Tuesday, October 17, 2000

Cinergy prepped for grass field

Natural field is a tuneup for the new Reds ballpark

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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The artificial turf has been removed, as well as the seats in left and center field.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        The plastic grass at Cinergy Field is officially in the recycling bin. So too will be the artificial turf's five-inch thick asphalt foundation when crews begin grinding up the blacktop this week so it can be removed and recycled for a surface it's more suited for — a highway.

        Within two months, the playing field at Cinergy will have more than two acres of new life, as bluegrass is planted in the 30-year-old stadium for the first time.

        The world-renowned Motz Group of Mount Lookout will handle the planting, then stay on board with the Reds to teach the team's staff how to care for a natural surface over the next two years.

        The Motz Group laid four grass fields for this summer's Olympic Games in Sydney and will put down a new field in Tampa for this year's Super Bowl.

        Owner Joe Motz said that once the asphalt is ripped out, a new drainage system will crisscross the field.

        A seven-inch deep mixture of sand and fertilizer will cover the playing surface so the grass has a place to take hold.

        An irrigation system also must be installed near the surface of the sand.

        Typically, grass playing fields need a deeper root zone, up to 1 foot thick.

        But seven inches will do in this case, because the Reds will play in Cinergy for only the next two years before moving into the $330 million Great American Ball Park.

        Mr. Motz said the grass, which is growing in a nursery, will be installed in De cember, later in the year than he would like.

        It will come to the stadium in huge bundles and be rolled out on the surface like carpet.

        “We're pushing it,” Mr. Motz said. “We need to get the grass in there before the surface freezes. Then we'll put down a grow blanket to keep the canopy warm so the roots grow.”

        John Allen, the Reds chief operating officer, said playing on real grass for the next two years at Cinergy will help the team better care for the grass surface they'll be playing on at the new park.

        “We just felt this was a great way to start the learning curve for our staff dealing with grass,” Mr. Allen said. “Our staff has never handled fertilizer and insecticides. That was a big part of our decision.”

        Also part of that decision was the Reds' multimillion-dollar payroll. The grass surface will be easier on the players' legs and feet.

        The grass also will give fans a break on steamy summer days, as it will be much cooler than the artificial turf.

        And there is a bit of romance involved in the decision, too.

        “There is just something romantic about playing baseball on grass, the way it looks and smells,” Mr. Allen said. “I firmly believe that's the way baseball is supposed to be played.”

        Cinergy Field will cause some special problems for the grounds crew after the grass is planted.

        Because it is a bowl structure, shadows will hamper the grass' growth over the next two years. So the Reds purchased another half-acre of grass and will keep it at the nursery.

        As small strips of grass inside the stadium turn brown for lack of sunlight, they'll be replaced with new grass. The dying grass will be brought back to life in the nursery.

        “We'll have to rotate some strips in and out of the nursery,” Mr. Motz said. “It's a pretty exacting science. We'll be here for as long as the Reds need us.”

        Mr. Motz declined to comment on the cost of the new field. Because the Reds are paying for it, the contract is not a public record.

        Arnie Rosenberg, who works for project manager Parsons Brinckerhoff, Ohio, said the county saved a bit of money by allowing O'Rourke Construction to keep the AstroTurf.

        He said installing the grass won't throw off the construction schedule.

        A portion of Cinergy's outfield wall is being removed so crews outside the stadium have room to begin building the new ballpark. That will help reduce the shadows in the outfield, he said.

        Once a portion of Cinergy is torn down, the outfield wall and home plate will be moved in 10 feet and the Reds will be ready to play there for the next two years.

        The new ballpark is scheduled to be ready in time for Opening Day, 2003.


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