Less than four weeks from the Super Bowl, the field is nearly ready to be played on thanks to long days at Levi’s Stadium by the crew working to install fresh sod and make every necessary tweak in regards to weather and other potential issues.
No turf trouble this time. Not yet, at least.
Nor does NFL field director Ed Mangan expect it.
“We’re in good shape the way we are,” Mangan said, noting that with the 49ers (5-11) out of the playoffs it was most favorable for a timely transformation.
“Very smooth. The 49ers have been great, the complex has been great and everything so far is on schedule. We’re kind of pushing forward. … You could play on it today once we get it down, that’s how strong it is.”
Much of the 75,000 square feet of grass had begun to go down by early afternoon Monday with the remainder likely to be in by Tuesday at the latest – 14 more truckloads to be delivered.
The NFL is using West Coast Turf sod for the first time since some Super Bowls dating back a decade or more, according to Mangan. That’s largely based on geography because West Coast operates out of California’s Central Valley in Livingston.
West Coast supplied the previous grass — removed early last week — that wound up staying put and durable through the course of the recently completed 49ers season, that following several earlier problems that included players slipping and chunks of sod coming loose.
The Super Bowl grass is a hybrid Bermuda 419 over-seeded with perennial rye, and it was grown on plastic sheeting — a positive change made at West Coast Turf, Mangan said.
“The Niners have addressed any of their issues,” said Mangan, also field director for baseball’s Atlanta Braves and working his 27th Super Bowl.
“We’re kind of starting anew here with what we’re doing. We do this on each one of the natural fields. We’ll strip it completely. The field has done its job all season for them and it’s done well, but for the Super Bowl we always put in a new field.”
Mangan visited a month ago and has been back in the Bay Area for a little more than a week and said his staff is working 12 to 15 hours a day to be ready.
Mangan is checking the weather forecast hourly given the wet El Nino cycle in Northern California after several years of drought. There are tarps to cover the field as necessary.
As of Monday, about 10 people were working inside the $1.3 billion, second-year Levi’s Stadium with about 30 more people joining the efforts in the next two weeks.
Mangan’s crew also will work on manicuring and painting the practice fields at nearby San Jose State and Stanford, but without re-sodding needing to be done.
The Super Bowl teams each get a chance to walk-through on the new field.
“Weather we can’t control. Time management is a matter of getting everybody who needs access to the field access to it,” Mangan said during a short break from the workday grind.
“Trying to do what we can when we can in a matter of trying to stay out in front of the weather. Thursday, Friday now look like rain so we’re trying to speed up the process here and get ready and ahead of the weather.”