Rice-Eccles Stadium

Rice-Eccles gets fitted with grass

Sod is going in at Rice-Eccles Stadium in preparation for the USA-Costa Rica World Cup Qualifier on June 4. It isn't the first time it has been done, and it isn't cheap carrying a price tag of $130,000. But that price is what it takes to bring a big-time event to Salt Lake City.

"It is something you have to do," said RSL general manager Steve Pastorino. "If you want to bring the world's best soccer to Salt Lake and we are committed to bringing the best soccer we can to Utah."

So on Monday morning, a giant tarp was laid down over the FieldTurf surface that has been so kind to Real Salt Lake -- and in came 93,000 square feet of sod. The sod isn't what would be delivered if your yard was being redone. Because there is no dirt for roots to take hold in, this sod was cut with 1 1/2 inches of dirt already attached.

But that is only part of the problem -- anyone who has ever laid sod can tell you how hard it is to get pieces to fit snugly together. That is where the expertise of JB Instant Lawn, of Portland, Ore., came in. JB Instant Lawn has put grass down at PGE Park in Portland on six occasions to host U.S. men's and women's national team matches, and has picked up some tricks along the way.

The most valuable trick of the trade is a machine that pushes the sod together. The machine uses a hydraulic lift, mounted on a tractor to push the sod together. Once the machine has had a go at the strips of sod, the seams between them seemingly disappear.

With the sod in place, then there is the trick of keeping the grass alive in a stadium that has no irrigation system. A temporary watering system will tap the stadium's fire hydrants to help keep the grass green. With the temporary system in place, the grass will be watered twice a day and mowed every other day to keep it pristine for the June 4 tilt.

But what does RSL do with 42 truck loads of sod when the U.S. national team leaves town? Real will use the grass at a permanent grass practice facility, which the team currently lacks. While there is nothing currently in place, the team is working with two or three land owners to find a home for the world-class field.

David Hale is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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