Feeling green in Montreal: Stade Saputo field almost set ahead of opener
MONTREAL – Thirty-seven 10-wheel trucks full of snow and ice: This is what the Montreal Impact and the Columbus Crew would have played on, had their game scheduled for this Saturday afternoon kicked off last month.
The Montreal winter doesn’t seem to know when to let go, but it looks like it is going to cut the Impact some slack. The game will indeed go on in five days’ time at Stade Saputo. The arena’s grass is “75, 80 percent green right now, but was 100 percent white 12 days ago,” pointed out Impact vice president Richard Legendre.
“We’re happy with this turn of events,” he told reporters on the Stade Saputo touchline on Tuesday. “We agree that the grass is not in ideal condition, but considering the weather we had and still have, we’re really glad we’re able to play on this perfectly acceptable grass.”
Playing soccer outdoors on the 45th parallel is now a familiar challenge to Montrealers in the spring, but the 2013 weather roller-coaster did make the Impact front office shiver, in more ways than one.
Yet ironically, the abundant snowfalls helped the Stade Saputo soil make it through the winter, said the playing surface manager, Roch Poulin. As long as it is not compacted, Poulin explained, snow is the best insulating material there is – especially when there’s 20 inches of it.
Moreover, Poulin indicated that the two-inch layer of ice beneath the silvery flakes allowed the use of heavy machinery to clear the playing surface. Ultimately, the soil is still chilled, but the grass on the surface is warm and Poulin gives it a 7/10 mark.
“Right now, there’s no growth because the soil is too cold,” Poulin said. “The more sunshine we get, the better it will be.”
Forecasts suggest a far from sun-kissed sky in the coming days for Montreal, but that is not going to deter the Impact players from enjoying their first 2013 Stade Saputo ride. Hopefully, so will the 15,000 fans that have already bought a ticket for Saturday’s game.
“When you look at historical information, we’ve had nicer temperatures in the past,” Legendre admitted. “But we want to play on natural grass, at Stade Saputo, as soon as possible.”