NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Early weather forecasts for the AFC Championship between the Patriots and Chiefs called for temperatures in the single-digits — a hard freeze conjuring comparisons to the 1967 “Ice Bowl” between Dallas and Green Bay.
But unlike that game more than 40 years ago on the shores of Lake Michigan, immortalized in an NFL Film in which Steve Sabol famously likens Lambeau Field to the Arctic tundra, the field beneath the players’ feet in Kansas City will never slip below freezing.
The reason is a heating system developed here in New England.
It may be brutally cold at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City when the Pats and Chiefs play for a Super Bowl berth — actually, the forecast has improved by about 20 degrees — but the temperature of the field will stay in the low 30s.
“It's just above freezing — just enough so the grass isn't frozen," said Frank DiBenedetto, engineering manager for Watts Water Technologies, of North Andover, which developed part of the system used to heat the grass field.
The hydronic system is essentially a home hot-water heating system, transporting heat through circulated water, on a much larger scale. Three Benchmark boilers warm the water, which is spread through a series of pipes from end zone to end zone.
Watts systems are also in place at Red Bull Arena, where the New York Red Bulls MLS team plays, and various soccer venues in Europe.
DiBenedetto said the system provides an efficient way to maintain the field. It means less prep in the event of snow and benefits player safety.
"Even if you're running on turf, or running on grass, the fact that you're having ground conforming to footprint allows you to cut and run,” he said. “You just have that security and confidence you're not going to hit a patch of ice.”
For those already pushing a #turfgate narrative, or ready to decry the home-field boost for the Chiefs, no, Watts engineers cannot control the system from their headquarters in New England.
Now, if only this heating system had been in place in Green Back back in ’67, maybe the Cowboys wouldn’t have lost to the Packers, 21-17, and could’ve gone on to play in Super Bowl II. Maybe.
Zoe Mathews writes for The Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, Mass. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org