Bears, SMG Create Committee To Address Soldier Field Turf Issues
The Bears and Soldier Field management company SMG "have formed a 'field committee' to prevent another debacle like last week’s cancellation of an open practice for fans because the sod hadn’t been watered sufficiently," according to John Byrne of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. SMG Dir of Sponsorship & Media Luca Serra said that the field committee "first met over the weekend to make sure the right steps were being taken to get the grass ready for the Bears’ first preseason game Saturday." Serra said that Soldier Field GM Tim LeFevour, Bears Senior Dir of Administration John Bostrom, groundskeepers and SMG "will continue consulting with each other going forward to make sure both sides are satisfied with the care of the grass." The development comes as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel yesterday said that he "expects the Chicago Park District to make sure the grass at the lakefront facility is up to snuff" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/10). Emanuel said that he "has directed the Chicago Park District to find a permanent solution to the decades-long turf battle at Soldier Field." Asked who he holds responsible for the last-minute cancellation of Friday's Family Fest, Emanuel said, "I’m not looking right now (for someone to) blame. I’m looking (for) a solution. Different people and different parties have different ideas on this. I expect them to come up with a solution." In Chicago, Fran Spielman notes the "question now is whether Emanuel is prepared to pressure the Bears to make the switch to artificial turf on grounds that it would be less costly for Chicago taxpayers" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/10). The Chicago Tribune's David Haugh said, "It’s a city-owned building and I know (Emanuel's) got a lot on his plate -- a lot more important things than football -- but the Bears are more than football to a lot of people in this city." Haugh: "The Chicago Park District has a responsibility to have a safe playing surface for the Bears and the teams that play the Bears. Friday night was a joke. It can't be joke on Saturday. It can't be a joke going forward" ("Chicago Tribune Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 8/10).
TURF IS GREENER? Bears Chair George McCaskey said that "it's an organizational decision to play on grass." He said that the "chief concern is player safety, noting that there aren’t any studies that support that grass isn’t the safest playing surface for football." In Chicago, Sean Jensen notes the Bears are "among a diminishing number of northern-climate football teams -- pro or college -- to still play on grass," which typically "becomes a challenge to grow by mid-October." Jensen writes, "They need FieldTurf. A change will benefit everyone involved, from the Bears to the Chicago Park District to the taxpayers, who ultimately foot the bill" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/10). Also in Chicago, David Haugh writes, "Until the Bears can feel more confident in their landlord, the responsible choice for them avoids unnecessary risk." That means sitting RB Matt Forte for Saturday's preseason game, and "perhaps other important offensive skilled-position veterans familiar with the offense." The game "won't mean a thing unless somebody gets injured." Perhaps by their "last home exhibition Sept. 1 everything, including the sod, will be more settled" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/10).