ST. LOUIS – Snow, freezing rain, sub-freezing temperatures—all have been in the forecast. So how is St. Louis CITY SC growing new grass during the heart of St. Louis winter? It is all thanks to science.
Josh McPherson is the director of stadium grounds at CITYPARK, home of St. Louis CITY SC. With the team’s home opener one month away, his job is to get the natural grass pitch ready despite winter’s ups and downs.
“When the ownership decided to start the club, not only did they start the club, but they are going to give us the tools to be successful,” McPherson said.
The team uses Northbridge Bermuda grass, which is perfect for summer heat, but hates winter cold.
“We’re able to manipulate the environment to try to get the grass ready for us when it doesn’t want to be,” McPherson said.
Grow lights, popular with European football teams, promote growth in areas of the field hit by winter’s shadows.
“The part here in the south end that has no sunlight, really since November. Verses here in north end, where we get quite a bit,” McPherson said. “How do we get equal growth rate so that when the ball is rolling, it is actually consistent.”
Grow covers protect the Bermuda grass from freezing temperatures.
“We create a greenhouse effect. This morning, we had ice on top of the covers here. The grass itself was all thawed out, and we were able to walk across it,” McPherson said.
They even have in-ground heating coils to adjust the field temperature.
“Right now, I’ve got the temperature set at 90 degrees. And we’re trying to go through 10 inches of sand with that 90 degrees,” McPherson said. “So that give us a 60-degree temp at field level. That gives us an environment where we can grow grass.”
All that effort, all that technology just so fans can be wowed just as much by the lush green of the pitch as they are by the city red clad players when the team takes on Charlotte on March 4.
“I hope when they step over the stands, they see that flash of green. They get all excited to see that we have a natural grass surface in St. Louis in the winter,” McPherson said.