Thursday, September 17, 2009

U2 in Spartan Stadium

For over a week now, there have been rumors circulating that U2 will perform in Spartan Stadium on July 8th, 2010. The U2 blog has done a good job of researching this possibility, breaking down the evidence from the websites StubHub and Eventful. The date was after Spring Football ends, and well before the actual season, so it didn't bother or excite me much. But then one thought crept into my mind.

"What about the football field?"

A concert can do major damage to grass. It doesn't have to do damage, and doesn't always do damage, but it can. There are so many factors involved with an outdoor concert that even with all precautions to prevent damage, the risk cannot be reduced to zero. If you are having a hard time following me, just think about driving a semi truck through a field after a big rain storm.

If you're still not with me, look at the Chicago Bears. Two concerts in Solider Field last weekend did so much damage, the entire field needed to be re-sodded before this weekends home opener. The band that did the damage? U2.

I tried to remember the last major non-football events in Spartan Stadium, and how they affected the field. The Rolling Stones performed there once, way back in 1994. The Cold War hockey game in 2001 certainly could have torn up a field like a concert. But neither of those damaged the field at all, because natural grass wasn't introduced until 2002.

Now I began to get worried, because while I am a big music fan (my friends know that my dream was to someday see Michael Jackson perform in Spartan Stadium), I am a football fan first, and would never want to compromise the field turf for a concert.

That was when the thought of removing the grass for a concert crossed my mind. After all, the field in Spartan Stadium is not just some basic grass field. According to Sports Illustrated back in 2002, the field is made up of 4,800 grass modules.

"The major benefits of a modular field include rapid drainage, air exchange and forced heating capabilities. If a section of the field gets damaged, the individual modules can be replaced in a few hours, The Detroit News reported.

When each of the sections are locked in place, Michigan State will have its first grass football playing surface since 1968, according to the Lansing State Journal. About 1,200 replacement modules will be ready at all times."
Not only does this suggest that the field modules could be replaced if damaged, but intuitively would suggest that they could be removed to prevent damage. These were the questions I put to MSU athletics this week.

According to Greg Ianni, MSU Senior Associate Athletic Director for Facilities and Sports Management,
"While initially designed for potential removal, the field modules in Spartan Stadium would not be removed for a concert. Should a concert be held in the stadium, we would protect the field as best we can and evaluate after move out, if the field can be saved. If it is beyond repair, we would have it replaced, at a cost of around $200,000."
So there you have it. If U2 does come, they may end up damaging the field. I have to assume that any agreement MSU would make to have this concert would have the potential costs of field replacement being covered by concert promoters and insurance as opposed to simply risk taking that big of a hit on the facilities budget. But is it worth the risk?

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