SPARTAN STADIUM FIELD CONVERSION UPDATE: THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE SOD
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State University is converting the Spartan Stadium field from artificial turf to natural grass, creating a revolutionary field that combines the desirable playing field of natural turf with flexibility and ability to repair damage. John N. "Trey" Rogers III, MSU's "sultan of sod," who led the MSU team that created the revolutionary mobile indoor field for the 1994 World Cup in the Pontiac Silverdome, answers questions about the new Spartan field.
How is this done?
The process involves breaking the field into movable modules. This system is similar to the one developed by MSU scientists for the 1994 World Cup.
The major benefits of a modular field include rapid drainage and air exchange, as well as ease of field replacement and environmental control of the root zone. Worn modules can easily be removed and replaced, and the field is ready to play on in a matter of hours. Also, heaters can be implemented to keep the root zone warm enough to provide favorable growing conditions late in the playing season.
In addition, the modular system allows for remote planting and maturation.
What is the time frame?
The modules do not have to be seeded and grown at the playing field site, so there has been a lot of flexibility.
Spartan Stadium was seeded in May 2001 and has matured since. The field will be more than a year old when play begins Aug. 31.
What does this take to grow the grass? Construction of the Spartan Stadium field began in March 2001. Thirty-five people at three university farms filled 6,000 modules with gravel and a root zone consisting of 90 percent sand and 10 percent silt and clay.
Of these 6,000 modules, 4,800 were used for the field and the remaining 1,200 will be used for a replacement nursery.
This process took approximately one month.
Then you build it?
Yes. In May 2001, Clark Cos. of Delhi, N.Y., came to MSU to place the modules in the exact configuration of Spartan Stadium, add 4 more inches of root zone and do a final grade. This took approximately three weeks.
On May 25, the 13-25-12 starter fertilizer was applied to the surface. On May 26, the field was seeded with nine varieties of Kentucky bluegrass (Champagne, Coventry, Limousine, Midnight, Moonlight, North Star, Rugby II, Serene and Unique) at a rate of 1.3lbs/1000ft2. The seed was sown with a Brillion seeder and a rotary spreader.
Through the rest of the spring and summer, the field matured as workers controlled weeds, mowed, watered and fertilized regularly. Beginning in late summer and continuing through fall, the field was frequently top-dressed to achieve an extra half-inch of root zone. In mid-November, a snow mold treatment was applied.
With a healthy, mature Spartan field, phase one of the Spartan Stadium conversion project was completed.
Phase two began the second week of December with the removal of the artificial turf in Spartan Stadium. Phase two, which was completed in May, involved putting a new floor, underground irrigation and ducts for heating in Spartan Stadium.
The final phase of the conversion, moving the modular turf into the stadium, is scheduled to begin on June 10.
What's so cool about this field?
"Is it the first one? This is actually the third field to employ the modules made by GreenTech. The first was Giants Stadium in 2000, followed by Virginia Tech in 2001. MSU will become the first to utilize this system in a stadium floor completely renovated for the system.
The field will have forced air-heating capabilities from the sidelines, as well as in ground irrigation. The field will stay inside the stadium year-round, except to be pulled out for "outside events."
Eric Adkins, the newly hired field manager, and all of the MSU turf team are eagerly looking forward to the first kickoff on Aug. 31. The turf team consists of Trey Rogers and Jim Crum, both professors of crop and soil sciences, and staff members Ron Calhoun, Mark Collins, Frank Roggenbuck, Jason Henderson, Tim Van Loo, Tom McDonald and David Gilstrap, coordinator of the two-year athletic turf management program.
Also involved in this project are the University and Crop and Soil Science farms, headed by Bary Darling and Brian Graff, and MSU Grounds, led by Bill Ratliff.