Saturday January 23rd, 2016

Even before the teams were decided for Super Bowl 50, the NFL had the lines painted—albeit without team-specific end zones—on its brand-new turf in Levi’s Stadium, home of the Feb. 7 game.

The league ripped out the field in the NFL’s newest venue and replaced it with one of their own. The process all started on Jan. 4, with the major installation taking place on Jan. 11.

“Everything is grown exactly the way we want it in the soil that you want it in so that it performs for the event,” says the NFL’s field director Ed Mangan. 

San Francisco has welcomed plenty of traffic into Levi’s Stadium since its opening in Summer 2014, from seven big-time concerts last year, college games, international soccer and, of course, the 49ers. 

“That is the kind of thing that drives the number of fields that get replaced,” Jim Mercurio, vice president of stadium operations and general manager, tells SI.com. “I think our team has done a really fantastic job and there has been no shortage of money spent. We feel really good about a grass surface.”

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There’s been plenty of talk about the field woes at Levi’s Stadium. Early on, the Bandera Bermuda grass struggled to take root solidly, and a complete resod was needed sooner than originally planned. No fewer than five resods have taken place since the original grass went in, and the 49ers have taken advantage of them to perform upgrades that helped the field perform better this past season. 2015—which saw the 49ers using a hybrid Bermuda 419 with a perennial ryegrass overseed—only needed budgeted and planned resods, a standard practice across the NFL for teams with natural grass fields.

Still, no matter how pristine, new or lush a Super Bowl host’s turf looks ahead of a Super Bowl, the NFL always has a plan to bring in their own turf. This year, for the first time since San Diego hosted Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003, California-based West Coast Turf is providing the sod for the big game.

“The field has done its job for them all season and it has done it well,” says Mangan. “We do this on each one of the natural fields (for the Super Bowl), strip it completely.”

The 75,000 square feet of sod arrived to Levi’s Stadium on 25 trucks in 550 one-ton rolls, grown by the company on plastic to give it a stronger base. The NFL will use the same Bermuda 419 hybrid the 49ers have had success with in 2015—and from the same growers.

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With the turf installed, Mangan’s crew will now monitor the rain with tarps at the ready to keep the proper amount of moisture on a field that will host team practices, rehearsals for pregame and halftime shows and, obviously, the game.

“The game is the shortest event that is going to be on it,” Mangan says. The shortest, but the most watched. And the most in need of sure footing.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, sneakers and technology for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb

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