They say the grass is always greener on the other side, and if you’re standing on the south side of Orlando City Stadium, you’d be right.
But not for long.
Orlando City Stadium recently acquired two grow lights to help its natural grass pitch recover from over 50 games in its first season and the eight-day blitz of two Florida Cup games and six days of the MLS Combine in January.
“We put them out on Friday and we were already noticing significant differences by Tuesday,” Head Groundskeeper Matt Bruderek said.
The grow lights, made by Stadium Grow Lighting, use six arms that extend to cover a large area of the pitch with photosynthetically active radiation light. They’re essential for proper surface care, especially during the winter months when cooler temperatures and reduced sunlight make it hard for Orlando City Stadium’s Bermuda grass to grow.
“Pretty much every big club in the world has grow lights,” Bruderek said.
“This shows our commitment to raising the quality of the game by giving our players the best field in the league,” CEO Alex Leitao said.
They already had the best stadium and fans; now, they have the whole package.
The lights won’t be used as much during the summer months - the entire pitch gets enough natural sunlight - but lighting the pitch during the winter months will help the grass grow deep roots, which will in turn help it recover faster when the season starts up again.
Bruderek is adjusting how he treats the grass during off days - “our fertilizer, the size of the actual granulars we put out… more aerating, top dressing” - and it’ll help that just two teams will be playing on it in 2018.
But considering the challenges he and his team faced in the stadium’s first year, including working with Latitude Bermuda grass, which they had never done before, Bruderek is pleased with how year one went.
“Honestly, I was really happy with it,” Bruderek said. “We didn’t put a single piece of sod into the field last year at all for 50 games, which is a pretty good feat for us”
And with the new grow lights, 2018 promises to be even greener.
“I’m expecting it to play absolutely incredibly all year this year,” he said. “I’m actually pretty pumped about it.”