Rolling with the Grass at Chase Field

When then Bank One Ballpark was being designed and built one of the features that was most intriguing was the retractable roof. Having a roof that could open and close in just under five minutes has a lot of advantages.

With summer temperatures reaching and sometimes exceeding 118 degrees during the summer, baseball would be unbearable in Arizona for much of the baseball season. At these times the roof is closed and the stadium is air conditioned to ensure fans’ comfort.

The Diamondbacks could have chosen to build a dome but decided against that instead selecting a design that would allow games under an open sky whenever weather would permit. With the decision for an open roof the team next requested a natural grass playing surface.

Both players and fans applauded that decision. Artificial turf is perhaps the worst invention man has ever made. It is hot, it has potential for injuries, and it never works right. The challenge of course was trying to find a design and a type of natural grass that would meet the various criteria.

The grass had to withstand the brutal heat of an Arizona summer. It needed to be drought tolerant to survive the harsh desert landscape. And perhaps most importantly, the turf needed to be able to thrive in conditions with limited sunlight when the roof is closed.

Several species of grass were tried before the team finally settled on a form of Bermuda grass known locally as “BOBsod”. Head groundskeeper Grant Trenbeath and his staff do an amazing job maintaining the playing surface and keeping it look perfect.

After the baseball season, the grass goes dormant for much of the winter. During this time Chase Field is reconfigured for other events which include a motorcycle Super Cross race as well as a Monster Truck rally.

One of the questions I am asked quite often is what happens to the turf during the motorcycle and monster truck races. The playing surface is covered in a thick sheet of plastic. On top of the plastic are laid two layers of plywood. Dump trucks will then bring in tons of dirt that will go on top of the plywood.

With the dirt down, the Super Cross track or Monster Truck layout is carved out. At the conclusion of these two events, the dirt, plywood, and plastic are removed leaving the now damaged and dead turf in its wake.

Shortly after the players begin Spring Training, the Chase Field grounds crew begins to prepare the playing surface for the upcoming season. The old turf is removed and the entire field is laser leveled.

Once the pitcher’s mound, base paths, and plate area are measured and defined new “Bobsod” will be laid and allowed to take root before the games begin in April. This typically occurs sometime in the final week of February.

It has become a rite of spring to make a trip to Chase Field each year to have lunch at Friday’s Front Row Grill and watch the grounds crew put down the new grass. This year I sat at the outdoor tables at Friday’s and watched as sod was laid like large rolls of carpet.

Each roll is carefully positioned with the seams disappearing with the previous rows. I sit watching, my excitement growing with each row that is laid. The strips of green inch the field closer to being ready for Opening Day.

It’s not so much watching the grass being unfurled as it is knowing each new section of grass means baseball season is closer. My wife cannot fathom why I find joy watching landscapers roll out grass. But to me it is one more sign that I’ll soon be in the stands watching the game and the team I love.


1 Comment

  1. I stopped by the ball park a couple weeks ago!

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