The ongoing drought in California has claimed another victim, as the San Jose Earthquakes were told earlier today by state water officials that the lush grass field at Avaya Stadium will need to be replaced with artificial turf before the end of April. It seems that the first cloud-enabled stadium in professional sports has been unable to provide its own precipitation.
The mandate out of Sacramento came as somewhat of a surprise to Quakes officials, who were still celebrating the opening of the facility last month and are now left scrambling to come up with a plan for exchanging the playing field ahead of a busy month of games scheduled at their brand new home.
"We had originally thought that part of making Avaya Stadium a cloud-enabled facility was that the problems posed by the drought in California could be solved," said a stadium representative. "Unfortunately, to bring rain to our parched state, there isn't an app for that."
The first task at hand is to take out the meticulously maintained pitch that Earthquakes groundskeepers have curated through a very dry winter. Already, interest from the Portland Timbers in buying the current grass field has come in, given that city's more rainy climate and desire to get rid of its own bone-crushing fake turf. Newly announced MLS franchise Minnesota United FC has also inquired about the Quakes field, and San Jose officials are excited to help out their northern neighbor.
"We have the best playing surface in the league," said one high-ranking Earthquakes official, "so we don't want to see it torn up and left for dead. Portland and Minneapolis provide a pair of attractive offers to allow our special blend of California grass to benefit those outside of our drought-ridden region."
California water board officials had hoped that even a small amount of precipitation would make its way to San Jose and the Avaya Stadium field could be saved, but in the last month, the best Mother Nature has provided was a 2-minute hailstorm that blew through town on the same afternoon the Earthquakes played the LA Galaxy in a preseason contest.
"Normally, an event such as a hailstorm would provide ample water for such a large grass surface," said water board commissioner Engañar D'Arvil, "but on that particular afternoon, Earthquakes fans scooped up much of the precious ice, water that would have sustained the field for many weeks, and used it to cool down the drinks they had purchased at the in-stadium Longest Outdoor Bar in North America.
"As a result, we had no choice but to request that San Jose make the playing surface switch."
The trend in Major League Soccer has been for teams to move to natural grass fields, and when Avaya Stadium officially opened on March 22, league commissioner Don Garber commented on how it represented the model for other new soccer stadiums moving forward. The necessary switch to turf will certainly put a dent in Avaya Stadium's reputation as the best stadium in all of MLS.
However, not everyone in San Jose is upset by the upcoming change, as the team's equipment manager explained that playing on an artificial turf surface would not only save water on the field, but it would also allow him to save water in the clubhouse.
"Grass stains on the players' uniforms is an especially big problem for us," he said. "Natural grass leaves behind a mess that often takes two, or even three, washing cycles to completely remove. The move to turf is a win-win in terms of water conservation."
The April 1 edict to change out the Avaya Stadium grass has put team groundskeepers in a bind as well. Securing enough artificial turf at this time of year, especially as California residents from San Diego to San Francisco swap out their own lawns for the fake stuff, will definitely be a challenge; however, the club has reached out to local sources to make sure the field transition goes off without a hitch.
"We walked across the street from the stadium and bought every last roll of artificial turf on sale at Lowe's," shared one groundskeeper. "It should be enough to patch together a field, though we may be forced to narrow the field dimensions somewhat. The good news is that we received the go ahead from Dominic [Kinnear] to stitch it up to be 110 by 68 yards, and we have enough carpet for that."
What do you think of the foolish news that the Quakes will convert Avaya Stadium to a turf field? How do you think the team will play with such foolishly narrow dimensions? Perhaps you have some not so foolhardy advice on how to get the rain to return to California? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
(Psst. April Fools Day, everyone!)