Spartans go to the Olympics – not on the field, but with the field

06/01/04



ATHENS, GREECE – MSU know-how is bringing a little myth-like magic to the summer games.

At least it sounds like something Zeus could cook up – a field of lush, sturdy turf springing up where acres of asphalt once stood. Michigan State turf experts are helping the Olympics create a portable athletic field within four days.

The portable field is another generation of MSU expertise, the cousin of the first indoor pitch for the 1994 World Cup at the Pontiac Silverdome, and the moveable field in MSU's Spartan Stadium.

John N. "Trey" Rogers, professor of crop and soil sciences, says MSU this time was challenged with the Olympics of turf science – moving in approximately 6,000 modules of turf into the Olympian stadium after the Aug. 13 opening ceremonies to be ready for the games to begin Aug. 17.

High-level security will add to the challenge.

"The difference this time is that it's an opening ceremony that's driving the job," Rogers said. "But a portable field clearly is the solution, and people have gained confidence in us."

Like Spartan Stadium the Olympian Stadium has a sunken floor. MSU experts – including James Crum, professor of crop and soil sciences – have been working for months designing root zones and recommending appropriate grasses that are tough enough to withstand the rigors of soccer and field events, as well as the scorching Greek summers.

Bermuda grass is the trick, Rogers said.

Graduate student Matt Anderson traveled to Greece April 20 to assist in field construction in a remote area similar to Spartan stadium field) and will stay through the games to oversee the move-in details. Tim VanLoo, a senior, will join Matt in late June to assist in a practice run of moving modules into the stadium.VanLoo also will return to Athens in August.Rogers will go to Athens in June as well.

The MSU team is working with GreenTech, the Richmond, Va.,-based module manufacturer as consultants on the project.

"It is important that this field perform for the games obviously, but this field will also stay in the stadium after the Olympics," Rogers said. This will be the stadium field for the nation."

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