Alabama home turf
What do you think of first when you hear the word Alabama? Roll Tide Roll? Maybe it’s the thousands of fans yelling War Eagle! Alabama has a storied sporting tradition, and the two biggest rivals in the state are Auburn University and the University of Alabama. Their stadiums are filled most weekends in the fall with football fans.
Alabama plays at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and Auburn plays at Jordan-Hare. Both Alabama and Auburn play on natural turf. It’s a warm-season grass, Bermuda, that is replaced every summer. Bermuda is the most popular lawn grass in Alabama, but they don’t use the same Bermuda that you have in your home lawn. They have a unique variety of Bermuda, Tifway 419. Like Alabama and Auburn’s rivalry, Tifway has been around for a long time. It’s been the most popular turf used in sports venues for the last 40 years. It is very disease resistant, fast growing, and tolerates close mowing.
But the grass in a football stadium has to tolerate more than just mowers or the pounding feet of big football players. The fields are painted every week before a home game. They use between 250 and 500 gallons of paint each week on the end zones, the team logo, and SEC logos. Grounds workers use stencils to create the sharp edges and intricate designs.
The Bryant in Bryant-Denny stadium is the legendary coach Paul Bear Bryant. Before he was a coach, he was a walk-on at Alabama. To try and earn a scholarship, he did any and everything to prove he was worth it, including mowing the grass at what was then called Denny Stadium. Outside Bryant-Denny, there is a statue of Nick Saban, Alabama’s current coach. More photographs are taken here than anywhere else in Alabama. The grass around the base is worn down to nothing in short order. No type of grass can take this kind of punishment. Groundskeepers have to replace it several times a year.
The Iron Bowl is the annual meeting between these football powerhouses. It is the make or break point of an entire season, so you know the field has to be perfect. This is a tall order for the last game of the regular season, late in November. In 2018 they brought in helicopters to dry the field before the game.
Auburn has a Director of Athletic Turf. You can actually major in turfgrass management at Auburn. Besides the stadium, other sports fields have to be maintained. Baseball and softball fields are even trickier to manage than the big stadiums. There is both grass and clay to contend with, and the grounds are used for practice and games. This cuts down the time available for upkeep.
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