Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Ballpark's bluegrass nearly ready to grow

Laying the groundwork; Sod coming next month

By Dan Klepal, dklepal@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Joe Motz is digging up a lot of Cincinnati history in order to lay 3 acres of grass that will be the playing field at Great American Ball Park.

Brandon Dyson with The Motz Group works on digging a trench inside of the Great American Ball Park on Thursday.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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        Mr. Motz's crews have been busy cutting trenches through the hard topsoil inside the new ballpark so that drainage pipes and, eventually, irrigation lines can be buried just under the surface. In all, more than two miles of pipe will be installed, capable of handling a hard rain of about 2 inches per hour.

        But before burying pipe, which will resemble an underground rib cage, crews with the Motz Group have had to pull out large chunks of Cincinnati's past.

        “We've found a lot of cobblestone, granite, hollowed-out logs that served as the first water pipes in the city,” Mr. Motz said. And that's not even mentioning the mountain of antique bottles and bricks that have been unearthed.

        “You name it, it's down there,” Mr. Motz said.

Aerial view of ballpark.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        The Kentucky bluegrass, being grown in Brookville, Ind., is just about mature and should be ready for delivery at the ballpark by mid-October.

        The field work should be finished by Nov. 1, with the red clay of the infield and warning track being the last of the materials installed.

        Fall is the right time for installation, Mr. Motz said.

        “The sod date is always critical, and October is ideal,” Mr. Motz said. “As the temperature cools, the top growth subsides but the root growth continues until the ground freezes. So there is a tremendous amount of root growth without wasting energy on top growth.”

        Mike Sieving, construction executive for Hamilton County, which is building the ballpark, said the stadium's construction schedule was developed around the field installation.

        “The field sort of established the end point for major steel and things that required crane installation from the field,” Mr. Sieving said. “To do the right job with the field, the construction managers believed it needed to be installed in a good growing season so it had an opportunity to be established before winter. Because Opening Day is in April, oftentimes the grass doesn't get going until after that time.

        “To do that, we had to have all the cranes and materials off the field by Aug. 1. So that point in time was very, very important to all the rest of those schedules.”

        A laser will be used to make certain the field is perfectly flat, to within a quarter-inch, as opposed to some sports fields that feature a “crown,” or high point on the field with a gentle grade on each side.

        Some of the grass -- particularly around the edges of the infield -- will be grown into a fabric so that it is stabilized and will weather wear and tear a little better.

        The infield and warning track will be made up of red clay, imported from Georgia and laid in a giant form, much like a cookie cutter.

        The Reds are paying for the field installation. Although team officials declined to comment on the amount of its contract with the Motz Group, the team is paying a total of $9.7 million toward several aspects of stadium construction, including the field, the bas-relief sculpture in Crosley Terrace, concession equipment, the scoreboard and the video replay system.

        Reds' chief operating officer John Allen said Motz did a great job installing grass in Cinergy Field and offered a good price for the field in the new ballpark.

        “They did an outstanding job at Cinergy, and they're local. That's important to the organization,” Mr. Allen said. “We've got somebody that we know based on two year's experience. They meet our demands. And, since they're local, they're right here when we need them.”

        The Reds also have a contract with Mr. Motz for a sod nursery, so that about an acre of replacement sod will be kept on hand at all times. Mr. Allen said he's not aware of any other Major League Baseball team that use a local sod farm.

        “That's the way to go,” Mr. Motz said. “And since the Reds are contracting directly with us, it will allow us to get them whatever they need without going through a public bidding process” which is required whenever governmental bodies purchase materials or services.


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