Snow what? Tigers say latest storm won’t stop home opener

Nearly eight inches of fresh snow blankets the Comerica Park field Wednesday.

DETROIT — Mother Nature won’t defeat Heather Nabozny and the Detroit Tigers.

Nabozny, the head groundskeeper at Comerica Park, probably isn’t thrilled that nearly eight more inches of snow fell Wednesday, but her game plan remains the same.

The Tigers play host to the Kansas City Royals on March 31 — a mere 19 days from now — and she’s determined to have the field ready.

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"Assure people that the field will be ready for Opening Day," said Ron Colangelo, Tigers vice president of communications and the current voice of Nabozny because she and the rest of her crew are so busy.

Because of the Hockeytown Winter Festival events scheduled at Comerica Park during the Winter Classic, they removed the sod from the field so an ice rink could be built.

A woven barrier was placed over the dirt to protect it from the elements.

The NHL is paying part of the cost for the new field, with the Red Wings and Olympia Entertainment picking up the rest, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.

Comerica Park hadn’t had a complete re-sod done since 2007, although patches of sod have been replaced since then because of concerts and other events.

Colangelo said the plan all along was to install the new Kentucky Bluegrass sod starting March 17 or 18 in order to avoid the bitter cold winter temperatures.

"The process is on schedule," Colangelo said. "The infield has been covered. And last week, they brought in heaters to thaw the field.

"The next step is the installation after the Kentucky Bluegrass is delivered Monday or Tuesday. Heather tells me it will take three days to re-sod."

According to weather.com, Monday’s high is supposed to 27, under partly cloudy skies, with a low of 16. Tuesday’s high could reach 37, with a low of 25.

"I think the challenge is to get it dried out," said Mike Thompson of Hillcrest Sod Farms in Romulus, Mich. "They’re probably not concerned with the temperature as much. All this snow is not helping. This is wet snow, hard to move."

Colangelo said they had already removed all the snow from previous storms.

Now they’ll have to get rid of the latest snowfall before next week, when the 103,000 square feet of sod arrives in refrigerated trucks from Colorado’s Graff’s Turf Farm.

AROUND THE HORN

"I wouldn’t want any part of this project," Thompson admitted. "When you move in mud, you make more work for yourself.

"It’s got to be near impossible to get the snow out and get it dried out. You have to get the equipment on to lay it, special installers, without rutting it up. That’s the biggest challenge at this point."

Thompson said it will take a couple of weeks and hopefully warmer temperatures for the new sod to take root.

"Once you get the sod down in place, you can play almost immediately," Thompson said.

Graff’s Turf Farm has provided the sod for Michigan State’s Spartan Stadium, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium, the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field, the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field and the Colorado Rockies’ Coors Field, among others.

The sod for Comerica Park and other sports fields is a thick cut at 1 1/2 inches compared to a half-inch for residential yards.

According to Graff’s Turf Farm’s website, the thicker cut "allows for faster play after installation."

Thompson said it’s unlikely that they’ll need to install sod stakes.

"The sheer weight of the sod they’re using should be enough," he said.

Nabozny has been in touch with the head groundskeepers for the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, who are also re-sodding their fields after a relentless winter.

The Yankees’ home opener is April 7 against the Baltimore Orioles. The Red Sox play their first game at Fenway on April 4 against Milwaukee Brewers.

The Tigers have opened on March 31 before, in 2003 and 2008. And despite taking Mother Nature’s best punches, they’re bound and determined to do so again in less than three weeks.