The 51st edition of the Super Bowl is set to take place Sunday, Feb. 5 at Houston’s NRG Stadium, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans. Included on the grounds crew for the NFL’s annual extravaganza will be Sean McLaughlin, the winner of Toro’s 2017 Super Bowl Sports Turfgrass Training Program.
McLaughlin — scheduled to graduate from Cal Poly Pomona and Mount San Antonio College in May— is a groundskeeper at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as well as the Rose Bowl.
He has been recognized several times for his work. Most recently, he was awarded first place in the 2016 Sports Turf Managers Association Student Challenge and, in 2015, was recognized as Turf Student of the Year at Mount San Antonio College. At the Super Bowl, McLaughlin will work alongside NFL field director Ed Mangan, sports turf icon George Toma and the rest of grounds crew and will assist in turfgrass maintenance, logo painting, field preparation for media day, halftime preparation and clean-up.
McLaughlin was selected from a large pool of talented candidates. Applicants of the program (in its 16th year) must be enrolled in at least the second year of a two-year turfgrass program, or in at least the junior year of a four-year turfgrass program.
“I learned about the internship a little bit past the deadline last year, and was extremely excited to enter it this year,” McLaughlin says. “Having the opportunity to work alongside legends like George Toma and Ed Mangan for the game of games is an indescribable feeling. I’m really looking forward to taking it all in, and learning everything I can during my time there.”
“An opportunity like this only comes around once,” says Dale Getz, CSFM, sports fields and grounds sales manager at Toro. “Students within the turfgrass industry have benefited from Toro’s partnership with the NFL for the past 15 years, and Toro is pleased to support and aide in the development of future turfgrass professionals.”
Turf Nation is the manufacturer of the playing surface that will be used for Super Bowl LI. Turf Nation’s footprint is prominent throughout the Houston sports scene, as its turf is also the playing surface at the Texans practice facility, the University of Houston football practice facility, as well as TDECU Stadium, the home venue for the University of Houston. This is the third time in the last five years that a Super Bowl venue has featured a surface manufactured by Turf Nation (2013 and 2014 Super Bowls at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and MetLife Stadium, respectively).
“We take tremendous pride in creating the highest quality synthetic turf fields available today, and we’re thrilled that America’s biggest sporting event will once again be played on a field manufactured by Turf Nation,” said Turf Nation president Sid Nicholls.
Fourteen NFL teams play and/or practice on synthetic turf manufactured by Turf Nation, including the Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.
NRG Stadium played host to Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. It was also the first facility in the NFL to have a retractable roof. The facility previously featured a tray-natural grass system, from 2010 to 2015, in which the grass was grown in modules outside the stadium, then moved and placed to make a playing surface.