The first preseason game of the inaugural season at Cardinals Stadium is less than two months away and work continues to rapidly progress on the Cardinals new home in the West Valley.
Over the past couple of weeks, routine tests and maintenance have been conducted on the 17-million pound field tray which holds the natural grass playing surface for the stadium. The contractors and engineers are nearing the end of a 30 day process to commission the field and on Wednesday the field was moved all the way inside of the stadium in front of several local media members.
“Two weeks ago we did some small moving and then at one point we moved the tray halfway into the stadium,? said Bob Aylesworth, Executive Vice President of Hunt Construction. “We were doing some initial mechanization back checks which included some alignment verification and things went well.?
In the following days, work continued as stadium workers moved the field tray all the way inside of the building.
“What we did is we cycled the field,? continued Aylesworth. “By that I mean we moved it in and out, kind of like you are doing a lap in your pool. It is part of the whole process that will conclude in mid-June when we have the field fully commissioned. It’s a technical process of getting something ready to go. It is pretty rigorous, very technical and a lot of engineering.?
The unique rollout natural-grass playing field is contained in a single tray measuring 234 feet wide and 403 feet long. It is the first completely retractable field in the United States and will be positioned inside the stadium on game days to offer the preferred natural-grass playing surface for football. It will remain outside the stadium for the remaining 350+ days of the year to receive sunlight and watering.
CMX Sports Engineers of Phoenix has overseen the turf installation on behalf of Hunt Construction Group.
“This is not just cool, it is way cool,? said Michael Lloyd, President of CMX Sports Engineering. “We have a longstanding relationship with the Cardinals. Win or lose I’m one of their biggest fans but more importantly one of our first projects in this industry was helping them design their Tempe Training Facility. Then we were the engineers that renovated Sun Devil Stadium prior to Super Bowl XXX and then the Cards asked us to come back and help with the new stadium.?
The field tray is also powered by electronic motors mounted on steel wheels riding on tracks embedded in the concrete floor and takes approximately 45-60 minutes to completely move into place. The flexibility of this unique design allows Cardinals Stadium to serve as a true multi-purpose venue featuring a 160,000 square foot event floor for other prominent events such as NCAA Final Four basketball tournaments, trade and consumer shows, conventions, concerts, motor sports, and rodeos.
Tests on the distinctive tray will carry on in the coming days as the opening of Cardinals Stadium nears.
“Some days we will move it a little and some days we won’t move it at all,? added Aylesworth. “We’ll continue to cycle it some days, but it is a whole laborious, technical process at the end of which the contractors and engineers are comfortable that it works to meet the expectations of everybody.?
Thus far the engineers and design team are pleased with the way things have turned out and do not foresee any issues.
“This is by far the most interesting and exciting project,? proclaimed Lloyd. “From the drawing board, trying to figure out how to get the field in and out with the design team, and just being a part of it. This is the first one piece movable field in the states and to be a part of it is exciting.?
In addition to hosting Cardinals games, the stadium will host Super Bowl XLII in February of 2008 (www.azsuperbowl.com). It will also be the annual site of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and will host the first-ever Bowl Championship Series title game in January of 2007. The stadium will have a seating capacity of approximately 63,000 with the ability to expand to 73,000 for mega-events.
There must be some serious advantages to having natural grass if the Cardinals were willing to spend tens of millions of dollars in having a "field tray" of natural grass that can move out of the dome to get sunlight.