“The Rogers Centre in Toronto is a concrete facility; there’s no real grass in it. They roll out artificial grass when they have baseball games. But the soccer teams won’t play on artificial turf,” said Steve Schiedel, Greenhorizons CEO. “We’re the supplier of choice for when they need to host a world-class soccer event.”
When the call comes for a natural grass field to be put in at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Greenhorizons has already been preparing.
“We specially grow the turf specifically for use in the temporary field,” said Steve. “We manicure it in our field typically for a year, a year and a half ahead of time.”
The clock starts ticking immediately once we’re commissioned to put in a natural turf field.
“The sod is perishable and needs to be laid within 12 hours. We have to make sure that the stuff that was harvested first is laid first. We start trucking it to the Rogers Centre early on the morning of the installation.”
Steve explained that it takes about 20 truckloads of sod to complete the field at the Rogers Centre, and about 40 people on several different teams- with one group doing harvesting, one doing transportation and one laying sod at the site.
“Everything is on a perfect system; we’re still harvesting while we’re laying the sod. We have lots of logistics meetings ahead of time to try to improve our process.”
The Rogers Centre is located in downtown Toronto, so there are a number of limitations to work with.
“We understand our customer’s needs, and part of that is to get in and get out very quickly without being a hassle.”
Starting with the best grass for the field wouldn’t matter if we didn’t make sure that we installed it properly.
“We take lots of time to make sure that the first line is perfectly straight,” said Steve. “We also make sure that it doesn’t look like there are any seams when we’re done. Water management is critical; we have to make sure that the sod is well watered once it’s been laid. Then, we roll it to make sure that we’ve gotten all of the lumps and bumps out, and then we mow it.”
This is vital to make certain that when the soccer players take to the field, there is nothing for them to trip on or cause them to fall.
“Our goal when we’re doing this is to make sure that the soccer players are extremely happy and that the soccer pitch we build for them performs the same as their home pitch,” said Steve. “We’re disguising the concrete floor to make it look like a natural grass field. Anybody can go and lay grass on concrete, but this is different. It has to perform like a natural grass sports pitch.”
This means that the pitch has to be safe for the players to move on- whether they’re sliding, diving or running- and how the ball reacts to the field when it bounces, rolls, etc. has to be the same.
“Typically, the game will be played 12 to 24 hours after we’re done,” said Steve. “Thirty to 40 thousand people will come and see the game, and they won’t know that the field the soccer game was played on has just been installed,” said Steve.
“At half time, we’ll go out and clean up any divots or damage in the field.”
Because the Rogers Centre is used for such a variety of events, “As soon as the game is done, we will start removing the sod and take it back to the field we harvested it from.”
“We re-till the sod into the ground and recycle it, then we’ll start a new crop,” said Steve, noting that
Greenhorizons keeps an ongoing cycle of sod for the Rogers Centre. “We’ve done the field there four times, and we’re ready for when they call us next.”