12th May 2020 by:

The 2020 NFL Field Managers Symposium invited eight sod farms who regularly produce sod for NFL teams in-season to participate in a round-table discussion. It was a two-hour, interactive session, teaming the sod producers with 125 field managers and staffers. Three members of the NFL Team Operations Department also attended.

With input from field managers as well as the sod producers, they covered a broad range of topics, including sod farm certification, on-field events, growing scheduling, harvesting and installation timing, transportation, scheduling and the most important factor, communication. While each of the sod producers has developed their own proprietary product, and those products differ in the grass species and cultivars, and vary in production methods from grown on plastic to grown in the field, they all face similar issues and challenges—and have the same objective—a safe, game-ready field that meets NFL expectations.

Tony Leonard, Director of Grounds for the Philadelphia Eagles says that in-season sodding impacts nearly all the NFL field managers. Leonard says, “Even the synthetic turf field managers have done it at some point if they have hosted international soccer in their stadium. Installing ready-to-play natural grass over synthetic turf has its own set of challenges with keeping newly laid natural grass sod alive indoors.”

There is no margin for error with the NFL field. As Leonard said, “Because of our partnership with the sod grower, we trust them to provide us with a safe field in excellent condition to play an NFL game.”

The eight sod farms and their attending representative were: James Betts for Tuckahoe Turf Farms – New Jersey; Chad Price for Carolina Green Corp. – North Carolina; Jonathan Holland for Precision Turf, LLC – Georgia; Donald Thomas for Quality Sod – Florida; Jimmy Fox for Evergreen Turf – Arizona; Joe Wilkins for Green Valley Turf Co. – Colorado; Greg Dunn for West Coast Turf – California; and Marty Schaafsma for Schaafsma Sod Farm – Illinois.

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NFL Groundskeeper Tony Leonard
Tony Leonard, Director of Grounds for the Philadelphia Eagles