The Yankee Stadium ground crew began the job on Thursday of preparing the famed baseball field to host the first soccer game in its history Sunday as Chelsea FC will play Paris Saint-Germain in the Bronx ballpark.
The Yankees have hosted a number of concerts during the baseball season on the field and a boxing match since it opened in 2009. They have also played four college football games featuring Army-Notre Dame in 2010 and Army-Rutgers last year. The Yankees have also staged their own postseason game—the Pinstripe Bowl the past two years as well as hosting several NYC high school football championship games. Everyone gets a thrill out of playing in the famous ballpark with the signature facade above the stands.
Have to imagine the soccer configuration will mirror the college football field with one goal in deep center field and the other about on home plate. The corners of the field for football are tight against the far end of the baseball dugouts and on the other side the outfield wall. For football, the Yankees covered the interior of the baseball dugouts with flooring at the field level to expand the field a bit.
The big operations are installing grass to cover the infield and area where the baseball mound usually is. For the college football games, the ground crew had several weeks to prepare. This time they only have a few days since the Yankees game ended late on Wednesday afternoon.
One challenge that occurred in last season's Army-Rutgers game was clumps of turf which came up off the pitcher's mound area when the players dug in. It affected the game somewhat as Army struggled for footing when they were driving for an early touchdown in the closed end of the field. The problem of turf holding to the skin portion of the baseball field appeared largely resolved by the late December bowl game.
Yankee Stadium has a history of holding major soccer games. When the old stadium across the street was reopened in 1976, several soccer games were played there by the famed New York Cosmos featuring Pele. This was a big step up for a team that had previously played at the old Randall's Island Stadium. Later the Cosmos drew huge crowds at the Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands.
Ken Kraetzer covers Iona basketball and West Point football for WVOX in New Rochelle, NY.
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