Monday, July 08, 2002

County takes sod into own hands

Officials say plan will allow for more events at stadium

By Dan Klepal,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County has entered the grass farming business. The fruits of the county's newest labor will be realized next year with a lush green playing field at Paul Brown Stadium — all season long.

        Called a sod farm, nearly an acre of Kentucky Bluegrass is being planted next to Spinney Field. It is meant to save taxpayers money and put an end to debates over whether special events — such as high school football games with marching bands at halftime — can be held at the $459 million, taxpayer-financed stadium.

        Those events will still damage the stadium's grass, but the sod farm will make replacing the grass easier and much less expensive.

        “This will give us a tremendous resource to keep the field in the best shape it can be in,” Assistant County Administrator Eric Stuckey said.

        For now, the farm is a patch of dirt and rocks next to the Bengals' former training site in Lower Price Hill. There is an irrigation system and drainage under the surface.

        During the next two weeks, after cleaning the area of rocks and pouring sand atop the dirt, grounds crews will begin growing the grass from seed. The farm should allow the county to replace the center of the field between the hash marks about four times a season.

        It cost about $16,000 to establish the farm and an estimated $10,000 a year to maintain.

        That's inexpensive compared to the $75,000 contract the county just signed with a New Jersey sod company that will perform up to four resoddings this year.

        “The farm will pay for itself in one year,” said head groundskeeper Doug Bradley. “The only thing we'll have to pay for is to cut and ship it over to the stadium for a typical change out.”

        Joe Feldkamp, assistant stadium director, said the sod farm is a first for NFL teams. Most teams contract with sod farms to perform a specific number of resoddings.

        “Most guys just don't want to fool with it,” Mr. Bradley said, explaining why other NFL cities don't establish their own farms. “But it will save us money and give us better oversight of the product.

        “It's another example of how we're trying to be proactive and use the stadium for other purposes. This will allow us to do anything — except monster truck pulls and motocross.”

        Mr. Bradley said the grass should be well established before winter, although he may keep it covered with a warm “grow blanket” as the weather gets cold.

        It takes about one week to change the center portion of the field, although grounds crews prefer having an extra week to allow the sod to settle in.


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