Triple action at the Home Depot Center

Photos by Lizz Leach.

Within 14 days, the soccer stadium field at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., hosted ESPN’s X Games 14, the Reventon Super Estrella 107.1 concert and the Honda Super Clasico game between two rival Major League Soccer (MLS) teams: the L.A. Galaxy and Chivas USA.

The 27,000-seat soccer stadium is just part of the 125-acre multisports development. Four more soccer fields mirror the stadium’s sand-based field construction, with an additional 10 acres of sand-capped soccer training fields and two synthetic FieldTurf fields. We’re the home of the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA, so there is an MLS team here playing or training. We’re also the home field for California State University, Dominguez Hills’ (CSUDH) men’s and women’s soccer teams, and we’re the U.S. Soccer Federation national team training headquarters. We also host major international soccer tournaments each year.

This past summer, we had an intense 30-day stretch of events leading into our trio of events, including a 45-team soccer tournament in July followed by a 16-team tournament. Luckily, we got some help from the weather with cooler-than-normal summer temperatures.

Work continues on clearing thedirt to make way for the setupof the rally car course.

Round one: soccer to X Games/motocross and rally car racing

The activity started the night of July 16 when we wrapped up our last MLS soccer game for the month. That night we took down the soccer goals, removed the irrigation heads and placed plywood over the valves boxes that line the warning track. We removed 16 sets of stairs leading from the stadium to field level and all of the electronic LED field boards along the sidelines.

Kurt Kitchens, of Just Pushing Dirt, Inc., started moving dirt into the stadium on July 17. We had four days to bring it in with no noise or dust restraints. The East West Bank Classic presented by Herbalife, a Tier II Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Tournament, started in the adjoining 8,000-seat tennis stadium on July 21. Since the soccer and tennis stadiums share the same concourse, we could only move dirt until 11 a.m. and start again at 11 p.m. each day.

Kitchens brought in the last of the dirt on July 25. Their crew still needed to shape the X Games course prior to the practice days. This year, the X Games used 17,000 yards of dirt, compared to only 13,000 yards last year. Our dirt stadium and motocross competition started on Friday, August 1, and wrapped up late afternoon on Saturday, August 2. That night, we turned the motocross stadium into a rally car racing stadium.

The equipment ready for action for the post-X Games dirt move out.

This year’s event required 17,000 yards for the half-pipe feature that was part of the freestyle motocross course. The ramps for the super moto and rally car extended into the stadium seating area.

We doubled the equipment to speed up the process using three 966 loaders, two 980 loaders, two backhoes and a mini excavator—all Caterpillars. With the big loaders we were able to fill the tandem trucks with one scoop in the front and one in the back. The load out was based on how many trucks we could get in and out of our one-tunnel loading dock, just wide enough for one-way truck traffic. We brought in five to seven empty trucks at a time. Overall, we moved between 900 and 1,000 truckloads.

The loading went quickly since we were taking down the jumps where the dirt was already in massive piles and fairly easy to dig into. Challenges occurred when we were down to a 12 to 18-inch base of about 5,000 yards of dirt as compacted as concrete. The loaders couldn’t drive over the field when we got close to the old sod level, as they snapped all the subsurface lines. We used a dozer and road grader to scrape off the compacted dirt, taking 3 to 4 inches at a time, which loosened it up for the loaders to push it into piles for loading.

Round two: X Games to concert

The load-in for the Reventon 107.1 Super Estrella concert needed to begin at the south end of the stadium on Tuesday, August 5, to begin building the stage for the concert on Saturday, August 9. The south end needed to be cleared of dirt and the old turf underneath that had been covered during the X Games. Due to time constraints on both ends of the field, the concert stage was built directly on sand. The rootzone was compacted from the X Games traffic, which was great for the concert load-in and build, but was not good for the resodding less than six days later.

The conversion back to soccer started immediately after the concert ended on August 9.Delivery of the 850 tons of sand began on the afternoon of August 10 while the stage move outwas being completed. The new sand was tilled into the existing profile and the laser levelingcompleted that night.

The entire stadium floor was completely clear of dirt and old sod by Wednesday in the late afternoon.

Early on the morning of Thursday, August 7, we covered the rest of the field in Terrafloor and set approximately 8,000 chairs. Reventon Super Estrella 107.1, a Latin pop/rock radio show, officially started at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, with more than 23,000 guests in the stadium.

Round three: concert to soccer

The conversion from the concert setup back to a soccer stadium started immediately following the conclusion of Reventon Super Estrella. Normally, we’d have one week to complete the breakdown and prepare the field, but this year, the first MLS game was just five days after the concert, cutting down our prep time by two days.

