CLEVELAND, Ohio (WEWS)— The field at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, was damaged early Tuesday morning.
It appears someone drove in circles on the field. Tire treads wind out from the 20-yard line in the shape of a spiral, spanning almost the entirety of the western side of the field. Some of the ruts left behind appeared to be significant in some places.
A crew member was seen later in the day using a road roller in an attempt to flatten out the ground that was ripped up.
The Cleveland Browns said the damage done to the field was superficial and repairs are being made. Although the team has notified the NFL of what happened, a team spokesperson said the Browns are confident that it should not impact the team's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
The Browns notified the Cleveland Division of Police about the incident.
Cleveland Police said it is investigating the incident as a possible break-in. A golf cart may have been used to cause the damage.
You can read the Browns' full statement below:
“We are aware of the incident that occurred early Tuesday morning at FirstEnergy Stadium and have provided the Cleveland Division of Police with all relevant information. Based on our internal evaluation, there was some superficial damage to the playing field that our grounds maintenance team is currently working to repair. We take great pride in the strong reviews and reputation of our stadium’s playing surface, have been in touch with the NFL on the matter and are confident after repair our field will be ready for Sunday’s game vs. the Tampa Buccaneers.”
Field and turf maintenance experts said the First Energy Stadium grounds crew has a uniquely challenging repair job ahead of them, especially because of the short timeline. Anthony Pagano, whose family has owned and operated Sterner's Sod, said the grounds crew will more than likely have to fill in the deep ruts with thick topsoil with heavy clay content. The soil will fill in the gaps and the crews will tamp it down to prevent players from sinking.
Pagano is also a Browns season ticket holder, so Tuesday morning's act of vandalism is an affront to his beloved football team and his love of lush, green grass.
"[Browns fans] have had our challenges this year. We didn’t need this one. We didn’t need this one," Pagano said. "It made me pretty sad, especially because we are going to be there on Sunday. That’s my sanctuary."
Because sod needs a minimum of two weeks to become rooted into the ground, simply making patch repairs isn't an option, Pagano said.
"Sod has a rooting-in period where the roots have to adhere to the soil, so it actually sticks to the ground," he said. "If you don’t give that the proper amount of time, you can go ahead and take that piece right up off the ground. It’s not going to adhere. It’s going to be a safety issue for the players."
This story was originally reported on wews.com.