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Miami Herald  01.02.09

Grounds crew prepares Dolphin Stadium for three games

By the end of Tuesday, a crew of about 100 will have prepared Dolphin Stadium three times in seven days for major football games.


A riddle for ya: When is the grass not greener on the other side? When the grass in question is at Dolphin Stadium.

So say the 100 or so guys who by the end of Tuesday will have torn up, re-sodded and repainted the end zones and 50-yard line at the stadium three times in seven days for three major football games.

That's a total of 90,000 square feet of custom-engineered sod -- 45,000 ripped out and 45,000 new -- and 2,700 gallons of paint. Stadium officials won't reveal the price tag on the quick changes, saying they're covered in their regular maintenance budget.

Crews worked day and night Tuesday to sod and paint the field for Thursday's college football FedEx Orange Bowl game. By 1 a.m. Friday -- less than an hour after the final whistle was blown on the game -- landscapers and engineers were tearing up the Big Orange-painted sod and laying new grass to be painted for Sunday's NFL playoff game between the Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens. Early Monday morning, the same crews will start the whole routine again in preparation for Thursday's college football BCS National Championship.

'You could say it's the busiest . . . in terms of `artistic' efforts on the field we've ever been,'' M. Bruce Schulze, Dolphin Stadium president, said in an interview Friday morning. ``It's the first time these three events -- the Orange Bowl, a Dolphins game, playoff game no less, and the BCS -- have been put together this way. Still, it's fun. These are the happenings we live for.''

While watching the games is no doubt fun for fans, Frank Giacopelli's team was all business.

''It takes a lot of concentration to get everything just right,'' said Giacopelli, co-owner of Briggs Golf Construction, which is handling the sod installation. ``I have crews of 20-something guys working back-to-back-to-back shifts to get it done. And when we finish our part of the field late Monday, we'll be leaving early Tuesday morning for Tampa, so we can start getting Raymond James Stadium ready for the Super Bowl. That'll take about a week.''

By the time they finish the current job on Saturday afternoon, the motley crew of landscaping and engineering experts from Dolphin Stadium, Briggs and Laserturf of Athens, Ga., will have:

• Ripped up 15,000 square feet of Orange Bowl-decorated sod;
• Rolled out the new stuff in 1,000-pound carpet-like bales with machines that resemble Zambonis;
• Spent several hours measuring and leveling the field -- even the parts that don't need painting;
• Put in a couple hours stenciling Fins logos on the field;
• Spent about 15 hours spraying and brushing 1,000 gallons of white, teal, orange, and navy blue paint in the end zones and at mid-field;
• And stripped the Orange Bowl logos off the stadium's doors and elevators and repainted those, too.

Conducting this entire opera was Al Sigwardt, a veteran landscape engineer and the stadium's senior director of grounds and engineering.
Sigwardt, who has split his time this week between planning meetings and walking the field chatting up workers -- sort of like a coach might with players -- said he's proud of the turf and paint crews at Dolphin Stadium.
''Most teams don't lay new sod and then paint,'' he explained. ``And you can sometimes see that -- you see remnants or shadows of an old logo underneath a new paint job. Here at Dolphin Stadium we start from scratch every time.
``And keep in mind, that's not just between football games, but when we have to paint or prep the field for a Florida Marlins game, or a Madonna concert, or a monster truck pull. Plus you'll notice that you never see the sod tearing up or the paint coming off during one of our games. It's the special sod made exclusively for us.''

Refrigerated truckloads of the Dolphins' sod were shipped to Phoenix for last year's Super Bowl. More of it is being delivered to Tampa for this year's big game.

As for the paint -- about 700 gallons for an NFL playoff game and about 1,000 gallons for a college bowl game -- Sigwardt said it usually dries in about an hour.

''But we are in South Florida,'' he said. ``So rain or just cloudy, humid skies are always a possibility. And when that happens, a freshly painted field can be soggy for two days after.''