The Story Behind Super Bowl Grass

Super bowl LVIII, San Francisco 49ers vs Kansas City Chiefs

When the Chiefs defeated the 49ers 25-22 in overtime in the first Las Vegas Super Bowl, they played on some super grass.

What was different this year:

Less slipping: Players, coaches, the NFL, and Taylor Swift (in the stands to cheer on her beau Travis Kelce) didn’t witness the players slipping on super slick turf like 2023’s big game.

California import: This year’s MVG was a Bermuda hybrid that traces its roots to a sod farm in California. It took 3 days to install it at Allegiant Stadium, where the super grass was rolled in on a giant tray. It takes about 90 minutes from start to finish.

Sin City’s first Super Bowl was viewed by 123.7 million in more than 190 countries and territories.

Every detail in every Super Bowl is painstakingly crafted, grass included.

How the tough turf is grown, how it gets to the Super Bowl stadium, and how the groundskeepers ensure it looks perfect make for a super story.

Growing Super Bowl Grass

To have the best grass for Super Bowl Sunday, the process of growing it began 18-24 months in advance. (Not-so-super sod typically takes 12-14 months to go from seed to harvest.) 

Depending on where the championship game is being played, the grass is typically grown in Alabama, Georgia, or California. This year the green grass is from the Golden State.

Creating the perfect turf is an intricate and detailed process. The grass is grown on a plastic base with very little soil and sand, allowing the roots to intertwine and strengthen the base. This makes it easier to transport and transplant.

When we’re talking about 100,000 square feet of sod (give or take 10,000), moving it from farm to field is no easy task. It’s rolled, wrapped, and loaded into 30 or so refrigerated trucks that move it to its new location. 

Super Bowl Surface History by the Year

Super BowlYearTurfGrass
51971Poly turf
61972Poly turf
81974Astro turf
91975Astro turf
281994Astro turf
402006Field turf
422008x (retractable)
462012Field turf
472013Sport turf
482014Field turf
512017Hellas Construction to install its Matrix Turf with Helix Technology.
522018Sport turf
532019Field turf
552021x (Tifway 419 Bermuda)
562022Hellas Construction's synthetic Matrix® Turf
572023x (Tahoma 31 Bermuda)
582024x Bermuda hybrid

Keeping Grass Green Before Game Time 

So, how does the grass always look immaculate for Super Bowl Sunday? A few weeks before the big game, the previous grass is torn out, the foundation is leveled with a laser, and the new grass arrives and is laid out. 

The turf at Allegiant Stadium is placed on a retractible tray that weighs over 9,000 tons. It’s kept outside to be watered and soak up the Las Vegas sun until it’s game time.

George Toma, aka “The Sodfather,” longtime groundskeeper who worked his 57th and final Super Bowl last year, told “The most important part of the sod is the soil it’s grown on and the root system of it.” 

Growing Super Bowl grass is obviously a challenge because people expect both aesthetics and performance, which is supremely difficult to perfect. 

Doug Lipscomb, co-owner of Bent Oak Farms in Foley, Alabama, which has supplied the turf for several Super Bowl games, told “A lot of fields look good and play bad. A lot look bad and play well. It’s kind of hard to put everything in one package.”

Caring for Super Bowl Grass 

West Coast Turf provided the grass for this year’s Super Bowl and nine previous Super Bowl game. The super grass gets loads of TLC — its own blankets, rain tarps, special diet … whatever it takes to keep it perfect, that’s what West Coast provides.

So what happened last year that made the grass not so perfect? Toma told ESPN that it was overwatered and didn’t get enough sun. He said there wasn’t enough sand in the tray to absorb the water, and when the tarps were laid over it to protect it from half-time show rehearsals, it began to rot.

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick, said I’m not going to lie, it was the worst field that I’ve ever played on.”

What was different this year? The NFL’s Jeff Miller, executive vice president for player health and safety, said, “The surface has been nurtured from the sod farm all the way to the Super Bowl. Its maintenance in Vegas is measured by a series of different tools and metrics.”

What Happens to the Grass After the Game?

It would be a shame to think that over 2 acres of glorious grass would be torn out and trashed after being run around on for just a few hours. 

Sure, that grass gets a good pounding from the 22 roughly 250-pound men pummeling it for four hours (not to mention the half-time show stages and props), but tough turf was made for that, right? 

So, what happens to that grass after the Super Bowl champions are crowned? Super Bowl fields are taken out, strip by strip, and repurposed. In 2020, for example, the super sod was repurposed for use on a track at a horse farm and as a filler in a plant nursery.

Natural Turf is Preferred by Players

Even with hiccups like last year’s slippery grass, natural turf is still popular among football teams and stadiums. Currently, NFL’s stadiums are split evenly between grass and artificial turf, and two use a hybrid version.

The jury is out on whether natural grass or artificial turf is better –– there’s a lot to consider. Maintenance, durability, injuries, and cost are only a few of the factors that go into making the decision. The NFL Players Association surveyed its players ahead of this year’s big game and found 92% prefer to play on Mother Nature’s grass.

At LawnStarter, we side with the players. You can’t beat walking on real, living grass whether it’s on a stadium with roughly 110 million people watching, or at home in your backyard in your bare feet. The feeling is, well, super. 

Writer Alex Birkett contributed to this story.

Main Photo Credit: Background: Marcus Millo / Canva Pro / License, SF Logo: San Francisco 49ers, User:Stepshep / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain, KS Logo: Original: Kansas City Chiefs, SVG-Version: Lommes / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

Alissa Cassidy

Alissa Cassidy

Alissa is a writer for LawnStarter, and while she may not have a green thumb, she enjoys writing and reading about nature, plants, gardening, and lawn care. When she's not writing for LawnStarter, you can find her spending time with her husband and three boys, working out, or studying for her master's degree.