Miami Dolphins

Dolphins install rare (and expensive) strain of grass in stadium

Topping out ceremony at New Miami Stadium

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross signs the last piece of steel before it is erected for the stadium canopy on Friday, July 29, 2016. He says the stadium's half-billion-dollar renovation project is right on schedule.
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Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross signs the last piece of steel before it is erected for the stadium canopy on Friday, July 29, 2016. He says the stadium's half-billion-dollar renovation project is right on schedule.

The super-synthetic strain of grass that rolled onto the Dolphins’ stadium field Tuesday didn’t exist a decade ago.

The turf is called Platinum TE Paspalum, a tough, shade-tolerant (and more expensive) vintage used more on golf courses than football fields.

On Monday, pallets of this elite sod arrived in South Florida from a grow farm in South Alabama via 27 truck beds. And on Tuesday, that sod reached its final destination:

The no-longer-rocky ground inside the Dolphins’ modernized stadium, a plot of land that just weeks ago was a parking lot for cranes.

Two-thirds of the field was put down Tuesday; the rest will go in Wednesday.

“Well, that’s exciting …” CEO Tom Garfinkel wrote on Twitter with a picture of the sod rolling in place.

Todd Boyan, the Dolphins’ senior vice president of stadium operations, was the point man on this project, one that began some 18 months ago. His task: find a NFL-compliant grass that can grow under a 14-acre shade canopy, the crown jewel of the half-billion-dollar renovation project.

Most grass, like the Bermuda that was used for decades at the stadium, needs direct sun exposure to grow. That won’t be possible with the canopy, particularly in the fall and winter months.

So Boyan had to find a new option, one safe and durable enough to withstand the rigors of an NFL season, that could grow in the shade, that could be mass-produced and that the players would enjoy cutting (and landing) on.

The Dolphins decided on Platinum TE Paspalum, a genetically modified strain that can grow on plastic, allowing for a tougher, longer-lasting roots. The Dolphins have been practicing on it at their Davie headquarters during training camp, and will play on it Sept. 1 — their first (and only) preseason home game.

“The players seem to like it,” Boyan said. “I think this is something that will definitely be received well.”

This week’s sod installation is just the latest sign that the renovation project will be done on time.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who is self-funding the project, pledged last week that the stadium would be ready by Sept. 1. The University of Miami’s home opener two days later will not be moved, either, the team insists.

On Monday, fans got a behind-the-scenes look at the progress. Via social media, Garfinkel posted a 360-degree photo from the stadium’s 50-yard line, which showed that work on the canopy is all but finished. Last Friday, construction workers signed the project’s final steel beam before lifting it into place.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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