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Paul Kitagaki / The Bee

The Levi’s Stadium grass suddenly is an issue after Jim Harbaugh halted practice there Wednesday due to unsafe field conditions.

Wild pitch: Field issues cause 49ers to halt Levi’s practice

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 - 7:24 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 - 9:01 am

SANTA CLARA -- It turns out the grass isn’t always greener at a new stadium.

The 49ers had to halt their open practice at $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium less than an hour into the session Wednesday after chunks of the field, which had already been torn up from Sunday’s game, started to come up. Jim Harbaugh briefly gathered his team at midfield and then led them through the tunnel.

Bewildered fans who had arrived to watch the practice were told, via loudspeaker, that they would get complementary tickets to the team’s new museum. Two hours later, team spokesman Bob Lange tweeted the following:

“The 49ers organization would like to apologize to any fans who were inconvenienced by today’s practice ending early. We have determined the appropriate measures necessary to have the field ready for Sunday and look forward to hosting the San Diego Chargers.”

During one-on-one pass-rush drills, Ahmad Brooks kicked up a sizable divot as he made a cut toward the inside. Coaches moved the drills a few feet away as a result. At least one receiver, Bruce Ellington, went down when the grass seemed to give way under his foot. He got up slowly but remained in practice.

After Sunday’s game against the Broncos, some players said that the grass had come up in places and noted that’s usual for new fields. The sod was laid in April, and it looked like a golf-course fairway as recently as last week. By Wednesday, however, it looked like a well-used public course, especially between the hash marks where most of the play occurs.

The strain of grass, Bandera Bermuda, was chosen because it doesn’t require a lot of water and because it would be able to handle multiple events. Members of the team’s ground crew were busy during the practice replacing divots and laying down grass seed. Team officials, including general manager Trent Baalke, were seen conferring throughout the session.

There won’t be a lot of opportunity for the grass to lay deep roots. The 49ers will play their third preseason game there against San Diego on Sunday. On Aug. 29, Levi’s will host a high school football doubleheader – including Jesuit vs. De La Salle – and on Sept. 6, the Mexican national team will face Chile in soccer.

The 49ers’ first regular-season home game is Sept. 14 vs. the Bears.

The 49ers finished their Wednesday practice on their usual practice fields just to the east of the stadium. That session, however, was open to neither the fans nor the media.

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Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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