SANTA CLARA –- The 49ers are working with a different supplier of sod to get Levi’s Stadium in playing shape for Sunday’s exhibition game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Evergreen Turf of Chandler, Ariz., which also supplies the playing field for the Cardinals’ University of Phoenix Stadium, installed the grass surface that will be used for one game, the company revealed Friday via its Twitter account.
The 49ers have confirmed the new supplier, but their relationship with West Coast Turf of Stevinson (Merced County) will continue. West Coast Turf may be the supplier for the next complete re-sodding of Levi’s Stadium for the regular-season opener on Monday, Sept. 14, against the Minnesota Vikings.
“The 49ers are working with various partners with different plots of sod in order to make sure we have the best turf available to install when needed,” a team official told CSNBayArea.com.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and owner Jerry Jones have both expressed concerns about the playing conditions at Levi’s Stadium.
“This is interesting,” Jones said on Dallas radio station KRLD-FM via the Dallas Morning News. “We’re going up here to a great new stadium where we’re going to have the Super Bowl, and we’ve got field problems,” Jones said. “And this field is really causing us to have to look at what we’re going to do during the game because of the challenges of this turf not taking hold.
“It reminds me of what we did down in Mexico City. If you all remember those clumps as big as softballs. Just huge, big clumps out there. I can’t believe when I look back on it that we kept playing in Mexico City.”
Following Friday’s practice in Oxnard, Jones downplayed his own remarks. But he did suggest the Cowboys would be more likely to hold out players who could be on the cusp of returning from injuries.
The problems with the playing surface at Levi’s Stadium began last summer when then-coach Jim Harbaugh pulled his team off the field during a public practice due to safety concerns. The 49ers determined the cause of the problem was an inadequate composition for the soil-sand base under the sod. The base was too loose and caused the sod to, in essence, roll when under the strain of football players making swift cuts.
The 49ers planned to hold their first eight practices of training camp at Levi’s Stadium this summer. However, after practice on Aug. 5, the 49ers canceled an open practice for approximately 20,000 fans due to poor field conditions.
That sod has since been removed, as planned, after the second of two Taylor Swift concerts last Saturday night. Team officials believe the previous shipment of grass at Levi’s Stadium did not have the proper root structure within the mud that anchors the sod atop the soil-sand base. The roots of the grass spread out horizontally, rather than growing straight down through the mud, the official said.
The early diagnosis of the current field, which was installed Tuesday and Wednesday, is that the roots structure should hold up as designed for Sunday's game, the official added.
Regardless of the effectiveness of the new grass, it is destined for a brief stay at Levi’s Stadium. The flooring for country-music star Luke Bryan’s concert is scheduled to be installed on Monday. After the concert next Saturday, the 49ers will begin installing a new surface for the beginning of the regular season. There are no other concerts scheduled for Levi's Stadium through Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7.