Installing the Super Bowl sod

The 2013 Sports Turf Managers Association’s Innovative Award winner, Green Source, won with their introduction of the SIDEKICK sod installation machine that can install big rolls from 24 up to 48 inches wide and from standard thickness up to 2.5 inches. West Coast Turf employed the machine to install the new sod for Super Bowl 50. Here we catch up with company president Paul Carlson and one of his machine’s proponents, Will Schnell, head groundskeeper at the Rose Bowl:

SportsTurf: Has the Sidekick been upgraded since it won the STMA’s Innovative Award?

Carlson: Yes, when we won the award several years ago, the SIDEKICK was a less refined machine. We tweaked the hydraulics making it much more powerful and easier to control. We have made it much more maneuverable as well as easier to operate. We even added a cell phone charger as well as a cup holder.

ST: What does your machine do that makes it better than other sod installation methods?

Carlson: Sod used on athletic fields often times needs to be cut thicker for added weight and stability. The most common methods used to install this thicker sod are manually pulling and pushing with rakes or using plates with spikes attached to tractors. These plates are positioned to lay on the top of the sod and crudely pull and push the sod into place. Both methods are intended to close gaps between the rolls of sod being installed. Often times these methods would lead to damaged turf, un-uniform results and are not very efficient. Since the SIDEKICK does not touch the turf but rather pushes from the side, the chance for turf damage is eliminated. While positioning the sod into place, our machine is able to uniformly compress the sod. The SIDEKICK is the first patented machine to compress the sod as its being installed. This compression improves the quality of the turf making it stronger, softer, and the end result is a safer field. Using the SIDEKICK also saves a great deal of time and labor. This time, savings allows the facility the ability to replace the playing surface in a smaller window of time.

ST: If a facility is getting new sod but the farm doesn’t employ your machine, can the facility contract with you for installation?

Carlson: Yes, we have been contracted by a number of facilities that would like to have the SIDEKICK used during a replacement. We have a crew that can be there to work with the installation crew to ensure the tightest field possible. Many facilities or stadiums have leased SIDEKICKs directly from us to keep “in house” and thus guaranteeing that one would be available. In one instance an NFL team had a SIDEKICK air freighted overnight to their stadium to ensure that it be used during installation. That SIDEKICK has continued to be used at that stadium and was used to install the field for Super Bowl 50.

ST: How were you able to impress the NFL that they wanted the Super Bowl turf installed with this equipment?

Carlson: The NFL Super Bowl Field Committee chose West Coast Turf to be the supplier of the turf for Super Bowl 50. They have been successfully using SIDEKICKs to install their quality athletic turf on many professional as well as college fields throughout California for several years. Since SIDEKICK has a growing number of fans within the grounds personnel of the NFL as well as NCAA, MLB, and MLS, we were invited to be part of the process.

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ST: What are the biggest differences between SIDEKICK turf installations and other methods you’ve seen?

Schnell: It is just an outstanding machine. It pushes the turf together with a consistent amount of pressure eliminating any seams. The SIDEKICK creates no damage or stress to the plant that just had its roots cut off. In the past, we used 12 men pushing and pulling with rakes. Many times, this would rip or tear in the sod with a rake or a rake would damage an edge. There is none of that with this machine. It allows my staff to focus and spend time on other details creating an even better install. At the Rose Bowl, having enough time is always an issue. We’re sodding one day and playing the next. This machine cuts the time down by 10-15% and keeps my staff fresh so while sod is being laid, they can be prepping and painting the field for a game the next day.

ST: Is using SIDEKICK affordable for facilities with fewer resources than the Rose Bowl?

Schnell: Yes, and you get a better install as well. It provides the field with tighter seams, and the first year of using it I was able to reduce my overall costs by not having so much labor over time. We were able to reduce topdressing material, as seams are no longer an issue. I had less sod that was damaged.

ST: How often does the Rose Bowl change their turf?

Schnell: The Rose Bowl has on average two full re-sods per year.