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Construction Underway On Lambeau Field's New Playing Surface



The makeover of Lambeau Field's playing surface got underway this week, a project that will bring the latest technology to the hallowed ground.

The north end of field currently is the primary focus of the project as several machines worked to remove all levels of the playing surface. In addition to the front end loaders and shovel tractors chugging away, a nifty configuration of conveyor belts has been constructed to carry the refuse directly from the field out to the parking lot at the southwest corner of the stadium. The arrangement removes the need to truck the materials through the loading dock.

In a project that will take several months to complete, DD GrassMaster, a natural grass surface reinforced with man-made fibers developed by Desso DLW Sports Systems, will be installed on top of a completely new drainage and heating system. The new surface and underlying systems represent the latest developments in field management.

The new grass surface won't be entirely new for the players, though. It is identical to the surface on the team's Clarke Hinkle Field. That surface, installed prior to 2005 training camp, has garnered rave reviews from the players in its two seasons of use.

"We feel we need to have the best natural grass field possible," said Ted Thompson, the Packers' Executive Vice President and General Manager. "We're confident this will serve historic Lambeau Field well. It's grass, so that remains true to the spirit of our stadium; players will get dirty and have grass stains, that kind of thing. It's worked very well the last two seasons on Hinkle Field."

According to the Packers' field manager, Allen Johnson, the Packers have been following the evolution of the relatively new system for several years, going back to its development on European soccer fields.

"We've had great success on Hinkle Field with the GrassMaster surface," said Johnson. "So we've been considering it seriously for Lambeau Field for about a year. Ted compared Lambeau Field and Hinkle Field last spring after several days of rain and it was a stark contrast. Lambeau was still soaked and wet and Hinkle was dry and firm. That final bit of first-hand experience set the wheels in motion."

DD GrassMaster's advantage mainly is attributed to the sand-based soil, which allows superior drainage and softer, more consistent footing over the current clay-based field. Because a sand-based root zone has less stability, the system employs the use of millions of strands of polyethylene and polypropylene materials eight inches below the surface with one inch exposed on the top. This gives the field firm footing and eliminates clumps of sod tearing from the surface. Furthermore, even after a full season's wear late in the year, the footing remains excellent due to the soil-strengthening strands.

In addition to the success the Packers have experienced with the surface on Clarke Hinkle Field, the team can look to the Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers for endorsement of the product as each of those clubs use the surface in their stadiums. In fact, the Packers have seen firsthand the quality footing at late-season games at the Eagles' Lincoln Financial Field each of the last three years.

{sportsad300}The project will commence upon the conclusion of the season and begin with removing all current levels of the field. The first layers will consist of a clay base with drain tile and irrigation piping. The second level consists of four inches of gravel with 30-plus miles of tubing for the heating system. The third level is made of 12 inches of sand and the top level consists of the sod with its reinforcing fibers.

Depending on the weather's effect on the first stages of the process, the sod will be placed in late April or early May. After the roots are firmly established, by late July, the fibers will be stitched in place.

Due to the enhanced drainage capabilities, fans at Lambeau will notice no perceptible crown on the field. A slight slope will exist, about a half-degree decline, to assist with water and snow removal when the field is covered with a tarp.

Also included in the project will be a new service path encircling the field. Gone will be the cement, replaced with a rubberized surface, similar to the one adjacent to the Hutson Center on the side of Clarke Hinkle Field. The new path still will allow for equipment use, but be safer for players that run far out of bounds.

Fields, an athletic field and landscape development company out of Canton, Ga., is the general contractor for the project and DA Hogan & Associates, Inc., Seattle, Wash., is the architect.

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