Stadiums Struggle to Protect Their Turf Following Concerts

Following concerts at stadiums such as Virginia's Scott Stadium, above, workers often have to replace grass to make the field playable for football.
Following concerts at stadiums such as Virginia's Scott Stadium, above, workers often have to replace grass to make the field playable for football. (Courtesy Of University Of Virginia)
By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 9, 2009

The U2 360 Tour rolled through the Washington area over the past two weeks, thrilling tens of thousands of fans and -- as it turns out -- chewing up the grass at the two football stadiums where the band played.

FedEx Field, home of the Redskins, and Scott Stadium on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville had to be entirely re-sodded this week as a result of damage created by U2's massive, elaborate stage and the protective flooring that covered the grass where concert-goers watched the show.

Both the Redskins and Virginia athletic officials said they anticipated the fields would need new grass because of the event. The Redskins put their turf company, Sandhill Turf in Eagle Springs, N.C., on alert last month after consulting with concert organizers, according to Lon Rosenberg, the Redskins' senior vice president of operations for Redskins Park and FedEx Field.

Virginia's turf contractor, Carolina Green in Indian Trail, N.C., had a plot of turf grown this summer in Delmar, Md., because of the likelihood that re-sodding would be needed, said Jason Bauman, Virginia's associate director of athletics for facilities and operations.

During the Redskins' home game against Tampa Bay on Sunday, slightly less than half the field appeared to have a healthy green hue, while the remainder looked much more brown. Rosenberg said the field, made up of TifSport Bermuda overseeded with rye, was playable.

"The field conditions were firm," Rosenberg said. "There were no indentations. There were no problems. But the turf itself has pretty much expired in some locations, in some areas. So we cut it short and we made sure we had a firm and short playing surface for the game on Sunday."

Asked whether the turf was an issue in Sunday's game, Redskins linebacker London Fletcher joked that he had played college football at the Division III level, where the grass is never greener than in the NFL.

"I would say it was lower on one side, I guess," Fletcher said. "That's probably where they had the stage or whatever. It was a difference down there. Some of the guys mentioned that about their footing."

U2 played at FedEx on Sept. 29, and the stage and flooring were not cleared until three days before the Tampa Bay game -- too tight a period to re-sod the field last week. "It was a little unrealistic due to the time restraints, and you want to let the sod lay once it's down as best you can," Rosenberg said. "It can be done. You can play on it sooner rather than later, but for proper footing once it's settled in, you want to give it a few days."

The flooring on which the stage rested extended from the tunnel where players enter to beyond the 50-yard line at FedEx Field. During Sunday's Redskins game, that part of the field appeared brown. The other side's surface, on which concert-goers stood, included a type of flooring that is better for turf protection when only people are standing on it. That side appeared bright green during Sunday's game.

The concert in Charlottesville took place on Oct. 1, and the Cavaliers were not scheduled to play at Scott Stadium until they host Indiana this Saturday. The nine-day interval between a concert and a game mirrored 2005, when Scott Stadium hosted the Rolling Stones and then a football game against Florida State the next week. Although Virginia had contracted to purchase new sod after that concert, the field survived because of the different type of stage, flooring and the emphasis on turf protection.

That was not the case after the U2 concert, which featured a stage and audience flooring that covered 75 yards of Virginia's field -- Bermuda grass overseeded with rye -- for almost a week.

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