Starting at 7:30 PM Central Standard Time on May 23rd, 2013, the soccer crazies of St. Louis will be able to experience a taste of European “football” for the first time at Busch Stadium III.
Grounds crew members went to work transforming the baseball field into a proper soccer pitch (that is what a soccer field is called across the pond in England) on May 20th, as soon as the Cardinals left town for the series against the Padres in San Diego.
I was lucky enough to get in contact with one of the Cardinals’ grounds crew members to help give my readers an inside look at what was needed to transform the baseball diamond into a soccer pitch fit for 2 of the top teams in England–Chelsea and Manchester City.
“It’s a very tedious process,” said the grounds crew member. “We first had to take all of the infield mix off the top of the clay. After that, we had to take an inch and a half off of the clay in order for the sod to be level with the grass that is already there.” (The very beginning of this process is illustrated by the picture shown above).
The Cardinals even brought in a small bulldozer to help remove the pitcher’s mound so that it was level with the rest of the playing surface (shown below).
To make the overall process run smoothly, the Cardinals brought in Bush Turf, a company located in Milan, Illinois, to help with the sod installation after dirt and clay removal provided a level surface. Chelsea, the 3rd place finisher in the Barclays Premier League this season, sent their head grounds keeper over early to make sure that the field met his specifications.
When asked if the storms would affect the process, the grounds keeper assured me that it would not be that big of a deal because they got the hard part (dirt and clay removal) finished before the arrival of the storms. They were then able to put the tarp over the field so that it would not affect the sod installation that started at 7 AM this morning (May 21, 2013).
I questioned him whether or not the sod would set enough considering installation occurred less than two full days before the game. He replied, “It is a very heavy sod. With the amount of time we had to put it in, and with the game on Thursday, it isn’t going to be completely perfect, but it will definitely be playable.”
Thus, by game time on Thursday evening, Bill Findley’s terrific grounds crew will have worked nearly 40 hours to produce a pitch that meets the specifications of the 2 Premier League teams. By the end of the week, the grounds crew members will most likely have to be reminded that they are employed by the Cardinals and not the Premier League given the 12+ hour work days they have put forth over the past 3+ days to transform the baseball diamond into a soccer pitch for just one game.
Turf removal will occur immediately after the game and returning it to playing shape for the Cardinals will be complete by the the time the team returns home to play the in-state rival Royals on May 29th.
When asked if any long-term consequences may occur considering the problems that that resulted from the U2 concert in 2011, he replied, “The replacing part shouldn’t be bad. We have saved everything that was removed, and it will go right back on the diamond as soon as the soccer game is over. Our crew and Bush Turf do a great job, and we have the right equipment so it should not be that difficult. It won’t be as bad as the U2 concert, that’s for sure.” This is most likely because the crew did not have to remove the outfield turf (and replace it) like they did for the U2 concert.
Thus, expect the field to be looking back to normal by the time the Cardinals return home without any negative repercussions for the rest of the season. After the game is over, I am sure the grounds crew will further appreciate their job as Cardinals grounds keepers and enjoy having their daily tasks return to normal.
Until next time…
I will write a post on the game itself as well, so be on the lookout for that Friday morning/afternoon!