Brad Morrison and the other 31 full-time employees at Maumee Bay Turf Center in Oregon are truly feeling “Super” these days.
MBTC, 7240 S. Stadium Rd., was contracted to help install the turf at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., home of Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2. The Jets and Giants both share the stadium. Morrison, MBTC’s chief executive officer, said the turf was installed last June and July.
“There were six installers that go, from all over the country,” Morrison said. “We have guys from the state of Oregon, Texas, and Canada. We did 16 fields this summer and had zero punch list items. A punch list is like when you walk through your house and find things and fix them. We want the field to be perfect. The surface has to be pristine and we did that, and that’s unheard of. We are trying to set a new standard in the industry.”
It is the second year in a row that Maumee Bay Turf has installed the turf at a Super Bowl stadium. When New Orleans’ Louisiana Superdome, home of last year’s Super Bowl, decided it was time to replace the field, they invited the leading synthetic turf companies to install test strips so they could evaluate the playing surfaces.
When the evaluation was over, the players, coaches, and Superdome management group decided to install the Speed S5-M synthetic turf system by UBU Sports and Oregon-based Maumee Bay Turf Center.
Morrison said six people can install a turf field in about 20 days. He said what is unique about MetLife Stadium is that, although the NFL shield logo in the middle of the field is permanent, the aluminum “trays” in the end zone have to be replaced nearly every week during the 16-game NFL season.
“One week it will say Giants,” Morrison said, “and another weekend it will say Jets.”
It’s the same turf that will be used for the big game — the Super Bowl logo and other art are painted when the time comes.
“Fields are typically replaced every eight years depending on usage threshold,” Morrison said. “The turf that was installed by our group during the summer is the same turf that will be in there for next eight years. Special logos are painted on and then cleaned off with a special scrubber we developed for various events.”
Morrison added that installing turf on a football field typically costs between $600,000 and $700,000, although he did not have final figures on how much it cost to install the turf at MetLife Stadium.
Morrison said UBU Sports, located in Dalton, Ga., manufactures all of the turf products for MBTC. He said all NFL teams use what is called a UBU speed series with a slit-film fiber, which is a wider fiber that is more durable for high-use fields.
“There is a monofilament fiber that is almost like a tall piece of grass,” Morrison said. “We put monofilament in at Lake and slit-film in at Bellevue and at Strobel Field in Sandusky. It’s got a sand and rubber mix in it. Once we get the field laid down and the numerals and the logos and hash marks, we bring in a rubber granual (rubber/sand) mixture. We did Paul Brown Stadium for the Bengals and there is about 650,000 pounds of rubber in that field, or about 40,000 car tires. They are all recycled tires that go through a pretty rigorous process.”
From Lake to New York
Morrison said MBTC hooked up with UBU Sports President Mark Nicholls after MBTC installed the new turf field at Lake High School’s stadium in 2010. Nicholls “does all negotiating and selling on all the NFL projects,” according to Morrison.
“Mark started out as an installer in Canada at age 11, and he’s phenomenal,” Morrison said. “He is the dean of turf worldwide. After the Lake project went so well, he heard about us. There are only 13 of us worldwide who install for him. He handpicks who does his stuff. He has a certain standard and he reached out to me after we did the field at Lake.”
Morrison said a minimum amount of maintenance will be required in the week leading up to the big game at MetLife Stadium “because of they way it’s constructed.”
“The fields are pretty resilient,” he said. “Quality control guys may come in and clean it up. The Super Bowl shield will get painted on, and any other sponsor logos. We deep-clean the field and groom the field. You almost have to treat a turf field like your living room. It has to be kept clean and be swept. We’re partnered with 15 other companies worldwide, and it’s up to whoever has guys available that week to do that. It’s usually done by guys with 15-20 years of experience.”
Fans who attend the Super Bowl need not worry about the turf’s ability to hold up to freezing, snowy or even rainy weather in February.
“If it’s just straight cold, the field can’t freeze up,” Morrison said. “If it snows, they just clear it off with Bobcats. They will be more than ready for this. They can take Bobcats out there and use special snow plows with a rubber-coated blade. This turf will drain 40 inches per hour. If you’re getting that kind of storm, you’re not worried about Super Bowls.”
MBTC’s first football field turf was installed at Clyde High School in 2008.
“That first year we did one (field), the second year we did two and the third year we did three,” Morrison said. “Last year we did 14 and this year we did 17. We’re going to start a residential division.”
MBTC, which has also installed turf at such locations as the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium and at the Chicago Bears’ practice facility, has 31 full-time employees and 20 to 25 part-time employees year round. During a busy summer, that number can balloon to as many as 60 part-time employees.
“It’s grown pretty quick,” Morrison said. “Our formula is pretty simple: a great product, great service and no hassles. If you call any of the schools we deal with, they’ll swear by us and I take pride in that. It’s more than a field for us. We’re going to their football games in the fall, so there is a special relationship we make with our clients. I can’t believe we’re getting paid to do this work. It truly is enjoyable work.”