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When sod meets man: Kenan Stadium gets grass field for Chelsea vs. Wrexham game

sod kenan-2.jpg

Natural grass is installed in Kenan Stadium on July 12, 2023, ahead of a match between British soccer teams Chelsea and Wrexham on July 19.

Kenan Stadium is temporarily getting a natural grass field for the first time since 2019 in preparation for a July 19 match between British soccer teams Chelsea and Wrexham.

The project includes 88,000 square feet of sod installed on top of the existing artificial turf by a team of about 50 employees of Carolina Green, an athletic fields company that installed the artificial turf in Kenan in 2019.

Carolina Green is based in Indian Trail, N.C., near Charlotte, and the sod was harvested around 4 a.m. on Wednesday. About 30 trucks transported the 600 rolls of new grass to Chapel Hill. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency's gas equivalency calculator, the emissions from the fuel used by the trucks add up to about 14,300 pounds of coal burned, or the carbon sequestered by about 15 acres of forest every year.

The specific sod, Bermuda 419, takes four months to grow and is grown on plastic to ensure consistency on the playing surface.

Employees lay out sod in Kenan Stadium on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. Kenan Stadium will have a natural grass pitch for the match between Chelsea Football Club and Wrexham Association Football Club on July 19.

Crews began laying sod early Wednesday morning and will be done by Thursday afternoon. Ahead of next Wednesday's game, the grass will be mowed, fertilized, watered and painted.

"Keeping it wet is going to be a challenge with these temps," Casey Carrick, the Director of Athletic Grounds at UNC, said. "If we can get a really good thunderstorm in the afternoon or at night, that would be really helpful."

In order to protect the turf underneath, a black geotextile fabric is laid down and glued together. This layer allows water to drain out, but not sand or dirt from the sod. 

According to Chad Price, the president of Carolina Green, the sod that is being laid down is similar to those that grow in pots. This allows the grass to be played on almost immediately after it is laid down.

"It's much like a potted plant that you pull out, it's been in that pot a long time, the root systems intertwine and are hard to break apart," he said. "You have that sheer strength from that rebound effect."

Carolina Green uses two types of machines to lay their sod down — solid stone machines and the Sidekick. The stone machines roll out the grass, while the Sidekick machines push the grass together to ensure there are no openings or seams on the field. 

"We've sort of tweaked some of them (machines) with some NASCAR emblems or whatever, just to have a little fun," Price said. 

Following the match that will feature two of the most prominent soccer teams in the world, the sod will be removed and the turf will be cleaned to get rid of any debris left behind. Carrick said the whole process is "fairly simple."

Carrick said some of the sod used for the match could end up being placed in other places on campus or on UNC's golf course.

"The best case scenario is when no one notices the grass," Price said. "That's when we've done a good job – when there are no problems and everybody's happy."

@mdmaynard74 | @ethanehorton1

@dthsports |

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Ethan E. Horton

Ethan E. Horton is the 2023-24 city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a city & state assistant editor and as the 2023 summer managing editor. Ethan is a senior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and political science, with a minor in history.