The Marlins Park grounds crew is looking forward to MLB’s Opening Day on March 31, in hopes that they finally found the perfect turfgrass: Platinum TE paspalum.
During the two-year journey that led to Platinum TE, the park, home of the Miami Marlins and the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) stadium in the U.S., has also been home to three different turf types in an effort to choose the best sod for the humid Miami climate.
Roof or no roof?
|Even though it has been windy in Miami, which would normally interfere with preparation tasks such as fertilizing, the park’s unique retractable roof eliminates any inclement weather. In just 13 minutes, a climate-controlled stadium transforms.
The roof has gotten both positive and negative feedback from fans, but the days of waiting on the weatherman are over, which is a relief for grounds crew members.
“We probably play 95 percent of the time with the roof closed,” Mulholland says. “That was one of our biggest reasons for trying to find a more suitable grass.”
The weather last year allowed the stadium roof to open its panels for 14 games, including Marlins games and the World Baseball Classic, according to Mulholland.
On whether or not the roof will be open or closed for the season opener on Monday, and throughout the first home stand, the decision has yet to be made.
In 2012, when the park first opened, Celebration bermudagrass was installed. It was holding water in the shade areas, which is commonplace for a park with a retractable roof.
“It’s supposed to be a very shade-tolerant bermuda and I don’t doubt that it is, I just think its growing medium didn’t match ours,” says Chad Mulholland, director of grounds for the Marlins.
Mulholland, who has been a Sports Turf Managers Association member for more than 15 years, moved from assistant groundskeeper at the Philadelphia Phillies to the Marlins director of grounds several months prior to the park’s opening in 2012.
For that first year, the Celebration in the infield and sidelines was converted to bermudagrass 419 (Tifway) because it was retaining water. The choice of 419 was the result of a visit to a sod farm recommended by Alan Sigwardt of the Miami Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium, where the Marlins played for 19 years. The sands seemed to match well, according to Mulholland, but what he really had his eye on was Platinum TE.
For the 2013 season, the sidelines and infield were switched again, this time to Mulholland’s beloved paspalum. The 419 moved to the outfield.
“Atlanta has pretty similar conditions to us in the summer with it being hot and humid,” Mulholland says. “They (Atlanta) did well, Houston (Astros) had done well, so at that point we had to start getting paspalum custom grown for our sidelines and infield.”
The Platinum TE was installed by Jupiter, Fla.-based Briggs Golf Construction during the off-season. Mulholland says the difference between the Tifway 419 and Platinum TE during the 2013 season was night and day, and switching it out gave them their best chance to succeed. As Opening Day quickly approaches, he is satisfied with the complete field conversion.
Photo: Chad Mulholland