Super Bowl XLV was played in Arlington, Texas, on February 6, 2011, at Jerry Jones’ AT&T Stadium, a magnificent stadium built at a cost of $1.2 billion. Hellas Construction Company handles the artificial field work for AT&T Stadium. They have three different fields: one inlaid for the Cowboys, one for college football and one for soccer. As soon as the Cotton Bowl game was over, the Hellas Construction crew came in and removed 45 feet of turf on both end zones, plus the two 20-yard line areas and the 50-yard line area. They replaced these areas with the brand they install, new Matrix SoftTop Roll-Up artificial turf. The process wasn’t easy. The new sections needed to be perfectly matched with those already down and stretched into place so there were no wrinkles. Once the new sections were installed, the entire field was measured to be exactly 160 feet by 360 feet. All of the markings were inlaid. For the Super Bowl, most of the area of the new sections was unmarked, with all the logo painting to be done on-site.
Their crews worked nearly a week on the installation, with a vast amount of equipment, all under the watchful eye of Saleh Rahman Khan and John Linville, Hellas Construction, and NFL Field Director Ed Mangan. There was over 80 years of artificial turf experience, working in the new rubber and lining up the new to match the old. For four days they had 30 workers shoulder to shoulder going over the entire field, a few times inch by inch, with a special hand tool that looks like a cross between a rivet puller and a screwdriver with a hook on it, working in the rubber and fluffing up the new fibers.
Ed Mangan is a perfectionist. Everything is well-organized, and the veteran Super Bowl team is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done right. The game field goalposts were taken down and sanded, primed and painted with DayGlo paint and then covered with a sealer coat. The same goes for the four sets of goalposts at the practice fields.
Our NFL field painting crews soon discovered that the oils from the needles that stitched the new turf made the paint flake off more easily. We had three to five crews painting, but we had to work around all the activity on the field, and at AT&T Stadium there was always something happening.
Along with the artificial field installation, people were working from the roof down to field level, setting up for cameras, lights and sound for TV coverage of the game, pregame and half-time shows and postgame ceremonies. But, it was more than construction, because Jerry Jones was also running tours of AT&T Stadium, often from 9 to 5. The one-hour tours generally cost $27.50, but for the Super Bowl the cost was $40. Participants not only got the tour, they also could bring a football, or buy one on-site, and play on the field. Some even tried kicking field goals.
Our F-Troop, as we call ourselves, worked on the practice fields under the direction of Scott Parker, head groundskeeper for the St. Louis Rams. Although everyone works together, we kidded the stadium painting crews that were headed by Brian Johnson and Pete Wozniak of Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium. The saying is that all the glory goes to those painting the logos. There is no glory for those who paint the lines, numbers and hash marks. Brian and Pete do the painting for the Fiesta Bowl and the BCS Bowl. Pete also goes to London to paint for the NFL game there.
The Super Bowl XVL trophy logo was a tough one to paint. The template, which was made by World Class Athletic Surfaces, had five overlays, with many similar shades of multiple colors and a tremendous amount of shadowing to be done. Ed Mangan practiced on that logo this fall in Atlanta, putting down the finishing touches with a pot gun until he had it perfected.
The eight days of rehearsals take a toll, even with geotextile covers put down to protect the painted logos. All the dancing and the movement of the stage wheels seemed to be taking place right on the logos, so the crew kept repainting whenever they could to keep them looking sharp.
On the Saturday before the game, after eight hours of rehearsal, the Hellas Construction crew came in with three machines, starting out with the Lay-Mor Brush. Then the new sections were rolled with a 3-ton roller, followed by other grooming machines, and the entire field was sprayed with Downy fabric softener.
When they finished, our painting crews moved in, painting over the inlaid white border, hashes and lines to make them brighter. An 8-inch TOMA line was painted between the hashes and white border. Brian Johnson made up the special green, a different shade from the field, adding yellow to green paint to get the right color. The officials working the game love the TOMA line. It gives them a sharp contrast between the hashes and sideline.
The bench areas were painted using the teams’ colors. The Steelers had a yellow background with their logo. The Packers had a green background with their logo. We have come a long way from Super Bowl I, painting everything using 2-gallon, hand-held, galvanized Hudson sprayers. Not bad for a five-man crew. Today we have 30 people, with six airless sprayers and pot guns – and, yes, Hudson sprayers. What an outstanding grounds crew we have. Some have nearly 20 years of Super Bowl experience. They have the knowledge, the right attitude, and take tremendous pride in their work, “and then some.”
Our crew painted the final coat on everything except the trophy logos on Saturday night, working into the wee hours of Sunday. The final painting of the trophy logos was done by Ed Mangan the day of the game with a pot gun. The paint held up through Sunday’s game for all the world to see.
George Toma is an NFL Hall of Fame inductee, one of the founders of the Sports Turf Managers Association and mentor to hundreds of sports field managers over his 69 years in the profession.