Who Knew Sod Required So Much Work?

Most of us think of hotdogs, stadium seating and the sound the bat makes when it hits a home run when we head to the ball field, but when you enter the park, what your eyes take in is the field — the diamond with the pitcher’s mound in the middle and the green grass in the outfield.

Hoar Construction and its development partners, city of Madison and BallCorps LLC, have completed the installation of the 102,000 square feet of high-grade Bermuda turf at the new Toyota Field at Town Madison, the home of the Rocket City Trash Pandas.

The new Tifway 419 sod is considered one of the premier natural grass surfaces for athletic fields and should be fully grown for the Pandas’ first ever home game on April 15.

However, getting the turf set took a lot of planning with partner SCG Fields. Tifway 419 is unique in that it needs to be 12 to 18-months old before harvest. Most sods can be harvested at three to four months. Also, there are only three farms in the Southeast that supply Tifway 419. Toyota Field’s grass came from Tri-Turf Sod Farm in Paris, Tennessee.

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But even before the sod could be harvested, the field had to be prepared. Tifway 419 requires 95 percent sand and 5 percent peat/organic material to foster optimal growth. Crews ultimately decided to use a sand that was dredged in Ohio and barged down the Mississippi River to the Tennessee River port in Decatur, then trucked to the construction site. And, we aren’t just talking a little bit of sand — 7,000 tons of it, with every 500-ton segment going through required testing to ensure the high-grade quality.

“The process we used for the sand is very comparable to medical testing. We conducted a ‘physical’ every 500 tons, and then we did ‘bloodwork’ every 1,500 tons. There was simply no room for error, and that commitment to excellence ensured a final product that we believe is one of the best playing surfaces anywhere in the minor or major leagues,” said Michael Raymond, assistant project manager at Hoar Construction.

Once the 2.5 acres of sod was harvested, it had to be installed within 24 hours.

“When we observed the meticulous work of the Hoar team and the quality of the final product, we knew our fans would be in awe of the field’s appearance. I was also able to tell our Major League affiliate with great confidence that their players would be playing on one of the finest playing surfaces in the country,” said Ralph Nelson, managing partner of BallCorps LLC and CEO of the Rocket City Trash Pandas.

The new 82,328-square-foot, $40 million ballpark is the anchor facility for the Town Madison mixed-use development. Toyota Field will have a capacity of approximately 7,500 fans, including a combination of fixed seating, premium suites, a stadium club, party decks, picnic areas and standing room only areas. The Rocket City Trash Pandas are the Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels, also owned by BallCorps LLC.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Alabama secured the naming rights to the new ballpark, with revenue from the naming rights divided between the Trash Pandas and the City of Madison. The Toyota plant’s recent expansion in Huntsville will increase employment to 1,800 workers, with an annual production capacity of 900,000 engines, making it one of the company’s largest engine producers globally.

Partners on the Toyota Field project include stadium owner city of Madison, team owner BallCorps LLC, architect Populous, structural engineers Thorton Tomasetti, mechanical engineers Henderson Engineers, civil engineers Mullins LLC and construction management agency Turner Construction.

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