Defensive lineman Darnell Dockett won’t be the only Arizona import at Levi’s Stadium when the 49ers face the Dallas Cowboys Sunday.
The stadium’s turf was grown and installed by the same Chandler, Ariz., outfit – Evergreen Turf – that supplies the Cardinals’ playing field. The surface at University of Phoenix Stadium, where former Cardinal Dockett played in recent years, routinely is voted the best surface in the league by the players.
Until now, the 49ers have been working with a California company, West Coast Turf, which has sod farms in Merced County, around Palm Desert and other areas.
That group will continue to supply the grass at Levi’s Stadium, including the turf that will be rolled in after a Aug. 29 concert by country singer Luke Bryan. That batch of grass is expected to last through the first half of the season. The 49ers have pre-purchased enough sod from West Coast Turf for several re-soddings this season.
Jimmy Fox, co-owner of Evergreen Turf, said the grass that was unrolled last week is a stopgap to help the 49ers get to their next re-sod, which is planned after next Saturday’s Bryan show. He said the 49ers came to him seeking mature grass.
“It takes a long time (for the grass) to get mature enough to withstand an NFL game,” Fox said.
He said the grass now at Levi’s is called tifway 419, a common type for sports fields in the Western United States and what the Cardinals use.
Levi’s surface has been an issue since last summer, when then-coach Jim Harbaugh halted a practice because chunks of the field were coming up. The 49ers felt they had fixed the issue with a new mixture of sand and soil beneath the sod. But the grass came apart again early in training camp. The team had planned eight straight practices on the field to start training camp. They managed only two straight before moving to their usual practice field and had to cancel a public session planned for Levi’s.
News of the troubled sod has reached the Cowboys, who planned to inspect the surface today. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a Friday radio interview that starting quarterback Tony Romo might not play Sunday partly because of concerns about the field, which he compared to a divot-filled surface his team once experienced in Mexico City.
Jones, however, backed off those statements later Friday.
“I’m not concerned about going out there and competing just as much as anybody else is competing,” Jones said. “I was referring to the (players) that we might have a question mark (about) anyway, really, is how I meant to say that. If we have a question mark about them, we may be even a little more cautious. But that in general is not a worry about what we’re going to get out of the game.”
Fox explained the grass he supplied is grown with a fiber reinforcement that makes the surface more stable.
“It gives it what they call a good ‘shear strength,’” he said. “Basically, it provides good footing.”
Evergreen Turf finished installing the new field midweek. Fox said that’s plenty of time for it to be ready for Sunday’s game. He noted he re-sodded the center of the Cardinals’ field Friday night, and they are hosting the Chargerstonight.
“It’s designed to be played on the next day if need be,” he said.