First new football stadium sod in 10 years at Penn State

When the Nittany Lions return home to face Illinois on Oct. 31, they will take the field on a new playing surface inside Beaver Stadium. 

Crews began working on Tuesday morning to remove the sod, which has been in the stadium since October of 2005, before installing a new Kentucky bluegrass surface on Thursday. 

Originally planted on a sod farm in 2004, the previous surface was installed during the days leading up to the epic primetime clash between Penn State and Ohio State on Oct. 8, 2005. 

With three full weeks between home games, Athletic Fields Supervisor Herb Combs and the Beaver Stadium grounds crew took the opportunity to re-sod the field in order to create the best playing surface moving into the future.

“The age of our playing surface, the intense nature of five straight football games, the weather we endured, and the high standard we hold ourselves to combined to bring about this decision in order to continue providing the most stable playing surface possible,” Combs said. “The new sod will be better than the previous playing surface for the next two games and into 2016.”

After the previous sod was removed on Tuesday, crews spent Wednesday prepping for the new surface by re-establishing the grade and adding sand level off some low spots on the field. Half of the sod will be installed on Thursday and half will be placed in Beaver Stadium on Friday. 

Approximately 70,000 square feet of sod will be used to complete the stadium playing surface and the nursery on campus. The nursery is used for general field maintenance across the numerous grass playing surfaces on campus. Combs traveled to Tuckahoe Turf Farms in Hammonton, N.J., to pick out the sod that will be placed in Beaver Stadium. Tuckahoe Turf Farms supplies several NFL organizations with sod, including the Cleveland Browns, Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers. 

The sod is ordered as thick as the turf farm can cut it at 1-3/4-inch of soil. It will arrive at Beaver Stadium via trucks in pieces that are four feet wide and 30 feet long. A special machine is used to mesh the pieces together as they are added to the surface. 

The four-day process is scheduled for completion by Friday evening. The grounds crew will begin maintenance on the new surface on Monday with application of a coat of topdressing. Combs said the crew will then begin mowing and re-painting the playing field. 

”It’s going to be like one magic carpet in the sense that it is going to knit together, and it’s going to be stable,” Combs said. “And it will provide the same surface everyone is accustomed to seeing.”

The grounds crew spent countless hours working on the playing surface to ensure it was one of the best in the nation throughout a rigorous five-week span of home games. And despite three game days with measurable rain, the field remained consistent from start to finish during the first stretch of five-straight home games in Beaver Stadium history.

“The field conditions have been really good,” said head coach James Franklin. “Overall, they have been very good. We are fortunate to be in Beaver Stadium and playing on this type of surface. Our grounds crew and turf management program do an unbelievable job.”

The installation of new sod will provide consistent conditions for the final two home games of 2015 and into the future. 

”Ultimately, this should be the best playing surface we can provide at this time of the year,” said Combs. “We are going to have a field that is brand new.”