Whether they’re set to host an important golf tournament, soccer match or baseball game, the most hallowed grounds in sport share one thing in common: really beautiful grass. This grass provides just the right surface for top competitors to show off their talents and achieve the highest honors in their sports. Some grounds, like Augusta or Wrigley, go beyond the grass - both stadiums have unique plants which provide them a signature charm.
Here’s a look at the groundskeeping and technology used at some of the most famous sports complexes around the world.
Augusta National Golf Club, the 345-acre home of the Masters Golf Tournament, is highly committed to environmentally-friendly practices. Almost no pesticides are used on the course, which consists of Bermuda grass over-seeded with rye in the fall. The greens, trees, shrubs and flowers are watered by hand to conserve water. Even the parking lot surfaces have been left unpaved, to maintain the habitats for ground-nesting birds.
In Green Bay, Wisconsin, challenging weather conditions have necessitated creative groundskeeping practices at the famous Lambeau Field. The playing surface for the Green Bay Packers consists of Kentucky bluegrass, mixed with 20 million individually-stitched synthetic fibers. Lambeau also features a sub-soil heating system of anti-freeze tubes beneath its grass to keep the surface game-ready in cold weather. (It would likely be easier to play indoors - but cold temperatures have proven a strong home-field advantage for the Packers.)
The Melbourne Cricket Ground, in Melbourne, Australia, hosts soccer, rugby, Australian rules football games and, naturally, cricket. It’s the 10th largest stadium in the world, with 20,000 square meters of turf. The grass is mowed to 10 mm for cricket matches, 28 mm for other sports and benefits from the same grow lighting system used at Lambeau Field.
While Centre Court at the All England Club is used only two weeks of the year, during the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, its grass surface is given serious attention. A team of experts evaluates more than 100 varieties of ryegrass on a replica court surface, and the rye selected is mowed at least once a day to the desired length of 8 mm.
Perhaps the most famous baseball field in the world, Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, went through major changes in 2007. The entire playing surface was removed and lowered 14 inches for better dugout views, and a new 6,000-foot drainage system was installed. The famous ivy adorning the outfield walls is called Boston Ivy or Japanese creeper. Most recently the outside of Wrigley Field has been updated with new outdoor bars, merchandise booths, and outdoor planters.
In Egham, England, the Guards Polo Club uses 100% ryegrass on its 130 acres. Groundskeepers keep more than 88,000 pounds of divot mixture available each season, to repair divots left by horses. Quite uncharacteristic of the other grounds on this list, Guards fields are open to the public whenever matches aren’t being played.
One of the most revolutionary venues on the list, the Sapporo Dome in Japan actually has a retractable playing surface that can be removed from the stadium, depending on the sport to be played that day. The Sapporo Dome primarily hosts baseball games and soccer matches. For soccer there is a natural grass surface, and for baseball, the stadium features an artificial turf surface.