The turf on which Colin Kaepernick will drop back to pass, where Yoenis Céspedes will field pop flys and where Hunter Pence will chase down line drives is growing on a farm outside Stevinson in Merced County.
West Coast Turf, which supplies sod to pro and college fields including PetCo Park in San Diego, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Chase Field in Phoenix, is readying turf for its high-profile Northern California customers, which include the San Francisco 49ers’ new field in Santa Clara.
Levi’s Stadium isn’t completed, but Greg Dunn of West Coast Turf already is a fan. “It’s going to be a great fan experience,” he said, showing on his phone photos of the in-progress structure.
The 49ers and other sports organizations are more concerned with the player experience, at least when it comes to the groundcover they pick. For Levi’s Stadium, that will be a hybrid of Bermuda grass. But it’s not the Bermuda grass that so many homeowners cuss when it pops up through the fescue.
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Bandera Bermuda, as it’s called, is strong, dense and recovers quickly from the heavy wear and tear that comes when 300-pound men are digging in their cleats and running around on it.
West Coast developed the turf with professional sports in mind, but the grass has an added bonus that is garnering more attention among residents in the drought-stricken state this year.
“It uses about half as much water,” Dunn said. Because of that, he said, the company plans to start marketing the hybrid to homeowners who might be willing to pay a little more upfront – it’s 20 to 30 percent more expensive than fescue sod – to save money and water down the road.
For now, the grass is popular among the pro teams for whom it was developed.
The sod for AT&T Park is set to be installed in the next few days. Work on Oakland’s turf will not begin until after this weekend, a representative said; O.co Coliseum is hosting a monster truck competition tonight – not something that would be gentle on newly laid sod.
A representative of the San Francisco 49ers said the team would not comment on the turf, but confirmed that it will be installed in a month or so.
The Merced County farmland, which has a Livingston address but is closer to Stevinson, is about perfect for developing turf, Dunn said. The sandy soil encourages strong roots.
“When you buy sod, you think you’re buying what’s on top, but you’re really buying what’s underneath,” Dunn said, holding up a strip of Bandera Bermuda. He demonstrated how there is hardly any dirt in the thick roots, and he showed how strong it is by trying to rip the grass apart. The sod didn’t budge.
Of all the activities on turf, one might wonder which is the hardest on it. In soccer, the area around the goal tends to see a lot of wear and tear. Golf can be rough, particularly if someone misses a 2-foot put and throws the club. And, of course, football is pretty physical, though the action is spread out on most of the field, between the numbers.
When asked what activity has the highest impact on turf, Dunn didn’t hesitate. “Band,” he said.
Band members don’t typically tackle one another or dig up divots, but they march in one spot, over and over again.
“Band and cheerleading,” Dunn said. “There’s no comparison.”