Sod for the stadium has been growing at Graff's Turf Farms in Colorado since April 2010 to replace the 9-year-old grass currently in the stadium.

Spartan Stadium turf set to be replaced after Sunday’s U2 concert

Almost one year after the original date, megaband U2 performed its rescheduled concert at Spartan Stadium. The original concert was postponed while the band’s lead singer, Bono, recovered from back surgery. When the original concert was scheduled, the athletics department planned accordingly for changes to the stadium, which included a new grass field.

Deputy Athletics Director Greg Ianni said the band’s stage will kill the grass after the concert Sunday. In preparation for the concert, an aluminum barrier will cover the field, and when the stage is taken down and the cover removed the grass will be destroyed.

Sod for the stadium has been growing at Graff’s Turf Farms in Colorado since April 2010 to replace the nine-year-old grass currently in the stadium.

With such a short transition period from the installation to the growing season and the start of the football season — which MSU opens on Sept. 2 hosting Youngstown State — the soil material of the sod needs to match that of the stadium, and Graff’s Turf Farms was the closest match, Ianni said.

“For (us) to manage this grass, we had to give ourselves as much of a chance as we possibly could,” Ianni said. “That’s the reason we grew it in Colorado.

“There’s a lot of fine turf growers in the state of Michigan, and it had nothing to do with their ability to grow grass. It had everything to do with the soil profile that matched what we had in the stadium.”

Knowing what condition the field will be left in, the concert promoter is paying for the entire field to be redone, which will cost about $253,000, Ianni said.

When the stage and covering is removed from the field, about the top three inches of turf and soil will be taken off the field, and Athletic Turf Manager Amy Fouty will regrade the field. Before adding the new sod, Ianni said there are uneven areas on the field that will be leveled back up as well.

Fouty said she has been managing the sod closely much like if it were on campus, and Graff’s Turf Farms’ reputation is “impeccable.”

Recently, the company has sodded Wrigley Field in Chicago, Coors Field in Denver and Target Field in Minneapolis. It also has done Notre Dame’s football field, the Denver Broncos’ Invesco Field at Mile High and several NFL practice facilities.

While the year of growing time has its advantages for the new sod, Fouty said the root structure might be in better condition for adapting to Spartan Stadium, but there generally would be no difference in the sod quality if it had been set last summer.

“(The root structure) has matured,” Fouty said. “We have been able to do more intense maintenance practices to it — just like if it were right here on campus — than what they normally do. But you’re cutting the root structure right down.”

For the best possible field, Ianni said his biggest concern is with weather conditions during the growing season in July and August and during the football season. He also said head coach Mark Dantonio has been “terrific” in working with Fouty in managing the stadium field in preparation for the season.

“We will have a good football field this year, we’ll have a very good football field in year two, and we’ll have an excellent field in year three,” Ianni said. “But it’s going to take us a couple of seasons to get it back to where we want it.”

In addition to the field, structural changes had to be made to Spartan Stadium. The wall around the field was not wide enough for the stage, so engineers had to remove four panels from the wall.

When the stadium returns to its usual state, Ianni said, to the best of his knowledge, the Spartan “S” will return to midfield. He is confident the field will eventually work to the football program’s advantage.

“I’m not concerned about the playability,” Ianni said. “I just want it to be the best for our program and for the institution.”