After a rainy spring and wear and tear caused by two new tenants, the natural turf at RFK Stadium has become a messy mixture of broken sod and dirt.
And the Washington Redskins, the stadium's oldest tenants, are not pleased.
"We are concerned. I don't care what direction you look at the field from. It's lousy. It is in bad shape, the worst the Redskins have ever seen," said John Kent Cooke, the Redskins' executive vice president. "We have sent photographers to the field, notified the Armory and they have assured us the field will be in perfect condition by Aug. 12 (the date of the pre-season opener against Cincinnati)."
With both the Washington Federals football team and Team America soccer team using the stadium for the first time this spring, the turf has developed three large bald spots.
The largest is in the center of the field and approximately 10 feet wide. The other two bald spots are on the football sidelines, where the team benches are located. Because of the width of the soccer field, these spots are in the field of play.
"It has never been in as bad a shape as it is now, but we've never had successive Saturdays and Sundays when teams have played in such terrible weather," said Robert Sigholtz, general manager of the D.C. Armory Board, which is responsible for the maintainance of the field.
Sigholtz added, "The Redskins are our major tenant. We are always interested in their welfare. We have told the Redskins that by Aug. 12 we believe the field will not only meet the high standards of the Super Bowl champions, but it will meet the even higher standards of the Armory Board."
Sigholtz said the board had planned to resod the field in late May, and replace the fragile bluegrass now on the field with a sturdier bermuda grass that grows in southern Virginia.
"But it was an unusually cool spring and when our agronomist went down to look at it, the grass was very thin and didn't meet our standards. We plan to resod the field on July 8 (after the Team America-Toronto game).
"We had eight or nine events in the rain out here, six or seven with the Federals and one or two with Team America," said Sigholtz.
Ray Jauch, head coach of the Federals, said, "I personally think it's been hard on the people who run the stadium. It's difficult for me to say what the condition of the field is like. The only time I've seen it is when it has been wet and muddy."
Tampa Bay Rowdies coach Al Miller said after his team lost a 1-0 North American Soccer League game to Team America at RFK, "That field did my players more harm than Team America. I feel sorry for Team America."
After playing at RFK, Stan Terlicki, a forward for the Golden Bay Earthquakes, said, "Everywhere I ran, I was stumbling, falling, twisting my ankles. They should fix this field before someone gets hurt and ruins his career."
Sigholtz said that heat cables will be placed under the field and a slitted plastic cover, used to help the grass take root, will be used once the new bermuda sod has been put into place.
"The only thing to preclude the wear we've had is an artificial surface and the players have all told us that they prefer a natural surface," Sigholtz said.
Said Cooke, "The Redskins kind of like the idea of playing in an open stadium with natural surface."
Said Jauch, "I'd rather play on grass any day."