The grass at Super Bowl LVII has been years in the making
GLENDAL, Arizona. — Be careful, when you watch Super Bowl LVII on Sunday, you might want to take your driver out for a few swings.
This is because the grass that the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs will play inside the State Farm Stadium will be the same as 18.
The turf is Tahoma 31 and it is one of the new grass varieties that was developed with funding from the US Golf Association. Tahoma 31 is a blend of two types of Bermuda grass and rye grass and was developed at Oklahoma State University under the close supervision of Dr. Yankee Wu. He began the process of creating Tahoma 31 in 2006 when he crossed Chinese bermuda grass and African bermuda grass. A year later, the seeds were collected and the grass was tested and studied across the country until 2018.
The result was grass good enough for the Super Bowl.
It is a high-quality grass that, compared to other Bermudas, tolerates cold, drought (using 10% less water), disease and wear and tear, and recovers better from traffic, said Cole Thompson, director of turf and environmental research at the USGA. .
For example, regular Bermuda grass would be worn down to bare ground after it collided with foot traffic ahead of the Super Bowl, said Brian Whitlark, an agronomist with the USGA Western Region. He added that the Tahoma 31 would have no problem meeting the requirements to be a Super Bowl field.
When it came time to select turf for a game, NFL field director Ed Mangan needed a turf that could withstand weeks of rehearsal before the game, halftime, and the postgame show.
“With this extra pressure comes extra things that we need to do,” said Mangan, who is working on his 35th Super Bowl. “We can’t call a timeout and say, ‘Wait, push the game back.’ The game is coming. It will take place on this day, and it will take place. Start at 4:30. [MST]Whether we like it or not, we have to be ready.”
And the NFL gurus say yes.
“We believe this is one of the strongest hybrid bermuda grass varieties you can get right now,” said Nick Pappas, NFL fielding director.
According to Mangan, the Super Bowl turf was grown in Scottsdale, Arizona, at West Coast Turf, about 45 miles east of State Farm Stadium.
He and his team arrived at State Farm Stadium about four weeks ago and blew up the Arizona Cardinals’ Tifway 419 field, which has remained the “gold standard” of Bermuda grass since its release in the 1960s, Whitlark said. .
With the help of about 30 people, more than 600 rolls of turf, 40 feet long and 3.5 feet wide and weighing about 1,600 pounds, were placed on a field pallet that can be rolled out of the stadium for watering. inclement weather, which is crucial.
“It rolls out like a carpet,” Mangan described, and then laser-graded to keep the turf smooth.
From there, the field was constantly cared for – cultivated, watered and mowed – and constantly adjusted depending on humidity, dryness and weather.
When the USGA began working with the USDA in the 1920s, their joint goal was to work on grass for golf courses. Then, around the 1950s, the USGA’s focus shifted from internal research to external funding.
Since 1982, the USGA has invested about $50 million in about 800 projects.
“The USGA is critical to the turf industry,” Pappas said. “Much of the research done in the turf industry, especially in sports turf, is largely based on research done in golf.”
About $50,000 of that money goes to fund Oklahoma’s lawn breeding program, which began in 1986.
He may be biased, but Wu is confident his creation will “do well” on Sunday.
“We’re excited,” Wu said. “It’s a very high standard, so our grass was chosen for that game, we feel excited, honored.”
Whitlark took another step forward.
“It’s nice and nice,” he said, “to see grass that I guarantee will look so good on television.”