West End stadium’s latest milestone advanced grass playing surface

The latest milestone for FC Cincinnati's West End stadium is the one that's arguably the most important. Certainly, it's going to get the most airtime on TV during matches. 

The club on Wednesday announced the completion of the installation of the grass pitch, which features first-of-its-kind technological advancements for Major League Soccer. 

The pitch, which measures 115 yards in length and 75 yards in width, was constructed using a hybrid surface comprised of natural rye grass and synthetic turf. It's the same surface FC Cincinnati uses for the grass surfaces at the Mercy Health Training Center in Milford and is mowed like any other variety of grass. 

The pitch also features a management system developed by the locally owned Motz Group. The system, billed by the club as one-of-a-kind, manages moisture and heat levels with pinpoint accuracy near the roots via a watertight liner and a vacuum drainage system that wraps around the entire surface and allows for better growing conditions.

Construction continues inside the seating bowl at the FC Cincinnati West End Stadium in the West End neighborhood of Cincinnati on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

The hybrid surface combined with the technology that will allow stadium personnel to tailor its grass-growing to the demands of Cincinnati's climate will produce a championship-level and aesthetically pleasing surface, said Dan Lolli, FC Cincinnati's Vice President of Facilities and Stadium General Manager.

"Finished installation in the past week and now we're getting into more of the grass maintenance side of the process," Lolli said. "This has been a long process. Months and months in the making before the holidays."

Lolli said the grass was first harvested from the Motz Group in Brookville, Indiana, in mid-December. 

On Wednesday, the stadium's grass surface was lined with "grow lights" – wheeled devices that can be moved around the field and replicate the effects of sunlight on the surface. 

Heat lamps condition newly installed sod at the FC Cincinnati West End Stadium in the West End neighborhood of Cincinnati on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

The grow lights will remain at the West End stadium because the venue's roof structure isn't conducive to growing. Up to one-third of the field will be under constant shade, but the grow lights will rotate at least every other day.

Sensors will point groundskeepers to the areas of the field where lights might be most-needed on a given day. 

The seven lighting units, shipped from the Netherlands by SGL Systems, can cover up to half of the field. 

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