We caught up with Murray Cook, president of BrightView Sports Turf, right after the historic, first-ever Major League Baseball (MLB) series in Europe, a 2-game set in late June between the Yankees and Red Sox. BrightView is the Official Field Consultant to MLB, providing field design and construction for games outside the league’s 30 existing ballparks.
ST: What challenges at London Stadium did you encounter
compared to other international fields you’ve set up?
Cook: We started looking around the UK
in 2013 for options; we looked at famous Wembley Stadium, The Oval field, and
several other sites throughout the United Kingdom, all of which presented
challenges. Even with our chosen Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s London
Stadium we were going to be in a tight situation with the
dimensions. After numerous discussions with MLB, the Player’s Association,
and Populous (architectural and design company), we moved forward with London
ONLY 21 days to build the entire ballpark and field of play for the
first-ever MLB games in Europe. Furthermore, we would only have 5 days to
bump-out of the venue so they could prepare for the West Ham football season.
We would not be able to drill or sink holes into the ground due to the
armor-decking layer, the track and field surface, and the West Ham Desso pitch
(GrassMaster) so everything from foul poles, fencing, dugouts, gates, etc., had
to be secured by using concrete ballasting. As part of the build we
removed tiles and added drainage lines.
to go natural grass and did not make the change to synthetic until earlier this
year, mainly because of the risk of the weather and the extremely short time
table with absolutely no time for natural grass to have any issues related to
the harvesting and/or weather.
hindsight it was the right decision because it rained the first 16 days of 18
during construction. We have stored all the infield clay, synthetic turf and
infill to be used again for next year’s games between the Cubs and
pushing for a deal at London Stadium in 2017 but it fell apart due to timing
and construction of the venue. So in 2017 we really began detailing the plans
as to how we might be able to pull this off. Since the stadium surface has
varied grades we needed to level the entire surface to build the baseball
On a side
note, there was an exhibition game played between the Red Sox and Mets at The
Oval in 1993. It’s a cricket ground. I
remember Harry Brind, the head groundsman, and his assistant Bill Gordon
helping me lay out the clay cut outs. It rained every day until we had no more
time to build the pits, then the final day we played.
contractors, vendors and Brightview Sportsturf team deserve all the credit
pulling this one off. The Hewitt’s sportsturf contractors were
outstanding, along with design team Populous, the project management firm G and
T, as well as MLB Ops and MLBPA staff that stuck with us from the beginning to
ST: When you assess a new venue/field for MLB, what are
you looking for most specifically?
Cook: First we look for the best
dimensions and orientation. Timing of the event and what the venue will
allow us to do is a longer discussion, along with having proper resources to
pull off the transition. Some countries are more fortunate than
ST: Was there time for fun in London?
Cook: Not on this event! We worked
30+ days in a row to pull this one off, which takes a toll on the mind and
body. I was able to get out and see some of the country though during earlier
ST: What’s the next MLB assignment for you?
Cook: Williamsport again for the Little
League Classic, and there are a couple other things MLB is working on.
141,000 sq. ft. of FieldTurf Vertex
4400 tons of aggravate to level the
pitch and track
340 tons of DuraEdge clay
12 tons of Turface soil conditioner
700 wall pads from Covermaster
53,000 sq. ft. of chicken wire to
cover the lights
2 60-foot foul poles
Batting tunnels and all the BP
equipment from Beacon Athletics and C&H Baseball