MLB London Series: How the MLB turned a soccer stadium into a baseball field
Last weekend, London Stadium played host to Major League Baseball, requiring a big project to turn the soccer field into a baseball field.
It’s not a simple task converting one sports field into one that accommodates a completely different sport, and those who take on the grand task should be commended. London Stadium is typically the host to Premier League’s West Ham United, but on Saturday and Sunday, it was a Major League Baseball stadium as the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals played their two-game London series.
MLB’s field consultant, Murray Cook, had the challenging task of converting the stadium. Typically, soccer fields don’t work for baseball because they are rectangular, but the London Stadium has a space for track and field events which made this London Series, which began in 2019, possible.
“You’ve got the extra eight lanes plus the running lane and a shot lane,” said Cook. “You’ve got this extra extended width that gives you another couple hundred feet. Even then, in ‘19, we were at 385 [feet] to center.”
“This year we were able to do some things. The seats are changing here, so we’re able to pick up another seven feet,” Cook said. “We’re 392 to center, we’re 335 down the lines. We’ve narrowed the foul territory - we’ve added some feet.”
Converting the soccer field to a baseball field
When West Ham’s season finished, the field was stripped of grass and then needed to be shaped to match that of a baseball field, which is not completely flat in the infield, meaning Cook had to have the field sculpted.
Once sculpted, the turf had to be laid, but not before being tested for proper water drainage, how baseball cleats would fit into it, and how the baseball would bounce. In the end, over 144,000 square feet of artificial turf was laid.
This timelapse video shows the incredible full transformation, which began on June 7 and took 400 people working day and night to build everything from the dugout to the locker rooms to the stadium seating.