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WORLD CUP '94 : Playing Host to the Most : Venues for the World Cup Games Are Counting on Good Soccer and Booming Business

May 15, 1994|RANDY HARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the soccer community, the essential numbers are 24 teams, 52 matches and 31 days. For the business community, they are 1.4 million foreign tourists and $500 million in tourist spending. Coming in 33 days to a stadium near you, the World Cup.

A glance at the sites and scenes:

WORSE YET, THEY HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE STANFORD BAND TO LEAVE THE FIELD

With assistance from the ballpark version of a SWAT team, the organizing committee's Architecture, Construction and Turf team (ACT), all nine venues have received FIFA's good groundskeeping seal of approval.

To meet international standards, fields were widened, crowns were removed and artificial grass was replaced by the real thing.

The Rose Bowl, which already had natural turf, replanted it twice within the last year. Its first field of dreams withstood the UCLA football season but not the recent Pink Floyd concerts.

The stadium is the only one that has not been tested by soccer within the last year--that will happen June 4 in a game between the United States and Mexico--but FIFA officials expect it to pass.

The only concern they admit to involves Stanford Stadium, where university officials will not completely turn over the field to FIFA until after graduation exercises June 12. That is only eight days before the first game there.

"Commencement comes first, not World Cup soccer," said Lois Wagner, Stanford's director of events and services.

I CAN'T TALK NOW, I'VE GOT TO MOW THE DOME

Perhaps it's not Tonya and Nancy, or Lorena and John, or the Menendez brothers, but the installation of natural turf inside the Pontiac Silverdome is big news, and not only in agronomy circles.

On a recent afternoon, Sports Illustrated photographers were in Pontiac, Mich., taking pictures of a Thai television crew, which was filming the grass growing. And you thought soccer was slow.

Because so much soccer is played outdoors during chilly winter months, FIFA wanted to experiment with a domed stadium to see whether the concept would work in other parts of the world.

The first question was whether it was feasible to grow grass indoors. Professors at Michigan State's Crop and Soil Sciences Department bet that it was, and 6 million pounds of Kentucky bluegrass, soil from Camarillo's Pacific Earth Resources Sod Farm and $1.5 million later, they appear to be right.

"What they have done in Michigan is a miracle," German Coach Berti Vogts said after his team played there last summer.

A LATE ENTRY: BERMUDA

The only complaint the German coach had concerned the steamy conditions inside the Silverdome, which, as the site primarily of Detroit Lion games and other winter events, does not have air-conditioning.

Heat and humidity will be a problem at most venues, where many games have been scheduled for the afternoon so that they can be televised in prime time in Europe. European coaches have suggested that South American teams have an advantage because they are more accustomed to sultry conditions, but Brazil wilted in a day game last summer at Washington's RFK Stadium.

Organizers cannot do much for the players, who are forced to remain on the field for long stretches without breaks because of rules limiting substitutions. But relief has been offered to World Cup staff members and volunteers in two hot spots, Orlando, Fla., and Dallas. They have been issued shorts as part of their uniforms.

PULL OVER, PAL. YOU WERE DOING 97.75 IN A 55.25.

Orlando's Public Works Dept. is spending $2,500 to erect 100 metric speed-limit signs on routes leading to the Citrus Bowl.

"It's going to be an awful job for us," director David Metzker said. "But if we're truly an international city, we should adopt those standards."

SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: THE WORLD CUP MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH

"These people eat later than we do, they smoke heavily, and their demands on our services will be unique, compared to what we are used to," said Stephen Elmont, owner of Mirabelle restaurant in Boston, speaking for a U.S. service industry that is gearing up for an expected 1.4 million foreign soccer fans.

In some cities, restaurants are extending their hours, printing menus in other languages and re-establishing--or at least increasing space for--smoking sections. Hotels that have nonsmoking floors also are reconsidering their policies.

"Then, after the World Cup, we'll have to figure out how to get the smoke odor out," Elmont said.

TODAY'S REFEREE: NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF

In their effort to wake up local law enforcement authorities to the threats posed by hooligans, lager louts and other rowdies, the organizing committee's security experts did too good a job.

Now, FIFA is complaining about an overreaction in Dallas, Palo Alto and Washington, where fences have been constructed around the fields to protect players and referees from overzealous fans. They point to the tragedy at Sheffield, England, in 1989, when 95 were killed and at least 200 injured when they surged forward to escape violence behind them and were crushed against a security fence.

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