Preparing for the Ultimate Game: A Look Back at 2018

Did you know that for nearly 50 years, Toro equipment and representatives have been involved in preparing the stadium and practice fields for the Super Bowl*? Now that football season is underway, we thought it would be the perfect time to look back at Super Bowl LII. Here are some of the takeaways from our experience assisting with preparations for the big game:

  1. Synthetic fields are NOT maintenance-free.
    Toro has been assisting with Super Bowl field prep every year for decades, and each game brings different challenges. This year’s venue was in Minneapolis, Minn. — home of Toro’s corporate headquarters — not a warm-weather site. The game field at U.S. Bank Stadium, along with the practice fields and the site for the Super Bowl Experience, were all indoors, on synthetic turf. That didn’t make preparations any easier; in fact, the synthetic fields required just as much time and labor as natural grass fields to ensure the playing surface was in the top condition required.
  2. You can use Toro® equipment for much more than mowing.
    Although mowers weren’t needed for the synthetic fields, there were plenty of opportunities to use Toro equipment. Synthetic turf tends to build up static electricity, which holds the crumb rubber closer to the top, so crews used a Toro Workman® GTX crossover utility vehicle with a drag mat to knock the material back down into the fibers of the turf. A Toro Workman HDX was also on hand to move material around and pull a sprayer, which was filled with a special mixture to facilitate dragging. In addition, Toro Pro Force® debris blowers came in handy to help dry paint faster on the game field, the practice fields and the field for the Super Bowl Experience.
  3. There are always last-minute changes.
    One of the practice fields was originally slated for an existing facility at the University of Minnesota. Like the field for the main event, practice fields must meet National Football League (NFL)* standards for hardness, infill depths and more. So two weeks before the big game, the advance team went to work on that field, using a Toro Sand Pro® equipped with an artificial infill drag to loosen the material and relieve compaction.
    After two passes with the tines in the most aggressive position and brooming after that, the practice field was greatly improved — just in time for the University of Minnesota to complete its brand-new indoor athletic complex and move practices to that facility instead!
  4. Those amazing halftime shows take a lot of practice (and a toll on the field).
    This year’s performers for the halftime and pre-game/post-game shows had to rehearse on the playing field all week because an alternate practice facility wasn’t available close by. That posed a unique challenge, because the weight of all the trailers, stages, sound equipment and people moving in and out caused significant compaction on the turf.Every day after rehearsals, crews came in to groom the field and brush it. They used a Toro synthetic turf groomer with spring tines to lift and stand up the fibers while redistributing the compacted crumb rubber, occasionally adding more crumb rubber to restore the surface to NFL hardness standards.
    The last rehearsal took place on Friday night, leaving Saturday for one last grooming and repainting. Although the game field was covered by tarps whenever possible during rehearsals, everything had to be repainted the day before the game to make sure everything was crisp and sharp. Crews also had to use paint specially formulated for synthetic turf that could be removed after the game. (Unlike natural turf, you can’t just cut the painted grass after it grows.
  5. The crew’s work isn’t done when the big game begins. Even after kickoff, there is still work to be done. After the halftime show, members of the prep crew walk every inch of the field to make sure no debris are left behind for the second half of the game.

Next year, Super Bowl LIII will be played at Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, which also has a synthetic field. We’re already looking forward to being part of the preparations there and seeing how it compares to our experience at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

*Super Bowl, National Football League and NFL are registered trademarks of the NFL.