SANTA CLARA -- After just three events, including one NFL game on sod that was installed in mid-April at $1.2 billion Levi’s Stadium, the field is undergoing some major repair.
Coach Jim Harbaugh abruptly halted practice Wednesday at the 49ers’ new stadium in front of thousands of fans and took his team off the field due to safety concerns from poor field conditions.
On Thursday morning, the stadium’s the heavy-traffic area of grass, stretching several yards beyond the hashmarks, was torn out from goal line to goal line. The 49ers plan is to re-sod the field so it can provide solid enough footing for Sunday’s exhibition game against the San Diego Chargers. (UPDATE: All of the grass from sideline-to-sideline and goal line to goal line was torn out to be replaced by new sod.)
Several players lost their footing and large divots were created on seemingly every play. There were small patches of replacement sod that were discolored and looked uneven. Finally, when wide receiver Stevie Johnson hit the ground hard after slipping on a routine out-route, Harbaugh stopped practice.
On Wednesday, the 49ers issued a statement, which stated the organization “determined the appropriate measures necessary to have the field ready for Sunday and look forward to hosting the San Diego Chargers.”
Team officials did not elaborate on what was planned, but images from a news helicopter flying over Levi’s Stadium early Thursday morning provided the answer.
The Levi’s Stadium sod, known as Bandera Bermuda, was selected for its ability to hold up under frequent usage, the team announced at the time of its installation.
But after just one small concert event, a soccer match and an NFL game, the turf was considered unsafe for the 49ers on Wednesday to conduct a practice. The sod was installed in mid-April.
The field is scheduled to host a packed schedule of events leading up to the 49ers’ regular-season opener Sept. 14 against the Chicago Bears.
On Aug. 29, two high school football games are scheduled for Levi’s Stadium. And on Sept. 6, Mexico and Chile are set to have an international soccer match on the field. How the field holds up Sunday could determine whether alternate plans are made for those events.
It is not uncommon for entire football fields to be replaced on short notice. In January, the BCS Championship Game took place on an entirely new natural grass field in Pasadena just five days after the Rose Bowl was played.