December isn't the prime growing season in Ohio. The lawnmowers are stowed for the winter. The leaves are off the trees. The miles of farmland are barren. It's cold and dark. It's in these conditions that Columbus Crew SC is still hard at work at keeping the MAPFRE Stadium pitch in top playing shape.
Recently named the best professional soccer field in the nation by the Sports Turf Managers Association, the MAPFRE pitch is the best in the business. It hosts dozens of soccer matches, football games, and concerts. Now it hosts MLS Cup in December.
Keeping the turf optimal shape in the cold gloom of late fall takes extensive work. The groundskeeping crew for the team has been documenting their work on twitter at @GroundsCrewSC.
That includes taking off the blanket that has been keeping the cold away from the field. Overnight temperatures have hovered near freezing in recent days.
And getting the grass used to the open air once again.
Director of Grounds Weston Appelfeller gave an interview earlier this week with the Ohio State agriculture department on the additional effort that his team puts in leading up to game day. The field was fertilized, seed was placed down at the goalmouths, with even more work beginning now that game day is three days away.
With the blanket off, the crew will roll, mow to 15/16 inches twice a day, and paint lines on Sunday. After the game, they'll try to treat any damage they can before winter. The pristine field at MAPFRE, and the crew that keeps it that way, will be busy again the spring Appelfeller told Sports Illustrated. The U.S. Men's National Team will be coming in March.
You can listen to the Massive Report Podcast interview with Appelfeller from July here.