McAfee Coliseum Tackles Both Baseball & Football
By Larry Shield, Regional Editor
David Madeiros mows the outfield with the John Deere 2653A lawnmower, while Leo Valle cleans up the infield with the John Deere 220A lawnmower, a game day routine.
McAfee Coliseum faces a unique challenge each August and September (and possibly October) with the overlap of the NFL and Major League baseball seasons. The stadium hosts games for the Oakland Raiders and Oakland Athletics, respectively. The following questions for Clay Wood, grounds maintenance supervisor, relate to the weeks when both teams use the field.
Which team gets more irritated by the other team using the field, the baseball or football players?
It is an equal opportunity irritation! The baseball players hate the damage caused by football and installation and removal the outfield bleachers. The football players hate playing on the infield and warning track dirt.
Leo Valle and the John Deere 220A lawnmower put the finishing touches on the infield mowing pattern.
What’s done to alleviate those frustrations, when each group would likely prefer to be the only team using the field?
Not a lot can be done. The stadium field does not set up well for dual sport usage. For baseball we try to aerate with solid tines to relieve some compaction that is caused by the bleacher process, time permitting of course. For football we try to make the infield dirt as soft as possible while insuring solid footing.
What type of turf is used at McAfee Coliseum for both baseball and football?
Our field is Tifway II Bermuda, overseeded with perennial ryegrass, wall-to-wall year round.
The John Deere 2653A cutting the outfield with grass catchers, while the clippings are caught every day and recycled.
Attention to detail, the crew edges every three days to ensure clean, sharp edges.
What do you and your staff do to prepare for game days for the A’s? Raiders?
Baseball—We mow every game day. The infield dirt is watered several times, groomed with the nail drags by hand, rolled and then finished with the screen drag prior to batting practice and the game. The mound, home plate and bullpen mounds are tamped, watered and then we rake or drag these surfaces by hand. Football—We mow every game day and set up the sideline tarps and numbers. All painting is done prior to football game days.
What is done to aerate the field prior to football and baseball games?
Nothing on game days. We core aerate twice a year and solid tine aerate two to four times a year, all around the events schedule.
What type of irrigation system is used for the grass?
Our system includes 100 Hunter I-40 and 10 Hunter I-20 pop up heads. These heads are run by 17 Rain Bird 2'' brass valves.
Is the irrigation system run on a timer and does it have a rain sensor?
No rain sensor. The valves are controlled by an Irritrol MC-24 Plus automatic controller with a remote option.
Once football season is over, is the turf removed from the stadium?
Yes, the field is completely stripped every year. We then rototill and laser grade before new sod is installed.
When is the new turf installed in the stadium for the baseball season?
Depending on our schedule and the weather, we plan to sod between the last week of February and the first week of March.
Two nail drags are pulled together to increase efficiency. The nail drags are pulled in two directions every day, removing spike marks and creating a fluffy, protective top layer.
Early afternoon, the batting practice cage is out and any leftover debris is removed from the infield dirt (sunflower seeds, bubble gum, dirt chunks and a few grass clippings that miss the basket).
Do you sod the field or seed it and who is the supplier?
We sod the field, using West Coast Turf out of their Stevinson, Calif. farm.
What type of fertilizer and herbicides are used? How often do you apply them?
No herbicides are used. We use a granular fertilizer for our base, applying half a pound to one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, about every six to eight weeks. That product is Best ShortKut 22-5-10. We supplement with liquid fertilizers about every 12 to 15 days depending on the team’s schedule. We spray different combinations of Nutri-Rational True Foliar N and K, Ferronite iron and Quelant-K and Ca.
How many square feet of turf cover the stadium for football games?
Approximately 90,000 square feet.
How often is the grass mowed for both football and baseball?
The field is mowed every game day for both baseball and football. We mow at least every third day when the teams are on the road.
What type of mower is used and who is the manufacturer?
Baseball outfield and football field use a John Deere 2653A triplex; baseball infield uses a John Deere 220A greens mower; baseball foul territory, John Deere 260B greens mower.
What mowing techniques are used to create the symmetrical patterns on the field?
We mow back and forth. The stripes are produced by the rollers in front of and behind the mowing reels.We mow the outfield in three different directions and the infield is divided into four quadrants. We mow each quadrant two different ways.
