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Replacement sod set for Gillette Stadium

BOSTON (Oct. 17, 2006) -- The New England Patriots will start replacing the worn-out center strip of the Gillette Stadium field with sod on Oct. 25 and play on it in their next home game 11 days later, the NFL official in charge of fields said.

Tim Davey, the league's director of game operations, said he spoke to "a very high authority" in the Patriots organization Oct. 16.

"They're all set for grass. They're getting sod brought in" from a Delaware turf farm, Davey said in a telephone interview.

The Patriots' next home game at Gillette Stadium is Nov. 5 against Indianapolis. Davey said the process of removing the old sod and putting in new sod should take two or three days. The new section will be installed between the on-field numbers that designate yard lines.

In recent years, several teams have switched from natural grass to FieldTurf, a synthetic substance with long green fibers. It has sand for stability and small rubber chips for softness added to it. Davey said the Patriots can't do that this year because an NFL rule forbids teams from changing from natural grass to an artificial surface during the season.

At Gillette Stadium, the section between the hash marks running from goal line to goal line has had much less grass all season than the rest of the surface. Runners have kicked up dirt while carrying the ball. In the last game there Oct. 8, Miami kicker Olindo Mare missed a field goal attempt when his left foot slipped and he fell on his back.

"We're committed to improve the field and considering all options short- and long-term," Patriots spokesman Stacey James said.

The Kraft family, owner of the Patriots and Gillette Stadium, opened the field for the 2002 season as a multipurpose venue. The New England Revolution of MLS has played 17 home games there since April 30. Kenny Chesney had a concert there July 16 and the Rolling Stones performed there Sept. 20. Large stages and on-field seating damaged the playing surface.

The Patriots played two exhibition games there in August and, so far, three of their eight home regular-season games.

The turf replacement can't start until the end of filming for the movie, The Game Plan, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kyra Sedgwick. Davey said that's scheduled to end Oct. 24.

"I will be up there to make sure" the installation is done properly, he said.

The field has heating pipes beneath it. By keeping the temperature near the freezing point at night, the new turf would become more compact. That and going over the surface with large rolling machinery should reduce the seams where the new turf ends and make the hardness of the entire field more consistent.

Davey also was at Gillette on Jan. 1, 2004, when the middle section was replaced with turf before the playoffs. That process took about three days, he said.

The Patriots have natural grass on their two practice fields and FieldTurf on their indoor practice field, all adjacent to Gillette Stadium.

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