I sincerely hope that everyone enjoyed Super Bowl XLIII. For me, it gets better every year; this was my 43rd consecutive Super Bowl. For the first, in the Los Angeles Coliseum, it was just their small crew and me. I designed the 50-yard line logo, a football with a crown on it, along with NFL and AFL. Today, the NFL Graphics Department develops all the designs, and the NFL stipulates what can go on the field and where it can be placed.
I remember shipping a 3-by-4-foot trunk of supplies to Los Angeles. Today, we have three tractor trailers full of equipment. Work started on the playing field after the Outback Bowl on January 5. Roy Briggs of Jupiter, Fla., owner of Briggs Golf Construction, Inc., had a crew that did the job. The sodding of the field took 23 hours. Roy had experienced workers, using men like Mike Reno and Richard Walt of Alan Sigwardt’s Dolphin crew and Ken Schilling of Laser Turf, who were experienced operators of the sod laying machines and the three sod pulling plate machines.
Hats off and a standing ovation to Ed Mangan who put this all together. Ed checked the sod that was grown on plastic by Mark Paluch of Bent Oak Farm, LLC of Foley, Ala. Ed overseeded the turf with ryegrass and made trips to the farm often. The sod came in perfect. Gerald Anderson of the Kansas City Royals and I hand-raked every square inch of the field, double-raking before each row of sod was laid. Ed had a three-man crew of teams for splicing seams.
It was tough for me to rate which sod was the best between this one and the one two years ago that played in the rain at Dolphin Stadium. Both were outstanding—I’d have to do the coin flip to decide. This is what you get when turf managers like Ed and Alan worked together with the sod producer, Mark Paluch. I have always prescribed this as you all know. Look at the terrific difference. And, yes, that also was done by Tony Leonard and Tuckahoe Turf Farm this year.
The practice field used by the Cardinals at the Buccaneers practice facility was outstanding. Long-time friend Rob Julian has outstanding bermuda turf fields overseeded— great green color and density and no divots.
The Steelers practiced at South Florida University on bermuda that was not overseeded. The cold weather came in and turned the field brown, so we used three coats of Lesco Green. It looked natural. Thanks to the crew of SFU for their help. Sometimes, one has to use green paint.
The Super Bowl crew did an outstanding job. Teams were divided to do the two practice fields, the game field, plus all the artificial turf fields that had to be painted at the NFL Experience. It kept five paint crews going. Working with us every minute were two all-pro groundskeepers who had worked with us every Super Bowl in Tampa, Kevin Dawkens and Wayne Ward. They are award-winning groundskeepers for their Tampa Bay field, which always comes in rated number one or number two by the NFL Players Association (NFLPA).
Landmarks keep coming for me. This was my 43rd Super Bowl nearly on my 80th birthday. A sincere thank you to Ed and the crew for the birthday cake and party you all gave me. Another sincere thank you to the NFL executives who run all phases of the Super Bowl: Frank Supovitz, senior VP of events, and Bill McConnell, director of game operation/special events, for the birthday cake and party on the 50-yard line at midnight as I turned 80.
Thanks to everyone for the wonderful memories.
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 67 years in the profession.