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49ers' new digs means new grass on the way

  • Greg Dunn of West Coast Turf in Livingston checks the texture of grass as it's being mowed on Thursday March 28, 2014. The grass will be used in Levi's Stadium, the new home of the 49ers in Santa Clara. (KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat)

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LIVINGSTON — Befitting a brand-new, $1.3 billion sports arena, the Levi's Stadium turf is springy, uniform and brilliant green. It feels soft and inviting to the touch. It looks perfectly manicured. And pretty soon, it will actually reside in Levi's Stadium.

New Turf For 49ers' New Stadium

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For now, the grass that will one day support the exploits of Colin Kaepernick and Patrick Willis is a long, thin strip in the upper San Joaquin Valley. It's on a farm that occupies a sleepy, square-mile pocket between Interstate 5 and Highway 99, about 17 miles south of Kaepernick's home in Turlock, on property formerly owned by Charles Howard (who owned the racehorse Seabiscuit) and the Gallo wine family. The address of the farm is Livingston, but it's closer to a hamlet called Stevinson.

Very soon, this grass will be property of the 49ers. For now, it's still Greg Dunn's baby.

Dunn, a tall Midwestern transplant, is Northern California sales manager for West Coast Turf, a quietly powerful company that provides grass to every natural-turf professional stadium in California and Arizona but one — University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. — plus many colleges and golf courses, including those at Mayacama, Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club, and The Links at Bodega Harbour.

Tucked into a wedge of valley floor between the Merced and San Joaquin rivers, the NorCal West Coast Turf farm (the company has several sites in Southern California, too) sits atop a deep layer of what Dunn calls “the sandiest soil in the Western United States” — sand washed out of the Sierra Nevada peaks to the east.

“We're farming the other half of Halfdome,” Dunn said, referring to the iconic Yosemite Park formation that is visible from the facility on particularly clear days. “All of this layering from the mountains is coming into the valley.”

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