The original Bandera Bermuda turf at the brand-new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara looked pristine—for the most part—in July. But then teams started playing on the grass in August and that’s when the fancy turf started giving way in chunks.
After coach Jim Harbaugh pulled players from an open practice day following the team’s first preseason game, crews closed down the stadium and quietly started ripping out the $1.4 million field, a key component of the $1.2 billion stadium.
By Friday, Aug. 22, a new temporary field was in place for the 49ers’ second, and final, preseason game against the Chargers. But that field—which stretched just sideline to sideline—is gone and the 49ers aren’t certain what they’ll do next.
Ripping out the entire field, not just between the sidelines, allows for a complete overhaul of the playing surface, team spokesperson Bob Lange tells Edge.
“While the turf is up we will make some adjustments to the base before re-installing new sod,” Lange says.
With an international Mexico vs. Chile soccer game scheduled in Levi’s Stadium for Sept. 6 and the team’s regular-season home opener against the Bears on Sept. 14, the 49ers don’t have much time to figure out the new grass.
Lange says the team will source the best turf they can find for right now. Right now being the key phrase. Options still include the Bandera Bermuda type originally installed—and in use in California’s other two NFL stadiums—or the more common Tifway Bermuda, which is used widely across natural grass fields in the south. “One might be growing better at this time than the other,” Lange says. “We’ll determine that through the evaluation process.”
Either way, with a reworking of the sand base to allow for better root penetration and a new carpet of Bermuda turf, the 49ers plan to start installation this weekend, giving them about a week before the soccer game and two weeks before the Chicago Bears come to town in NBC’s Sunday night showcase contest.
Whether Bandera or Tifway, Levi’s Stadium will have an entirely new Bermuda to show off to the NFL. The 49ers hope this time the grass not only looks pristine, but functions too.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.