When the Bucs begin the 2009 home season Monday, April 13, an entirely new playing surface will greet the players when they take the field against the Houston Astros at 1:35 p.m ET.
The project, which is scheduled to be completed by mid- to late-October, entails the complete replacement of the entire playing surface, including the infield and outfield grass, the infield dirt and the warning track. Even though the surface was replaced just three years ago prior to the 2006 season, when the Pirates hosted the All-Star Game, the Pirates are undertaking the complete replacement of the field to ensure that Pirate players and visiting clubs are playing on the finest surface in Major League Baseball when they play at PNC Park.
"While the lifespan of a Major League Baseball playing surface is typically four to eight years, it is important that PNC Park remains the best ballpark in America in every respect," said Pirates president Frank Coonelly. "We are committed to giving our fans the best in terms of ballpark amenities, customer service and atmosphere for watching a ballgame and giving our players the finest working conditions in baseball. Our three-year old field was still among the better playing surfaces in baseball, but our commitment to our fans and to our players is excellence -- and our new field will meet that high standard."
The new grass surface will be comprised of a Tuckahoe Bluegrass sod, which is a mix of four different kinds of Kentucky Bluegrass -- 40 percent P105 Kentucky Bluegrass, 20 percent Midnight Star Kentucky Bluegrass, 20 percent Brilliant Kentucky Bluegrass and 20 percent overseeded Moonlight Kentucky Bluegrass -- and was chosen because of its high quality pedigree that is ideal for Northern cities such as Pittsburgh.
The turf was hand-picked by Pirates director of field operations Manny Lopez and field maintenance supervisor Derek Hurlburt from a sod farm in New Jersey after visiting several farms in the Northeast and Midwest.
The infield dirt, also known as the "skin", will be replaced as well with new, darker dirt called Dura Edge All-Star Infield Mix. The mix, which will make for a smoother, truer infield, is a blend of several different kinds of dirt.
"The new infield mix is coming to us from a local company in Slippery Rock, Pa., called Natural Sand Company," said Lopez. "This mixture has been created exclusively for PNC Park, so it will be unlike any other infield surface in Major League Baseball."
Finally, the warning track, which is the 18-foot wide, dark red area that borders the entire field where the playing surface meets the wall, will be replaced with new crushed lava rock.
According to Coonelly, the design of the infield will be modified to include unique baselines and first- and third- base and home-plate cutouts, which will provide both functional and aesthetic improvements to the layout.
Consistent with their "Let's Go Bucs. Let's Go Green." campaign, the Pirates have worked closely with the City of Pittsburgh Public Works Department to ensure that the old field surface does not go to waste. The city will recycle all of the old dirt and sod by using it at different baseball fields and parks throughout the city which are in need of upgrades.