Spartan Stadium, one of just four collegiate football fields
in the country to win Sports Turf Managers Association Field of the Year honors
twice, will be getting a new playing surface for the 2019 season.
The upcoming project, which will begin April 15 and is set
to finish by June 15, will replace the current modular field system with a
conventional grass field.
The modules were first installed in 2002 when Spartan
Stadium returned to natural grass for the first time in 33 years and were
renovated following the 2011 U2 concert in which the entire surface had to be
The sod for the new field is being grown at Tuckahoe
Turfgrass Farms in New Jersey, the number one provider of high quality athletic
field turfgrass for the Midwest and northeastern part of the country. The soil
types at Tuckahoe Farms provided a natural match to the engineered root zone
that’s utilized in Spartan Stadium. Sod from Tuckahoe Farms can be seen in
professional stadiums across the country, including Lambeau Field, Lincoln
Financial Field and Heinz Field in the NFL, and Fenway Park, Citizens Bank Park
and Progressive Field in Major League Baseball.
“This project will provide a safer and more playable field
for the student-athletes to showcase their skills,” said Amy Fouty, Assistant
Athletic Director/Sports Turf Manager. “The Spartan Stadium field represents
the very best in science, teamwork, and innovation and student engagement. We
have been working closely with our turfgrass management professors, Dr. Trey
Rogers and Dr. Jim Crum, throughout this process. We are very proud of the
agricultural history of the university, being the first land grant institution
in the country, and we do our part to represent and move that tradition forward
through urban agriculture.”
Although the modular system was an innovation of its time
nearly 20 years ago, Spartan Stadium is one of just two Division I schools continuing
to use the framework. While the system has been successful, it has also
provided challenges throughout the years, including weather. The soil in the
modules warm up slowly in the spring and cool quicker in the fall, decreasing
the already limited growing season in Michigan by about a month total. The
modular turf system, similar to the one used for the 1994 World Cup Matches at
the Pontiac Silverdome, is intended to solve a stadium installation issue. In
Spartan Stadium’s case, in 2002, the issue was a construction timeline. Sod
farms with appropriate turfgrass simply did not exist at the time, and this was
our only option, given a June access, to ensure a sustainable field. One
renovation, due to a concert, is proof of this sustainability.
The modules have an airspace between them and the floor, and
it performs like a highway bridge, cooling off earlier in the fall. This has
caused late season freezing of the field (as well as limit early spring usage).
The original heating system, installed in 2002, was not able to perform as
intended, leaving the staff to go to extraordinary measures to keep the surface
playable each November. The removal of the modules, but keeping the same soil
and turfgrass principles, should solve this issue.
More than 98 percent of the removed materials will be
repurposed or recycled. Soil, modules, sod and other materials will be recycled
or reused in other areas of campus, including university farms, landscape
services, and MSU recycling and stores.
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu. To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu/newsletters. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).