As the concert crew worked at the south end of the stadium dismantling the stage, another crew started removing chairs and completed the process overnight. We pulled up the Terrafloor early the next morning, and by 11 a.m. on Sunday, the field was clear except for the stage, which was moved out by 3 p.m.

On August 12, the second load of sod goes down in preparation forthe soccer game on August 14.
This wide view of the stadium taken on August 4 shows the array ofequipment at work moving out the dirt.
Cats at work on August 2.

The stadium field has a subsurface drainage system with pipes on 15-foot centers, originally topped with a 6-inch USGA spec sand-based soil profile. With field changeovers taking place each year, the rootzone depth has gradually been reduced to 4.5 inches. To bring it back to 6 inches, we had 850 tons of sand brought in that afternoon during the stage load out.

After resetting all 56 of the irrigation heads, we started tilling in the new sand at the north end of the field. At 4 p.m., Bill Barkshire, of Barkshire Laser Leveling (San Clemente, Calif.), and his crew started working right behind us with three of their blades to level the field.

Dirt ramps for the super motoand rally car events extendedinto the stadium seating area.That dirt also had to be removedalong with tthe dirt on the fieldto make way for the concert.

On the morning of Monday, August 11, West Coast Turf brought in 45,000 square feet of sod. We used Bullseye bermudagrass, grown on a sand-based profile cut to a 1-inch depth in big rolls, 42 inches wide by 75 feet long. On Tuesday, they brought in another 65,000 square feet. Our crew sanded the seams right behind them as the sod went down.

We started watering the new sod as soon as it was laid, and did the same on Tuesday as that sod went down. We watered the entire field heavy again Tuesday night to help smooth it out.

We rolled the field three times on Wednesday morning, and then painted the soccer lines. By Thursday morning, everything was in place and ready for that night’s game with a kickoff of 8 p.m.

The day after the game, we overseeded the new sod with 1,000 pounds of a perennial ryegrass blend and started foliar nutrient applications to speed the closing of the seams to complete the resodding process.

With marathon sessions like this, we need to be flexible enough to make adjustments hour by hour. That said, I still try to plan 30 to 45 days ahead of time making the program—and the fields—better each season.

Kyle Waters is director of turf and grounds for the Home Depot Center.


Keeping It Growing

With more than 150 events per year, we struggle at times to grow healthy grass with the reclaimed water that we use on our fields. We’re happy to have the reclaimed water, but it does present challenges. Generally, the nitrate content is high, so every time we irrigate, we’re putting out nitrogen(N). However, our monthly water tests show that the content is not consistent. The West Basin Water District, our source, is also working on the problem.

We seldom have high nitrate levels from November through February when temperatures are cool, and we only irrigate once or twice each week. Most of the year the levels are higher, sometimes reaching up to 90 parts per million (PPM). At that rate, we put out about 47 pounds of N in one month just through irrigation. While it’s only that high for about 30 to 45 days, once there, the nitrates stay in the soil, often reaching levels of 200 to 300 PPM.

Our monthly leaching program with Calphlex helps move the salts, bicarbs, sulfates and chlorides out of the rootzone and, for about a week, back to a reasonable level. Each time we irrigate after that, the accumulation process starts again, and 30 days later we need to flush the rootzone again.

We’ve found that a field irrigated with our reclaimed water compacts so much easier that it can only take half the traffic that it could handle if irrigated with potable water. With that in mind, we’ve adopted an aggressive aerification program to improve drainage and help the leaching process. One operator is constantly aerating, using either deep tine or solid core, and pulling cores when the temperature is are below 75 degrees. All of the fields are included in the cycle, with the timing and frequency adjusted to needs. Our practice fields have a 4-inch sand cap over a clay pan base. We’ve aerified some of them 25 times by late August. The stadium field was aerified four times during the first three weeks that the new sod was down.

We flush the fields with Calphlex every 30 days to reduce the salt levels. We’re fortunate to have the resources to analyze properly and treat effectively, working with Jenny McMorrow of Turf Diagnostics. We test the fields every 30 days for disease and have developed a comprehensive fungicide selection and rotation plan. The nitrates plus the salts in the water can wreak havoc on ryegrass in the summer months. At times, we have some of the healthiest pythium, fusarium blight and brown patch in the country. We’ve needed to work on a preventive basis on many fields when weather conditions are conducive to a disease outbreak. While this program has increased our fungicide expenditures, it’s something we have to deal with to maintain turf quality when using our reclaimed water.