Now Up: Grass, Real Grass
Real Grass for The Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park
By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer
A little life has been injected into the concrete and steel at Great American Ball Park - about 2 acres of plant life.
Strips of Kentucky bluegrass - 3 feet wide and 80 feet long - are being rolled out like carpet and meshed together over a bed of sand 12 inches deep to make up the new playing field.
Crews completed laying the infield, foul areas and much of the outfield grass Thursday. The entire field should be in by the end of today.
Doug Gallant, head groundskeeper for the Reds, said he was amazed at how green the grass came in after a very dry summer. The sod was grown on a farm in Brookville, Ind.
“We’ve got a real healthy turf from the get-go,” Mr. Gallant said. “It’s really fun to watch it all go in. We’ll start mowing it next week.”
The infield clay, the pitching mounds and the warning track will be installed in the next two weeks.
Fall is the perfect time to lay bluegrass, said Mark Heinlein, senior vice president for The Motz Group, the company installing the sod. That’s because the plant itself goes dormant, allowing all its energy to be used for root growth.
“As day length shortens and air temperature goes down, the plant goes into a mode where it slows its growth,” Mr. Heinlein explained. “But because we’re normally cool and sunny this time of year, it is still very active photosynthetically. It’s making a lot of food, and most of those carbohydrates are stored so it needs to produce more root.”
Getting the field in on time is really a compliment to construction managers, who have been overseeing the $330 million project.
“Installing the field is a significant milestone, and it’s one that we’ve been targeting all along on our critical path,” said Mike Sieving, construction executive for Hamilton County, which is building the stadium. “We’re happy to see it go in and glad we’ll have some growing time yet this year. It’ll give it time to grow and will give the grounds crew an opportunity to work with the field before winter.
“It’ll help solidify this into a playable field for Opening Day.”
Great American Ball Park is scheduled to open March 31.
The field is very similar to the bluegrass installed at Paul Brown Stadium, which also uses a sand base and synthetic backing. The field there has deteriorated into a sand pit toward the end of the NFL season in November and December each of its first two years
Regardless, a baseball field is a different animal, Mr. Gallant said.
“We play in the summer,” he said. “And I don’t have 300-pound guys pushing on each other in the center of the field. Most of the action in baseball is played in the dirt.”
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