By Alan Snel, LVSportsBiz.com Publisher/Writer
Longtime NFL groundskeeper and “Sodfather” George Toma, who has worked all 57 Super Bowls, told LVSportsBiz.com early Monday State Farm Stadium’s playing field could have used more sand and also took a pounding from halftime show rehearsals and extra seat installations during the week leading up to Sunday’s title game.
Toma’s comments came in response to players on both the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia teams who slipped on the turf during Super Bowl 57 won by the Chiefs, 38-35, in the final seconds of the game.
“I slipped a couple of times. I felt like I had a good pass rush, felt like I beat my man, try to turn the corner and couldn’t turn the corner,” Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick said. “Like I said, I’m not making excuses but you watch the film and you can see when I slipped. At the end of the day, they still won.”
Added Eagles tackle Jordan Mailata on the playing surface: “It was definitely subpar for sure, but we have to deal with the situation and the circumstances. We can’t control the field but we have to accept the reality of the situation . . . I’m not a grass expert, but it was slippery.”
Videos of Eagles placekicker Jake Elliott slipping on the turf on his plant leg while kicking off to the Chiefs drew replays during Sunday’s TV broadcast, while fans commented on social media about players have footing problems throughout the title game.
“It could have used a little more sand, and with all the rehearsals, that pounded on the grass,” the 94-year-old Toma said after the game early today. “Otherwise, the field played pretty well.”
State Farm Stadium uses a retractable playing surface, which takes 70 minutes to roll in and out of the stadium thanks to 546 steel wheels resting on 13 railroad-style tracks. The playing surface sits in a 40-inch-deep tray.
Toma said the field could have used more time outside the venue to dry out. The Super Bowl turf was grown on a local sod farm starting in spring 2021.
“As far as the slippage, it did need a little more sand . . . The grass was brought in on Wednesday because they had rehearsals and they put in extra seats behind the goalpost,” Toma said in his down-to-earth speaking style.
“It was brought in on Wednesday and stayed in there Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday,” Toma said.
“With all the rehearsals, that’s pounding on the grass (and), it puts more moisture in there,” he said. “The field did take a beating from the entrance 30 feet wide and 60 feet long and it was kind of wet from pounding, pounding, pounding. A little more sand would have helped it. We couldn’t do much after Wednesday.”
Toma stressed to LVSportsBiz.com that he has a great working relationship with the rehearsal and event staffers at the stadium. “We’re one big family,” he said.
The legendary turf man and Pennsylvania native told a Scranton, Pennsylvania TV station a few days ago that he is calling it quits after Super Bowl 57 after working on the playing surfaces for every previous Super Bowl game dating back to 1967. “This is my last Super Bowl definitely, and I would like to see the youngsters carry on,” Toma, 94, told WNEP, an ABC affiliate. Toma loves the Chiefs, but he said he has a special fondness for the Philadelphia Eagles, too, because he’s from eastern Pennsylvania.
Toma noted Allegiant Stadium groundskeepers were at Super Bowl 57 in Glendale outside Phoenix to study the turf issues at the home of the Arizona Cardinals.
Toma is confident they will have the playing field at Allegiant Stadium in top condition when the domed stadium in Las Vegas hosts Super Bowl 58 on Feb. 11, 2024. Allegiant Stadium also has a retractable playing surface.
The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee passed the Super Bowl host baton to the Las Vegas Super Bowl Host Committee at the Phoenix Convention Center today.