Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Heated field to keep grass green

Roots will be warmer than fans in stands

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The grass at Paul Brown Stadium will be warmer than most fans watching football games this fall and winter.

        While spectators shiver through games in November and December — maybe a playoff game in January? — the turf being trampled will be toasty.

        Sound like science fiction?

        It's not, at least not the part about the warm field.

        The secret is a complex series of plastic underground pipes that construction crews will soon begin laying about a foot under the surface of the $450 million stadium.

        The pipes will carry a type of antifreeze — really a solution called glycol — heated to 105 degrees. That heat will pour through the pipes and float upward, through a layer of sand and on to the surface, warming the grass.

        It will take about 40 miles of pipe, laid about 10 inches apart, to heat the playing field and sidelines. Boilers will heat the solution and pumps will send it through the pipes.

        The $1.4 million heating system will extend the growing season for the bluegrass on the field, meaning that grass will stay greener and continue growing longer.

        The heat also can be used to melt snow.

        “It will be just like a radiator circulating antifreeze through a car engine,” said Dan Streyle, project manager for Paul Brown Stadium. “Only it won't leak.”

        Paul Brown Stadium will be the seventh NFL stadium to use a heating system. Every new stadium recently built in a northern city has a similar system, said Tim Davey, assistant director of game operations for the NFL.

        But Mr. Davey says the heating system alone doesn't mean a beautiful field.

        In Cleveland, for example, the team had to resod its new field after only three games because the grass didn't take to the soil it was laid on.

        “The heating system helps, but you need the right fertilizer, top dressing and irrigation system,” Mr. Davey said. “You've got to make an atmosphere for that grass to come back in.”

        Timing and hiring the right groundskeeper also are important.

        Laying the sod two months before the first preseason game may not be enough time for it to take root, Mr. Davey said.

        “That's exactly what Cleveland did,” he said. “The sooner it can be planted, the better.”

        Ken Willsey, owner of Fairway Lawn Care in Fairfield, cares for several athletic fields in Hamilton County. He said two months should be enough time for the sod at Paul Brown Stadium to take hold.

        “The bluegrass is a high-maintenance turf, but it does have a great recovery time,” Mr. Willsey said. “But it's got to have some time to root.

        “If you play on it too early, before it gets established, you'll tear up some grass. But two months should be enough time.”

        In addition to the heating system, the field will have an irrigation system that will water different parts of the field differently, depending on the season and how much sun is hitting that area of the surface.

        There also is a drainage system capable of handling a deluge of five inches of rainfall in an hour to get standing water off the field.

        Mr. Streyle said the heating system will be shut down immediately after the football season ends.

        “It's good for grass to have a dormant season,” Mr. Streyle said.


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