ANN ARBOR -- Michigan Stadium will have an old-school look this weekend.
Real Madrid takes on Manchester United in Ann Arbor today as part of this year's International Champions Cup tour, it will be on a natural grass playing surface. In case you didn't know, The University of Michigan football stadium hasn't had a natural playing surface since 2002.
Bush Turf, a company that specializes in sports field contracting, is installing a grass playing surface over the current artificial turf. The company handled the recent field renovations in June at the University of Michigan soccer field, and has worked on similar projects in the past. It handled the field installation for a pair of Premiere League games at Busch Stadium. Work on the project started early Monday morning with Bush's team laying down a protective cover over the artificial surface. "It's basically like a thick landscaping fabric," Bush said.
Bush's crew of 15 to 20 men had the field completely covered in the black fabric, along with the tunnel leading to the stadium, by 2 p.m. The next step is for the group to begin installing more than 30 truckloads of sod.
"The sod is coming from a specialized turf farm from New Jersey (Tuckahoe Turf), in refrigerated trucks," Bush said. "It's higher end sod that's grown on sand. We tried to source the sod closer, but couldn't find anything that met the qualifications." There is only one tunnel to shuttle the sod onto the field, and inclement weather already has created some complications. It rained in New Jersey before the sod was loaded onto the trucks.
"It makes the entire process a lot more challenging," Bush said. "We can work in rain, but the sod is heavier, and harder to install. It just slows everything down."
Bush Turf's work won't be done once the field is installed. It will have to mow the grass down to the proper length, put patterns on it, paint and water it.
"Since there is no irrigation system it will need to be constantly watered," Bush said. "We will install a series of sprinklers, and have to keep freshening to make sure there are no dry spots."
Bush, who spent the past six weeks coordinating the project, said his team is used to working on short timelines. His primary concern with every project is making sure the installed surface meets the high standards of the athletes playing on it.
"Soccer players want a true ball roll on the field," Bush said. "We are installing the sod in sections four feet by 100 feet long. There are seams, and we have special equipment that pushes them together. We don't want any one of those seams to make a difference in how the ball rolls or hops."
After Saturday's game, Bush Turf is also responsible for removing the field. Some of the grass will be repurposed while the rest will be recycled.