Video: Basque Soccer Friendly Sod Finds New Home In Boise's Ann Morrison Park 

click to enlarge The sod used for the Albertsons Stadium during the Basque Soccer Friendly has now been transplanted into the soccer fields at Ann Morrison Park.

Jessica Murri

The sod used for the Albertsons Stadium during the Basque Soccer Friendly has now been transplanted into the soccer fields at Ann Morrison Park.

It took 85,000 square feet of sod to cover the blue turf of the Albertsons Stadium for the July 18 Basque Soccer Friendly. The sod, grown by Cloverdale Nursery, was installed atop 7,000 pieces of hard plastic panels and double-sided tarp to protect the blue turf underneath. For one full week, the iconic blue turf lay hidden under two-and-a-half-inch-thick Kentucky bluegrass, which had to be watered regularly.

After years of preparation, the match against the Basque soccer team Athletic Club de Bilbao and Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente, from Baja California, Mexico, finally played out on the evening of July 18. Athletic Bilbao defeated Club Tijuana 2-0.

The game ended and nearly 22,000 fans filtered out of the stadium, leaving behind the sod still covering the blue. That's where JB Instant Sod—the team that installed the sod for the match—came together with Boise Parks and Recreation and Precision Grading and Excavation out of Middleton, to do something pretty awesome with the grass that remained.

"The existing soccer fields [in Ann Morrison Park] were really out of grade," said Gunner Bradford, the owner of Precision Grading. "They were really pretty sorry as far as playable fields go."

His company tore the old sod out of Ann Morrison Park's two soccer fields, and prepared to lay the new sod from the Basque Soccer Friendly. It was trucked over the day after the game in 480 rolls, each weighing nearly 3,000 pounds.

The crews laid the sod for two full days on July 19 and 20, but the work started far before then. Bradford's company began the project two weeks ago to prepare the fields for the sod's delivery.

"We missed the game," he said. "We were out here working and getting it ready. The cuts [of sod] are exactly the same as what was installed in the stadium. They roll it out at the stadium, then they roll it back up, just like it's carpet."

click to enlarge The same sod in which Athletic Club de Bilbao now sits in Ann Morrison Park. - JARRETT MITCHELL
  • Jarrett Mitchell
  • The same sod in which Athletic Club de Bilbao now sits in Ann Morrison Park.
The days have been long—starting work around 6 a.m. and ending well past 10 p.m., but they're racing the clock before the grass starts to die in Boise's summer heat. They even had to start watering the grass halfway through the day as they laid it in its new home. Fork lifts and tractors put each sod roll in place, then a special machine comes and rolls it out like a giant Fruit by the Foot strip. The job requires a plethora of tillers, graders, tractors and rollers to create the new field. 

The strips of grass are still covered in the white paint that made up field lines during the game.

"I asked if the guys could lay it so that the stripes were still in the right spot," Bradford said with a laugh, "but no, they couldn't."

The lines won't last, though. Within three mows of the grass, Bradford said they'll be gone.

While this sod covers one whole field, the other field of sod will be installed next week, also grown from the Cloverdale Nursery. Of course, that one won't have the same prestige.

"World class players played on this sod," Bradford said. "And now we're recycling it. That's Boise, right?"

Basque Soccer Friendly organizer Argia Beristain told Boise Weekly she was especially excited for the sod to be used in Ann Morrison Park after the game. She said she hopes to someday see a plaque installed by the field, explaining from where it came.

"Then our local community will get to go play on the field that Athletic Bilbao and Club Tijuana played on," she said.

It'll take about a month and a tremendous amount of watering for the sod to knit together and take root in the ground. The fields will be fenced off until then.

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