TAMPA — Caretakers watched it grow for a year and a half, and on Friday crews began spreading 95,000 square feet of the thick green Bermuda grass at Raymond James Stadium, preparing the field for the Super Bowl.
The turf grass is custom-grown for the NFL championship game to prevent injuries and handle a healthy beating.
"It's going to take a lot of pounding, a lot of pressure," said Ed Mangan, the Super Bowl field director. "The game is really only part of the action on this field. We've got to withstand the pregame, postgame, halftime shows. All those rehearsals have got to be put on this field before the game's even played."
Harvesting of the grass from Bent Oak Sod Farm in Alabama began Thursday, with sod trucks pulling into Raymond James just after midnight.
"We're already growing the sod for next year's game in Miami," said Mangan, who also manages the field for the Atlanta Braves and is working on his 20th Super Bowl.
The process of rolling out the 140-square-foot, 2,000-pound pieces of turf should be done by Monday, he said. Daily watering will help it adjust to its new home.
"It's going to go through a little bit of a transplant shock," said Mangan. "It will get rooted. We've got the chemicals and the science to do that."
The field will remain until after a monster truck show scheduled at Ray Jay in late February. Painting of hash marks, Super Bowl and team logos will begin about two weeks before the Feb. 1 kickoff.
"We need to determine who the teams are before we paint the end zones," Mangan said.
The Super Bowl turf is about 1/4-inch thicker than the stadium's usual playing field, say officials with the Tampa Sports Authority, which manages the stadium.
In order to get the Super Bowl in town, the Tampa Bay Super Bowl host committee agreed to roll out $85,000 of fresh sod at Raymond James Stadium. Every host city must do it, said Reid Sigmon, executive director of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl Host committee.
The sod is paid for with the host committee's funds, 25 percent of which come from local hotel taxes.
Replacement of the entire field, which requires removing the goal posts, hasn't been done in years. Typically, it's replaced piecemeal to repair damage and accommodate logos for University of South Florida and Buccaneers football games.
Construction of a media compound and the NFL Experience, a theme park, began on the stadium grounds last week. The NFL will also add about 6,000 seats to the stadium, and replace the red Bucs decor with blue-and-green Super Bowl decorations.
Times staff writer Emily Nipps contributed to this report. Janet Zink can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.