2017 Super Bowl Field Prep Highlights

For the inaugural World Championship in 1967 and every Super Bowl* since, the National Football League (NFL) grounds crew has called on The Toro Company for equipment and expertise to help prep the game field, practice facilities and more.

Each year brings its own unique challenges and memorable moments, and the 51st Super Bowl was no exception. Here’s a look at some top highlights from Toro’s role in behind-the-scenes preparations at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

  1. Going from college to pro and back again.
    This year’s practice fields were at the University of Houston and Rice University. College football uses wider hash marks than professional football, so the field prep crew had to paint narrower hash marks to meet NFL standards. The hard part was removing those lines from the synthetic turf when they were no longer needed. Although we had used “removable” paint on the synthetic fields, it took hours of scrubbing by hand with brushes and various solutions to return those fields to the way we found them.

Side note: Some crew members were also asked to paint lines on a massive “field” of green carpet for an indoor pre/post-game party. Fortunately, those lines didn’t need to be removed!

  1. Working around rehearsals … and the clock.
    Synthetic fields tend to be more forgiving than natural turf when it comes to rehearsals, so this year’s pre-game and halftime show performers were able to spend extra time practicing on the field. However, rolling heavy stages on and off the field day after day does have an impact on the turf. The grounds crew stayed late each night to groom the field and reduce compaction after rehearsals, typically starting after 9:30 or 10 p.m. That way, they could come in and paint the field early the next morning with time to dry before the next round of rehearsals would begin.
  2. Giving a student the opportunity of a lifetime.
    Sean McLaughlin, a plant science major at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, was the winner of Toro’s 2017 Super Bowl Sports Turfgrass Training Program. McLaughlin was able to work alongside NFL field director Ed Mangan, sports turf legend George Toma and the rest of the grounds crew, assisting with tasks such as turfgrass maintenance, logo painting, field preparation for media day, halftime preparation and cleanup. This is the 16th year that Toro and the NFL have offered this opportunity to students in the turfgrass management field.
  3. Seeing some new but familiar faces on the grounds crew.
    Being part of the Super Bowl grounds crew is a coveted position, so it’s no surprise that many members are seasoned veterans. However, the NFL is always looking for new and qualified people, especially as veteran members retire. This year, three former Toro Super Bowl Sports Turfgrass Training Program winners were tapped to join the crew. It was a natural choice, since they were already familiar with what it takes to prepare for the big game.

For the record, the late nights and early mornings were absolutely worth it. Although the first overtime in Super Bowl history and Lady Gaga’s spectacular halftime show were big moments in this year’s game, being part of the preparations was equally memorable for the team from Toro.

For more information about Toro’s Super Bowl involvement and the Toro Super Bowl Sports Turfgrass Training Program, visit www.toro.com/super-bowl.

* Super Bowl is a registered trademark of the NFL.