How to make a (soccer) pitch
MILWAUKEE—Miller Park officials want to create a soccer pitch for the Swansea City-Chivas Guadalajara exhibition at 8 p.m. Wednesday that has the illusion of permanence.
“We’re going to do our best to make sure this soccer field looks like it’s been here for a while, whether that means a little fertilizing, a little bit of paint, a little bit of mowing pattern,” head groundskeeper Michael Boettcher said Monday.
But the overriding goal is to ensure the baseball field is exactly as it was left Sunday for when the Brewers return July 21.
“Keeping the turf major-league ready is our highest priority,” said Jason Hartlund, vice president of Brewers enterprises and events services.
Somewhere in between, the Brewers hope to put on a good show for the 30,000-plus expected to attend.
When the Brewers left Sunday for the all-star break, the infield was skinned and prepared for five truckloads of turf that began covering the base paths and the pitching mound Monday.
For the first time since the park opened in 2001, the mound was leveled and removed. Boettcher said he’s confident it would be properly restored.
“That’s what baseball is about, locations and numbers,” he said. “We’re making sure that’s 100 percent kept. We’ve got markings underneath that make sure we’re 100 percent where we need to be.
“The great thing is the mound is exactly how we thought it was built. We’ll be able to put it back together very strategically.”
Miller Park cannot accommodate a World Cup-sized pitch, which is between 110 and 120 yards long and between 70 and 80 yards wide. Boettcher said the field would be 109 yards long and 66 yards wide, which is approved by Major League Soccer as sufficient for a “friendly” exhibition match.
The pitch will run from the first-base dugout to the left-field wall, providing the best views from the third-base side.
Hartlund said no seats would be blocked off in the 41,900-seat stadium. The Brewers are hoping for a good walk-up crowd after selling more that 30,000 advance tickets to buyers from more than 30 states. Chivas, one of Mexico’s most successful and popular teams, and Swansea City of the English Premier League have sizable national and international followings.
The match could get a nice bump from the recently completed World Cup.
“There’s no doubt the timing is perfect,” Hartlund said. “I wish I could take credit for that, but I can’t. I do believe soccer fever is at an all-time high. I believe that will translate into a good crowd for Wednesday.”
Miller Park has played host to concerts and conventions, but covering the infield with turf is something new. Boettcher said the entire process of placing extra sod to lie flush with the existing turf should take 44 hours. He hopes to complete work early this afternoon, when Chivas will arrive for a workout.
Hartlund said he did not want to reveal the cost of the conversion until the final bills were in, but he did mention that a portion of the trucked-in sod would be recycled.
“Some of the turf we’ll provide to outside entities,” he said. “We don’t want to throw it away if it is usable for someone else.”
Hartlund said the match experience for fans would be strictly soccer with no baseball trappings.
“I think we’ll have a number of people who will be coming to Miller Park for the first time, so we’ve been in contact with our guest-relations staff and ushers who do a great job 81 times a year,” he said. “But I think we need to go above and beyond this time so these soccer fans will come back to Brewers games.”
The Brewers approached MLS almost two years ago about playing host to a soccer exhibition. Based on advance sales, Hartlund said soccer would likely return to Miller Park.
But would the Brewers consider staging a football game?
“We have toyed with it,” Hartlund said. “I know in the state we have two great football stadiums in Camp Randall and Lambeau Field that actually have capacities quite a bit larger than Miller Park.
“I don’t know what the appetite would be to put a football game here, but we’d consider anything.”