Renovating the House that Ruth Built

Yankee Stadium
New York City

By Julia Bailey


Coming off an American League championship season, the New York Yankees decided to undergo a complete reconstruction of the playing field at Yankee Stadium.

To complete this ambitious project by the beginning of the 2002 baseball season, the Yankee organization chose to work with the Cleveland, Ohio-based S.W. Franks Construction Company, a designer and builder of natural turf systems for college and professional facilities.

Meeting the aggressive schedule was a daunting challenge during adverse winter weather conditions. Yet, with successful completion of field construction projects for teams that include the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and most recently the Pittsburgh Pirates under its belt, the S.W. Franks team was ready to jump in.

"We have been working the past several winters with some tough schedules and weather conditions," says Al Ewing, S.W. Franks vice president of operations. "While we always get a little nervous about what could take place, we wouldn't have missed this chance for the world."

One of the most important objectives that designers faced may surprise many spectators—the need to dramatically lower the existing surface.


"Most people may not be aware of the steep drop in grade that occurs in the infield from first and third base to the playing field wall," says Darren Varner, S.W. Franks vice president. "Currently, two feet of elevation change occurs in about a 20-foot-long run between the skin and the wall. It used to be three feet prior to a minor renovation a few years ago."

After all, the team would like to be able to see the ball rolling in the outfield from the dugout. Before reconstruction, the right field corner was about 10 inches higher than the left field corner, while the center field was the highest point on the field. In addition, the left outfield wall is a chain-link fence, while the right outfield wall is concrete.

"We modified the outfield wall and pads to accommodate a full-scale lowering of the outfield and warning track," says Varner.

Modification of the field required a grading of the surface to allow for an approximate 16-inch lowering of the infield, while maintaining the existing elevations of monument park and outfield bullpens.

In some areas, the design team removed as much as three feet of existing soils from the field. This cut accommodated the profile required for the sand-based growing medium. The infield mix was removed first and stored adjacent to the site for reuse later.


Once sub-grade elevations were complete, the sub-drainage system was next. The irrigation system was installed, followed by a gravel blanket layer, which was spread evenly over the subgrade area. Irrigation laterals also were installed into this layer.

Following these stages, a laboratory-tested and -approved root zone mix blend was manufactured off site and brought to the site and spread over the gravel blanket. After the mix was compacted and laser-grade-verified, big roll bluegrass sod was installed.

In addition to the field system construction, new wall pads and some wall modifications were performed.

Interestingly, Yankee Stadium was originally designed by another Cleveland company—the Osborne Engineering Company—and has been serving the Yankees since 1921. The New York Giants NFL team also called Yankee Stadium home from 1956 through 1973. In fact, the unusual elevations are a reflection of football play in the field's history.

For more information
S.W. Franks Construction Company: 877-227-2254
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