Wrigley Construction Update: Ever Wonder How They Got All that Sod? (Videos)

If you saw the barren expanse of Wrigley Field and thought it was a little late in the game to still be working, you probably weren’t alone. I mean, the place looked like a large-scale desert terrarium, with backhoes and cranes serving as the critters. Oddly enough, there was an even greater sense of urgency once the equipment had been removed.

All that pristine dirt was a stark juxtaposition of the best and worst of our childhood dreams. Who wouldn’t love to play a little sandlot baseball in the most beautiful ballpark in the world? But wait, the Cubs can’t play on that! How are they going to get grass to grow in less than two weeks?

The answer, of course, is that they can’t. In order to make the field playable in short order, stadiums turn to commercial turf outfits like Carolina Green Athletic Field Construction. Among other clients, CGC has worked with the Tennessee Smokies, Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Virginia.

Chad Price, president of CGC, offered a brief explanation (PDF) of the turf replacement process in the February 2014 issue of Sports Turf Magazine (yes, it’s a real thing).

In 2009 my athletic field construction company, Carolina Green Corp., was asked by The University of Virginia to provide a full field replacement following an in-season U2 concert. The damaged stadium field was replaced following the concert and ready for immediate play (to view time-lapse video of field replacement log into http://www.cgcfields.com/CarolinaGreenWebcam.asp and click on UVA Stadium Turf Replacement).

We opted to partner with a sod farm to produce that field, and from there developed Game-On! Grass, a sand-base bermuda sod system designed for immediate play situations. Since then the product, grown at our farm in NC, has been used for in-season turf replacements by Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Tennessee Titans, University of Tennessee, University of Kentucky, University of South Carolina, Florida State University, and the University of North Carolina.

Most of these clients are able to plan for their sod needs months in advance, therefore much of the Game-On! Grass is reserved and grown under contract. In addition to those orders, we try to speculate on emergency needs and keep product on hand for smaller orders that pop up such as soccer goal mouths, position areas and in front of mound on baseball, lacrosse creases, and anywhere there is need to keep the games going. So the market is growing, and the result is that much more product is available for venues other than the NFL stadiums.

There are several other clips available on CGC’s site, but I was particularly fascinated by the project Price referenced. I don’t know about you, but I’m a real sucker for time-lapse videos.

Okay, so that’s all well and good, but we’re still left with the question of how they actually get the sod in the first place. Price’s article offers a good deal of insight, but the short story is that there are actually sod farms that grow grass in massive plots to be used for sports fields and yards. Below are a couple more quick videos showing the actual harvesting process, which, again, I find absolutely spellbinding.

So now you know — and knowing is half the battle — how they got those massive rolls of sod onto the flatbeds that pulled up outside Wrigley on Thursday. And should your thirst for agronomy need additional slaking, I’ve got one last video for you. This one shows the entire process of sod farming, from prep to planting to harvesting. Fair warning, you may want to fast-forward through much of it.

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