COLUMBIA — Rolls of sod were laid down, covered with plywood and tamped into place. A worker immediately started watering them.
Strip by strip, the 90,000-square foot re-installation of Williams-Brice Stadium’s playing surface began on Saturday morning.
“The idea with this sod is you can literally play on it right away,” said Clark Cox, South Carolina’s assistant athletics director in charge of turf and landscaping services. “We could play a football game on it this afternoon if we wanted to.”
Considering 70 percent of the turf was still dirt on Saturday morning, that seemed far-fetched. But Cox and athletics director Ray Tanner are confident there will be no problems when the Gamecocks kick off the season in seven days.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel here. This has been done around the country with success,” Tanner said. “I think we’ll be in a good place come next week.”
The damage to the original field due to a Beyonce/Jay-Z concert Tuesday was a worry, since the field was covered with a hard plastic surface for a week while the stage and seating were built on top of it. As Cox said, the covering was great at protecting the field but also great at killing the grass.
Once the turf was uncovered on Thursday, USC went to work. An entire re-do was necessary, which cost from $150,000 to $200,000.
That was tied into the expense package for the concert, and USC still hasn’t finalized its profit from the concert, but no matter what, the school made money. But the field still needed to be replaced before the game.
Precision Turf LLC in Lilburn, Ga., was hired. They cut the strips of sod, complete with root system and a layer of topsoil, and tie it into 42-inch rolls. Those rolls were loaded onto trucks and shipped to Columbia, the first arriving Friday night.
Twenty-six trucks will be used and the field will be completed by Sunday afternoon. After that comes irrigation, rolling over the new sod with heavy-barrel machinery and lining it, which will be done by Monday.
By Saturday, the field will look brand-new — which it is. As for potential problems with irregular seams or chunks of grass flying up from fast-moving cleats?
“There’s nothing there that’s unsafe or un-level,” Cox said. “We’ll roll this field several times with a big, heavy roller, to pull everything together as much as possible to smooth it out.”