George Toma

What a great Super Bowl XLII game. What a great Super Bowl XLII playing field. From Super Bowl I to XLII, this and XLI were the best playing fields ever. People do not realize the work that goes into the Super Bowl on the game field and the practice fields. Tim Peterson’s Cardinals practice fields and Brian Johnson’s Arizona State University fields were outstanding.

Even with all the rehearsals, this could be the best ever all-around. The sod was to come from two sod companies in the Phoenix area, but it was not good enough for what the NFL wants for a Super Bowl playing field.

As for Super Bowl XLI, the first sod chosen fell apart. So, sod from Ed Woerner’s turf farm—grown on plastic—was selected. As all the TV viewers saw, that field played outstanding in the rain for that game. It was amazing!

The sod chosen for Super Bowl XLII came from Mark Paluch, Bent Oak Farm LLC, Specialty Athletic Turf in Foley, Ala. The sod was 419 bermudagrass—Benjamin Green—grown on plastic. It took 33 refrigerated trucks and two days of travel time to get to Arizona.

The sod needed a little help because Paluch did not know his sod would be used at the Super Bowl. If he had, he would have maintained it for the game, but, thinking that the sod would be coming from the Phoenix area, he hadn’t kept his sod on a Super Bowl maintenance program.

Ed Mangan, NFL field director, and Tim Peterson, Andy Levy and Bob Schindler of the Cardinals made up a great team.

The sod was placed right on top of the Fiesta Bowl game sod on the large movable tray. Starting January 5, the field was scalped, the excess clippings vacuumed off, and it was aerified with 1-inch tines in two directions. Then, 200 tons of USGA spec sand was spread over the entire field and laser-graded in preparation for the sod.

Once the new sod was in place, the field was pin-spiked in two directions prior to seeding using the SISIS pin-spikers. The seed was worked in using a heavy-duty rug measuring 15 by 15 feet. That was followed by using Lesco 6-0-0 with 10 percent calcium, Subdue fungicide, endo-ROOTS, Anderson fertilizer, Viking Ship Calcium Nitrate Solution Grade 15.5-0-0 with 19 percent calcium, Ferromac with MICROS 10-2-4, Grigg Brothers Gary’s Green Ultra 13-2-3 plus iron, Grigg Brothers 18-3-4 with iron and Heritage fungicide. I wish every turf manager could see the condition of the turf from delivery to game time. The turf only saw one day of sunshine in eight days because it was inside the stadium.

Remember, football is played in the turf, not on it. The turf was tested with the Turf-Tec Toma Shear Strength Tester, manufactured by John Mascaro of Turf-Tec International. To date, this was the toughest playing field turf. Ed Mangan, having the strongest arms of our group, tested the turf for strength. The tester was set up using 5/8-inch cleats. The torque tester number readings go up to 75. Ed had it to 73 without a divot. Yet, the turf was still loose enough for the cleats to move in and out smoothly, without locking in the turf. There were no injuries in the game.

The turf had to go through so many things. Sunday, the week before the Super Bowl, there were four hours of half-time rehearsals. Tuesday was Press Day, with 2,000 media people all over the field. Thursday, there were 12 hours of half-time rehearsals, with 2,000 people on the field. Friday, there were 12 hours of pregame show rehearsals. Saturday was the team workout for the TV setup. That was eight hours.

Sunday was all the pregame on-field activity, the pregame show, the half-time show, the postgame ceremonies and the Super Bowl game. After the game, the field was still in great shape. Please remember turf managers, it’s up to you to choose the right turf.

The only problem we had was with the painting of the logos and lines. They had to be painted after 5 p.m. on Saturday, taking us into the wee hours of the morning on Sunday—game day. Painting inside on natural grass, it is hard for the paint to dry. We used 12 Buffalo Turbines and hand-held blowers to dry the paint. You may have seen some of the crew out on the field with the hand-held blowers during the pregame TV coverage.

Ed mowed the grass to a height of 5/8 inch just three hours before game time.

There were no divots and only one or two small scrapes. There were only some little kick-ups of the young, perennial ryegrass.

Congratulations are due to Ed Mangan and the entire NFL crew and the Cardinals crew for the great Super Bowl game field, to Tim Peterson and Kore Higuchi for the great Cardinals practice field, and to Brian Johnson, Pete Wozniak and the Arizona State grounds crew for The Arizona State University fields. A great game, played on a great field, produced by a great crew.

George Toma is an NFL Hall of Fame inductee, founder of the Sports Turf Managers Association and mentor to hundreds of sports field managers over his 66 years in the profession.