Overhead from deep right field, early morning preparation includes mowing and raking all the debris from the dirt areas.
How many people do you have on your staff and what’s their responsibilities?
I have seven, year-round full time staff. Each man has his own responsibilities and they are accountable for producing quality, consistent results every day.
What type of tarp is used for rainy weather and how is it rolled onto the baseball field?
We use a 23 mil poly tarp for baseball, 180 feet by 180 feet. If it rains during a game we use about 20 people to push the tarp on the field. If no game is in progress we pull the tarp with a tractor by the ropes inside the tarp.
What’s done to renovate the field after football games, because the turf can get chewed up with cleat marks?
After every football game we mow and then sweep the whole field with a John Deere TC125 sweeper. We follow the machines and fill divots with sand and seed mix.
Once baseball season has ended, how is the turf installed for the football field on what was the previous infield area?
The infield clay and existing grass edges are completely removed. We back fill with sand to 1 1/2 inches below existing grade. We then install a 1 1/2 inch thick big roll sod (West Coast Turf, over-seeded Bermuda).
How do you make sure there’s a smooth transition so there’s no seams between the new and old turf on the football field?
We sod cut the existing grass edges to the same thickness as the new sod, then grade to the fresh edge.
A view from above, early batting practice draws near and final setup is close.
What type of dirt composite is used for the infield, pitcher’s mound and batter’s box?
Our infield clay is approximately 55 percent clay, 30 percent sand and 15 percent silt. This same dirt is used to build mounds, home plate and base paths. We use Turface All Sport Pro as a top conditioner on all dirt surfaces and Hill Topper mound clay to fill mound holes.
Does the dirt go through some type of sifter to remove any rocks or pebbles?
We screen our dirt through a 4-foot by 8-foot piece of 1/8-inch square mesh stainless steel wire cloth that is framed by two-by-fours.
Prior to baseball games what type of utility vehicle and grate is used to drag the field?
We drag the infield with a John Deere 1200A Field Rake with the narrow tine scarifier and 60-feet Field Finisher. We pull our finish screen drag behind the machine to achieve our final grade.
What type of hose is used and about how many gallons of water are used to spray the infield prior to baseball games?
We use a 3/4 inch, 250 psi booster hose. The amount of water varies from night to day games and I don’t have accurate figures on this output.
Is the infield also prepared and dragged prior to football games?
Yes, the infield goes through the same process as baseball prior to us painting the dirt infield.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Day to day, it has to be managing the infield dirt, soft/firm, wet/dry–it has to be exactly right. Overall, the most challenging aspect of my job is definitely the dual-sport overlap in August, September and hopefully October.
The nail drags are pulled by hand to keep them off the grass edges and allows for dragging the dirt when still reasonably wet.
McAfee Coliseum (formerly Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum) Oakland, Calif.
Tenants: Oakland Athletics (AL); Oakland Raiders (NFL)
First A's game: April 17, 1968
Capacity (baseball): 50,000—1968; 49,649—1977; 50,255—1981; 50,219—1983; 50,255—1985; 50,219—1986; 49,219—1987; 50,219—1988; 49,219—1989; 48,219—1990; 47,450—1991; 47,313—1992; 48,219—1996.
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (1966); HNTB (1996).
Construction: Guy F. Atkinson Company (1966); Tutor-Saliba (1996)
Owner: City of Oakland and Alameda County.
Cost: $25.5 million (1966); $200 million (1996 renovations).
Location: Center field (NE), San Leandro Street and Southern Pacific Railroad tracks; third base (NW), 66th Avenue; home plate (SW), Nimitz Freeway (I-880); first base (SE), Hegenberger Road.
Dimensions: Foul lines—330; power alleys—378 (1968), 375 (1969), 372 (1981), 375 (current); center field—410 (1968), 400 (1969), 396 (1981), 397 (1982), 400 (1990); backstop—90 (1968), 60 (1969); foul territory—Largest in majors.
Fences: 8 ft. (plywood, 1968); 10 ft. (canvas over plywood and plexiglass, 1981); 8 ft. (1986); 8 ft. in left, center and right fields, 16 ft. in the power alleys (1996).