Getting ready for its closeup
Preparing soccer stadium to host FCS title game no easy task
FRISCO, Texas – Soccer and football have coexisted for years in the same facilities. For the most part, it’s always been soccer teams using a football team’s digs.
Here in Frisco, they’ve turned the tables.
FC Dallas Stadium is a 20,500-seat multi-purpose facility that is considered one of the best and most unique in Major League Soccer. It’s a lot better than the Cotton Bowl, which the city’s MLS team first called home in 1996. The best part: It can be transformed from a soccer field to a football field to a concert venue, all in a matter of a few days.
That job is left to Miles Studhalter and a crew of 14.
In its third year hosting the FCS championship game, the crew is getting used to having a football field laid out on the stadium’s perfect rye grass. It just takes a lot more paint than the normal soccer field they are used to, or even the 16 or so high school football games the facility hosts every year.
Check out the end zones and the midfield logo on Saturday afternoon while you’re watching on television, Studhalter has been working on them for three to four days.
“These are the only logos we paint during the season since soccer doesn’t have any,” Studhalter said. “Basically they come in a big stencil and you dot them out and connect the dots – it takes a while. We used about three pallets of paint.”
That’s a lot more work than the normal temporary painted lines that are laid out for Thursday night football games throughout the fall, which then have to be washed out in time for weekend FC Dallas soccer games.
But make no mistake, Studhalter loves the challenge of maintaining the stadium in addition to the sports complex’s 145-acre maze of 18 soccer fields -- one of which is being used by North Dakota State and Sam Houston State for practice during the week leading up to Saturday’s title tilt.
Studhalter has a 15-year career in managing turf and facilities, starting while at school at Texas A&M and continuing on with Reliant Stadium and the Houston Texans. Yes, there is a degree for what he and his team does: turf management.
With it being a rematch of last year’s national championship, there’s nothing new when it comes to what his crew expected. The only difference this year is a flip of the end zones. And it’s no different for the teams either. They’ll be used to it. NDSU starting quarterback Brock Jensen loved playing in Frisco last year, and not just because he won a national championship.
“It was easily the best playing surface we’ve been able to play on,” Jensen said. “It’s almost like a putting green out there and you get good traction out there.”
It’s certainly a big difference from what Jensen and the Bison are used to back home in Fargo, N.D. They play their home games at the Fargodome and haven’t played or even practiced outdoors since a 38-20 victory at Illinois State on Nov. 17. Jensen isn’t too worried.
”We haven’t played on grass in quite a while, but we’re OK with it,” Jensen said. “We’ve had some practice out here on the grass and we’ll be ready to go.”
Come Saturday evening, all of the paint will be washed out of the grass and it will be allowed to grow longer than its current almost-putting-green-like length, with the next event at the stadium not scheduled until the last week of February when the MLS season begins.
And after putting almost a week’s worth of work into transforming the field into the home of the FCS Championship, that’s more time than this crew is used to.