The Washington Football Team surprised the entire National Football League last season by not only getting into the playoffs in a close NFC East Division, but by coming within a touchdown of beating the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Heading into the 2022 season, the team completed a major renovation of its home stadium, FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland. Much like the sport of football itself, the game plan and design of the irrigation and sod project was vital before the team’s on-field success.
After installing drainage, the design team looked to soil quality, says Pete Benevento, director of grounds and turf for the Washington Football Team. The Washington Football Team conducted a lot of particle size analysis tests in the offseason that gave data to what they were seeing on the field. The test showed they had fine and very fine sands in the root zones, leading to poor conductivity of water.
“Our original irrigation system was on a block pattern which is not very conducive to watering certain areas when needed,” says Benevento. “It is also very hard to water the field when we would be installing new sod. That design led to a lot of hand watering with hoses and manpower.”
The team installed a sprinkler system that could cover the grass with 360-degree range, using eight zones to cover the NorthBridge Bermuda grass field and four additional zones for the areas that surround the play area, he says. The system update included a controller with network capabilities for remote control and new sprinkler heads and valves.
Benevento says the entire operation ran smoothly overall. Once three-fourths of the field was removed they started laying in the irrigation lines followed by drain and collector lines. As the field was laid out, they began the infill with the new rootzone and continued the process across the field. After that, Benevento and his team laser-graded it to a 1% crown and started to pack the rootzone in to firm it up and get it ready for sod.
“The only real obstacle that we did not forecast is the location of the heat system manifold in one corner,” says Benevento. “We had original drawings showing it closer to the retaining wall, and it was in the rootzone in line with our collector lines. Once we saw it, we were able to adjust the collector line about three weeks and kept running it. It has been a very successful project.”