USA TODAY Sports Weekly
Preparing the playing field and perfecting it for Super Bowl 57
Perfecting the playing surface for the Super Bowl is a combination of art and science.
From understanding the geographic location of the game to planning how the field will be presented, the results of the last two years get a moment in the spotlight on Feb. 12 when the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs take the field for Super Bowl 57 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
The stadium field saw a lot of traffic in the past year, from concerts to the Fiesta Bowl at the end of December and Arizona Cardinals games along the way. Given all that, to prepare for the NFL’s showcase event, a new turf field had to be grown in advance and installed at the stadium.
“The field itself will not only be for the game, but for the pregame show, halftime show, postgame show,” NFL field director Ed Mangan said. “They all get time on this field before game day. They actually spend more time on this field than the game itself.”
The process for growing the field began one year ago when a local sod farm housed the hybrid Bermuda grass with perennial rye grass.
From there, the field was cut into rolls that are 3 1⁄2 feet wide and 40 feet long, They were transported onto the sliding field tray at State Farm Stadium, which was then rolled in and set in place, where it is painted with special logos for Super Bowl 57.
The meticulous process involves rolls of turf weighing about 1,500 to 1,600 pounds. Ultimately, around 1 million pounds of new natural grass turf will cover the State Farm Stadium field for Super Bowl events.
“We feel very confident in what we have here and we know we’re going to do everything we can to ensure that it’s prepped and ready to perform at the highest level for the biggest game of the year,” NFL senior director of events planning Eric Finkelstein said.
State Farm Stadium is familiar to both Super Bowl teams, with both the Chiefs and Eagles having played here this past season and each defeating the Cardinals.
However, the Chiefs found issues with the field during their Week 1 matchup. Two players, kicker Harrison
Butker and cornerback Trent McDuffie, were injured slipping on the turf in the game. The field was brought up by Chiefs head coach Andy Reid as one of the causes.
“It was a little loose. That’s what happens sometimes when you re-sod,” Reid told reporters. “It’s part of the (Harrison) Butker injury and the (Trent) McDuffie injury, and that’s unfortunate. The turf picked up, and I would tell you that did have something to do with it. If it didn’t, I’d tell you that, too. It’s not an excuse by any means. But you all see it when you watch the tape.”
Butker slipped early in the game on a kickoff, forcing the Chiefs to use safety Justin Reid on some extra-point attempts in the game. Reid went 1-for-2 on those attempts before Butker returned.
Butker returned later in the game for a 54-yard field goal, but it was short-lived. The ankle injury ended up sidelining him until Week 6 and his absence caused a hole on special teams with two other kickers filling in. He ended up kicking the game-winning 45-yard field goal with
three seconds left to clinch the spot in the Super Bowl over the Cincinnati Bengals.
After Reid’s comments were made, Cardinals senior vice president of media relations Mark Dalton refuted the claim from Reid on the playing surface and added that the field is routinely ranked among players as one of the best in the NFL.
Both teams will first see the playing surface during the walk-through. In that period, equipment managers can get feedback from the field directors on what cleats will be best in order to avoid costly mistakes.
“There’s a lot of other activities that happen on this field other than just the game. You do the best you can. It is a naturally growing entity. It is grass,” Mangan said. “Whether it’s an injury that could’ve happened – there’s injuries on artificial turf – it may not be field-related at all . ... There’s no way to keep it 100% injury-free because you’re talking about a naturally occurring human body. It’s not perfect.”