Updates from Monday, Aug. 25
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee provided an update on the 49ers stadium with the regular season just two weeks away:
As expected, the 49ers have ripped up the grass field they put down less than 72 hours ago and are in the process of installing a new, hopefully more permanent, playing surface.
Backhoes have been brought in, presumably to dig up some of the sand that served as a layer below the grass. It was the compsotion of soil that was suspected to have been the problem with the original field, which was torn up on Thursday. After conferring with experts, the 49ers concluded that there was too much sand in the mix, which didn’t allow the grass to take root like it should have.
Between San Francisco 49ers ownership and the residents of Santa Clara, the franchise's new Levi's Stadium cost an estimated $1.2 billion. Unfortunately, the best infrastructure money can buy seemingly came with discount turf.
According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, crews spent the entire day Thursday re-sodding the field after players complained of safety issues:
The 49ers were forced to end practice early Wednesday after players were slipping or tearing divots into the ground. Wide receivers Bruce Ellington and Stevie Johnson each fell when running routes, and the coaches were forced to move away from dangerous chunks in the turf multiple times. Eventually, coach Jim Harbaugh chose to cut practice short rather than risk injury.
“The 49ers organization would like to apologize to any fans who were inconvenienced by today’s practice ending early," team spokesman Bob Lange said in a statement, per Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee. "We have determined the appropriate measures necessary to have the field ready for Sunday and look forward to hosting the San Diego Chargers."
The re-sodding is expected to be finished before Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers. Players initially became concerned about the field, which was put in place in April, when the grass came up in certain places last week against the Broncos. Barrows provided an analogy that highlighted how quickly the sod deteriorated:
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.
Levi's Stadium, which began construction in 2012, is due for its regular-season opening on Sept. 14 when the Chicago Bears pay a visit. The state-of-the-art complex was built after years of attempts to get a deal done to stay in San Francisco. Built instead in Santa Clara, the 49ers are now roughly 45 minutes outside of the city—a move that's come under a fair bit of scrutiny.
Fans were also displeased when ticket prices skyrocketed more than 45 percent, per Forbes' Jesse Lawrence.
Obviously, having to re-sod the field after minimal use—only one NFL game and a few other events have been held at Levi's Stadium thus far—is not a good look for anyone. It's also somewhat of a lucky stroke. Getting the poor-performing sod off the field during the preseason avoids any embarrassment or potential injury when the games actually matter.
Mexico and Chile are also scheduled for an international friendly in Santa Clara on Sept. 6. Combined with this weekend's game with San Diego, a high school event later this month and scheduled practices, officials should have enough time to ensure player safety before the national spotlight hits.
That said, it's doubtful anyone inside the 49ers organization is pleased with the developments of the last couple days.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.