Grounds crews for the San Francisco 49ers laid down a new, thicker field Friday at the $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara after the team halted its practice there Wednesday.
The grass turf that had been installed in April was removed and prepared for new rolls of sod on Thursday. The new field was being installed about 48 hours prior to Sunday's preseason game against the San Diego Chargers.
On Wednesday, an undisclosed problem occurred as players were practicing on the Bandera Bermuda grass field inside Levi's and coaches decided to have players move to the team's practice field next to the stadium, the team said. The new sod put in place Friday is deeper with more soil, providing a thicker base that takes root better than the previous field and can be ready for football within a day or two, officials said.
A source with the City of Santa Clara told NBC Bay Area the issue was not with the grass but with the sand surface underneath. Team officials said they know why the turf didn’t take properly, but they declined to disclose that information.
The rolls of sod were placed on the ground by a machine that compresses the turf so there are no gaps between them and then a roller machine is driven over the field to make the new grass firm on the ground, the team reported. It’s not yet clear whether this is a permanent or temporary fix. Team officials said they would re-evaluate after Sunday’s game. Niners coach Jim Harbaugh expressed optimism at Friday morning's press conference: "The field is going in. It'll be ready for Sunday."
COO Al Guido told CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco the 49ers have no contingency plan in case the field isn’t ready for Sunday, but “it’ll be ready,” he said.
The replacement of fields is common in the NFL and the 49ers expected to do it at some point this year, although not necessarily this early, according to the 49ers. According to the 49ers, on Sunday and Monday, the Philadelphia Eagles removed its turf at Lincoln Financial Field following two earlier practice sessions by the Eagles and three outdoor concerts on the field last week.
The Eagles were able to replace the field by Monday night and the team played a nationally televised game on Thursday night on it without any difficulties, 49ers officials said.
The NFL will likely wait until the last minute to decide whether the field is safe for Sunday's preseason game. If the league does decide to cancel the game, it would not be the first time field problems stopped play. Back in August 2001, a game between the Ravens and Eagles was called off due to an "unplayable field." In August 1995, a Chargers-Oilers game was canceled because the field at the Astrodome was deemed “unsafe."
Scott Budman and Bay City News contributed to this report.