Spartan Stadium getting new playing surface for 2019 season

The upcoming project, which will begin April 15 and is set to finish by June 15, will replace the current modular field system with a conventional grass field.

Spartan Stadium getting new turf
Photo by Trey Rogers

Spartan Stadium, one of just four collegiate football fields in the country to win Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) Field of the Year honors twice, will be getting a new playing surface for the 2019 season.

The upcoming project, which will begin April 15 and is set to finish by June 15, will replace the current modular field system with a conventional grass field.

The modules were first installed in 2002 when Spartan Stadium returned to natural grass for the first time in 33 years and were renovated following the 2011 U2 concert in which the entire surface had to be replaced.

The sod for the new field is being grown at Tuckahoe Turfgrass Farms in New Jersey, the number one provider of high quality athletic field turfgrass for the Midwest and northeastern part of the country. The soil types at Tuckahoe Farms provided a natural match to the engineered root zone that’s utilized in Spartan Stadium. Sod from Tuckahoe Farms can be seen in professional stadiums across the country, including Lambeau Field, Lincoln Financial Field and Heinz Field in the NFL, and Fenway Park, Citizens Bank Park and Progressive Field in Major League Baseball.

“This project will provide a safer and more playable field for the student-athletes to showcase their skills,” said Amy Fouty, Assistant Athletic Director/Sports Turf Manager. “The Spartan Stadium field represents the very best in science, teamwork, and innovation and student engagement. We have been working closely with our turfgrass management professors, Dr. Trey Rogers and Dr. Jim Crum, throughout this process. We are very proud of the agricultural history of the university, being the first land grant institution in the country, and we do our part to represent and move that tradition forward through urban agriculture.”

Additional details

Although the modular system was an innovation of its time nearly 20 years ago, Spartan Stadium is one of just two Division I schools continuing to use the framework. While the system has been successful, it has also provided challenges throughout the years, including weather. The soil in the modules warm up slowly in the spring and cool quicker in the fall, decreasing the already limited growing season in Michigan by about a month total. The modular turf system, similar to the one used for the 1994 World Cup Matches at the Pontiac Silverdome, is intended to solve a stadium installation issue. In Spartan Stadium’s case, in 2002, the issue was a construction timeline. Sod farms with appropriate turfgrass simply did not exist at the time, and this was our only option, given a June access, to ensure a sustainable field. One renovation, due to a concert, is proof of this sustainability.

The modules have an airspace between them and the floor, and it performs like a highway bridge, cooling off earlier in the fall. This has caused late season freezing of the field (as well as limit early spring usage). The original heating system, installed in 2002, was not able to perform as intended, leaving the staff to go to extraordinary measures to keep the surface playable each November. The removal of the modules, but keeping the same soil and turfgrass principles, should solve this issue.

More than 98 percent of the removed materials will be repurposed or recycled. Soil, modules, sod and other materials will be recycled or reused in other areas of campus, including university farms, landscape services, and MSU recycling and stores.

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