Cairo Santos will have a good comment on Sunday,” Lefour joked.
The project is designed in the $500,000 range, which according to LeFevour is typically the annual budget for rebuilding. LeFevour says any additional cost will be offset by a lower shipping rate with orders coming from North Carolina rather than New Jersey.