The playing surface at Arrowhead Stadium is getting a facelift before the postseason returns to Kansas City on Sunday.
The Kansas City Chiefs are replacing the center of the field, which weathered 10 games this season, with brand new sod in anticipation of the stadium’s most important game in at least 13 years.
Though the field would have been playable for the Chiefs’ divisional round matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game of this magnitude garnered special attention.
“We could have gotten through it without actually re-sodding, but we wanted to make sure that we put the best possible field out there for this playoff game,” Chiefs president Mark Donovan said.
While it’s standard procedure for the Chiefs to replace the playing surface once during the season, the timing of the measure this year is unique due in part to the varied and often extreme weather in Kansas City over the last several weeks.
“Normally, we replace the field’s center in the fall, depending on the conditions of the field,” said Brandon Hamilton, the Chiefs’ director of facilities. “This year, because of a culmination of the weather, the quality of sod we had and the heated field, we decided that it wasn’t necessary to replace it in November or December. But with two of the last three games of the season being played in freezing temperatures, we decided to replace it for this playoff game.”
The Chiefs had kickoff temperatures of 21 degrees in Week 14 and 1 degree in Week 15 before dealing with heavy rain in Week 16. Over time, the extreme weather took its toll on the field.
The replacement process began with the sod itself. The Chiefs use a certain type of grass so that it’s ready for action right away.
“We purchase a sod called Game On Grass, which means that it’s a thick-cut sod,” Hamilton said. “It’s lay and play, if you will, meaning we can lay it and you could play on it the next day. It doesn’t have to be grown in because it’s so thick and heavy.”
The sod, which comes in big rolls, is brought in from North Carolina and then put in place by a private contractor.
“They come in and use a fraze mower to cut out the existing sod in the locations that we want to replace,” Hamilton said. “Once they get all of the [old] sod cut out, they simply come back in with the newly-received cut sod and they roll it out on the field with big tractors and rollers.”
The installation of the new sod began on Monday and will be completed by the middle of the week. The grounds crew will then begin to paint postseason signage on the newly laid field.
The Chiefs will test the field’s readiness well before kickoff on Sunday to ensure that it’s ready for play.
“We have a bunch of tests that we run on it and there’s tests that the league will run on it,” Donovan said. “We’ll do that prior to this weekend, so we’ll know exactly where we are. I have no concerns about the field.”
In addition to a fresh look, the players will also likely notice a difference on the field.
“The center of the field sees the most foot traffic over the course of the season and becomes the most worn,” Hamilton said. “I think the players will definitely notice the increase of grass coverage in the center of the field.”