USA TODAY Sports Weekly

Preparing the playing field and perfecting it for Super Bowl 57

- Jenna Ortiz

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 field 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 field for Super Bowl 57 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

The stadium field 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 field had to be grown in advance and installed at the stadium.

“The field itself will not only be for the game, but for the pregame show, halftime show, postgame show,” NFL field director Ed Mangan said. “They all get time on this field before game day. They actually spend more time on this field than the game itself.”

The process for growing the field began one year ago when a local sod farm housed the hybrid Bermuda grass with perennial rye grass.

From there, the field was cut into rolls that are 3 1⁄2 feet wide and 40 feet long, They were transporte­d onto the sliding field 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 field for Super Bowl events.

“We feel very confident 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 field during their Week 1 matchup. Two players, kicker Harrison

Butker and cornerback Trent McDuffie, were injured slipping on the turf in the game. The field 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 field 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 filling in. He ended up kicking the game-winning 45-yard field 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 field is routinely ranked among players as one of the best in the NFL.

Both teams will first see the playing surface during the walk-through. In that period, equipment managers can get feedback from the field directors on what cleats will be best in order to avoid costly mistakes.

“There’s a lot of other activities that happen on this field 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 artificial turf – it may not be field-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.”

 ?? ROB SCHUMACHER/THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC ?? A new turf field had to be grown in advance and installed at State Farm Stadium for Super Bowl 57.
ROB SCHUMACHER/THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC A new turf field had to be grown in advance and installed at State Farm Stadium for Super Bowl 57.

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