The Rogers Centre in Toronto sometimes hosts friendly games between high-end tier one and two soccer teams from Europe before the season starts.
“The Rogers Centre is a concrete facility; there’s no real grass in it. Instead, they roll out artificial grass when they have baseball games. However, the soccer teams won’t play on artificial turf,” said Steve Schiedel, Greenhorizons CEO. “We’re the supplier of choice for when they need to host a world-class soccer event.”
As such, Greenhorizons has already been preparing for the day the call comes in requesting a natural grass field for the Rogers Centre.
Rogers Centre Specialty Sod
“We specially grow the turf specifically for use in the temporary field,” said Steve. “We manicure it in our field typically for a year or a year and a half ahead of time.”
Immediately following the commissioning of a natural turf field, our clock starts ticking!
“The sod is perishable and needs to be laid within 12 hours. We have to make sure that the stuff that was harvested first is laid first. We start trucking it to the Rogers Centre early on the morning of the installation.”
Steve explained that it takes about 20 truckloads of sod to complete the field at the Rogers Centre. This takes about 40 people on several different teams to complete the work. One group harvests, one transports, and one group lays the sod at the site.
“Everything is on a perfect system; we’re still harvesting while we’re laying the sod. We have lots of logistics meetings ahead of time to try to improve our process.”
The Rogers Centre is located in downtown Toronto, so there are a number of limitations to work with.
“We always take the time to understand our customer’s needs. Part of that is to get in and out very quickly without being a hassle.”
Installing the Sod Carefully
Starting with the best grass for the field wouldn’t matter if we didn’t make sure that we installed it properly.
“We always make sure the first line is perfectly straight,” said Steve. “Hiding the seams in the field is also very important. Water management is critical; we have to water the sod well once it has been laid. Then, we roll it to get all of the lumps and bumps out. Finally, we mow it.”
This is vital to make certain that when the soccer players take to the field, there is nothing for them to trip on or cause them to fall.
“Our goal when we’re doing this is to make sure that the soccer players are extremely happy and that the soccer pitch we build for them performs the same as their home pitch,” said Steve. “We’re disguising the concrete floor to make it look like a natural grass field. Anybody can go and lay grass on concrete, but this is different. It has to perform like a natural grass sports pitch.”
This means that the pitch has to be safe for the players to move on – whether they’re sliding, diving, or running – and how the ball reacts to the field when it bounces and rolls has to be the same.
The Field is Ready!
“Typically, within 12 to 24 hours after we’re done, they’re already playing on the field,” said Steve. “Thirty to forty thousand people will come and see the game. However, they won’t know that the field has just been installed,” said Steve.
“At half time, we’ll go out and clean up any divots or damage in the field.”
Because the Rogers Centre is used for such a variety of events, “As soon as the game is done, we will start removing the sod. We then take it back to the field we harvested it from.”
“We re-till the sod into the ground and recycle it, then we’ll start a new crop,” said Steve, noting that Greenhorizons keeps an ongoing cycle of sod for the Rogers Centre. “We’ve done the field there four times, and we’re ready for when they call us next.”