At 9 tonight, about three hours after the Rose Bowl game has ended, another high-pressure game begins.
The stadium's world-class grounds crew will "scalp" the existing field, cutting the grass to a mere quarter-inch, then roll out a brand-new field on top. The goal: to ensure the playing surface for the Bowl Championship Series title game Thursday is equally lush and pool-table smooth.
It will mark the first time two new fields have been installed at the stadium for consecutive games (a new one was installed after UCLA's last home game Nov. 21), and it underscores the pride Rose Bowl representatives take in their 2 1/2 -acre slice of heaven.
"We want people to say, 'That's the Rose Bowl field,' " said Will Schnell, the stadium's turf superintendent. "We want the big 'Wow!' It's our stage."
What's more, after the BCS title game, the Alabama and Texas end zones, as well as the midfield logo, will be parceled into 3-by-3-inch sections, freeze dried and preserved under glass, then sold as game-used collectibles. The first batch of mementos will be made available to the players and their families.
Putting pristine new turf in place in six days is an ambitious task, but Schnell and his 90-member crew have some recent experience with that kind of quick turnaround. In October, after a U2 concert at the stadium, a new surface was put in place for a UCLA game nine days later. Schnell imposed a six-day deadline to simulate the current challenge.
"Putting in a new field then was out of necessity, but it worked out to be a great opportunity for us," said Darryl Dunn, Rose Bowl general manager. "It was a great trial run."
The Rose Bowl turf -- Bermuda grass overseeded with rye -- costs about $150,000 and is grown in Palm Springs by the same company that provides some of the Super Bowl fields.
The plan, weather permitting, calls for the BCS sod to be cut this morning, rolled into 1 1/2 -ton portions and transported by 60 semi-trucks from Palm Springs. It should take roughly 24 hours to put the new grass in place.
In case of bad weather, the crew has a scaled-down plan that calls for cutting out and replacing the end zones and midfield logos. For the BCS game, there also will be smaller logos at the 25s, something not done for the Rose Bowl game.
"We want to provide a non-used surface, so there's not a cleat mark out there when the kickoff takes place," Schnell said. "When you see a player go out there and put his hand down on the grass and say, 'Is this real or is it fake?' that's a tremendous compliment.
"The first thing we want to do is provide a great playing surface for the athletes," Schnell said. "Then, you want it to look good on camera."
And that's the reward.
"When the field looks beautiful, there's a sense of accomplishment among those on the inside," said Kevin Ash, chief administrative officer of the Rose Bowl game. "People all over will see a field that looks good. But we'll know what it took to make that happen."