49ers replacing Levi's Stadium grass

The 49ers are having issues with the grass inside their new stadium. After having to cut Wednesday's open practice short to prevent players from suffering injuries on the new surface, the team is laying down a new batch of sod in preparation for Sunday's preseason game.

The 49ers chose a certain type of grass for the playing field at Levi's Stadium in part because of its tensile strength and ability to recover quickly.

But the grass hasn't held, and on Thursday the team began installing new sod down the middle of the field just four days before hosting its second preseason game.

There have been six events on the field since it's installation: three football practices, a preseason game, an MLS soccer game and a private concert/gala event.

Upon installation in April the grass was pristine, as it was during the ribbon cutting ceremony. But after the gala, which came two days after the ribbon cutting, a large brown patch in the grass became apparent by the south loading tunnel.

And when the team had its first open practice inside Levi's Stadium Aug. 4, two days after the MLS game, sod lines were visible on the field, indicating there might have been some repair work done. The team would not confirm if the grass had to be replaced since its initial installation.

After the first preseason game Sunday, players noted the looseness of the grass, which should have been properly rooted after being installed four months ago.

"The field was moving around pretty good," kicker Phil Dawson said. "Most first-year fields, the roots haven’t had a chance to settle. But it’s beautiful ... Real green thumbs know that when you put sod in your front yard it takes time to settle in."

Less than halfway into the team's practice Wednesday, after Bruce Ellington and Stevie Johnson both slipped and came up limping, team officials halted the last open practice inside Levi's Stadium and moved it to their practice facility next door. The fans in attendance received free admission to the team's new museum for the snafu.

"The 49ers organization would like to apologize to any fans who were inconvenienced by today’s practice ending early. We have determined the appropriate measures necessary to have the field ready for Sunday and look forward to hosting the San Diego Chargers," the team said in a statement.

Fast forward to Thursday morning, and the team was repairing the field hoping it can root in time for Sunday's preseason tilt against the Chargers.

Perhaps there would be less concern about the Bandera Bermuda if there weren't a myriad of events scheduled before the teams first regular season home game in the new stadium Sept. 14.

After Sunday, the team is scheduled to host two high school football games Aug. 29 and then an international friendly soccer match between Chile and Mexico Sept. 6.

West Coast Turf, which created the new strain of grass that has not been used in the NFL before, also supplied the grass for Candlestick Park.

"Our long-standing relationship with West Coast Turf dating back to Candlestick Park, and their great reputation throughout the Bay Area, made them an easy selection to supply the playing field," head groundskeeper Matt Greiner told the Stadium's website in April. "We ultimately chose Bandera Bermuda turfgrass sod because after closely monitoring it for a couple years, we found it has a faster recovery rate, as well as the tendency to stay green longer into the season. Most importantly, the Bandera Bermuda has good tensile strength so when a player plants his cleat, it holds together better."

This week's events remind 49ers fans of the 1981 playoffs, in which the "Sod Squad" replaced the muddy field at Candlestick between the Divisional Round win against the New York Giants and the famous conference title game against the Cowboys in which "The Catch" was made.

Of course back then the "Sod Squad" had a week to replace the field, not four days.


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