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Big Effort to Beautify Super Bowl Grounds Is Nipped in the Bud

Times Staff Writer

Now hear this:

The 4,500 flowering plants that image-conscious city officials lovingly installed outside San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium in time for Super Bowl XXII are not dead . Get it? They’re dormant . They have frostbite.

“They didn’t die,” stadium General Manager Bill Wilson iterated with some irritation Wednesday when the pesky question surfaced. “They were frosted. Frostbitten. Severely frostbitten. . . . And they were not put in for the Super Bowl. Understand ?”

Others, however, put it differently.

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“Yes, that’s precisely one of the reasons that they were there,” said George Loveland, director of parks and recreation, referring to next month’s Super Bowl. “Not that it didn’t look quite nice enough. We just wanted to put on our best face.”

Our best face was an industrial-sized order of lantana and bougainvillea. Estimated value: $20,000, according to Wilson. Loveland’s people planted a quarter-mile of median strip on Friars Road outside the stadium last August; Wilson’s people did the parking lot.

The city even color-coordinated its scheme with Caltrans, which was busy gussying up the nearby interchange from Interstate 15. But it had nothing to do with the Super Bowl, Wilson insisted; it was “standard beautification.”

Late last week, the cold snap zapped the city’s handiwork. The landscaping is now an impressive expanse of shrivelled vegetation. What was to have been a joyous cavalcade of scarlet bougainvillea and yellow and pink lantana is now a dull (but merely dormant) brown.

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“Of course I noticed it. It’s very obvious,” growled Wilson, who first clapped an eye on the devastation en route to work. Asked what went through his mind, he said, “I thought it was wintertime in New Jersey.”

And like winter in Jersey, you wait it out.

“Just for a fleeting second, I considered trying to throw some annuals in with some color,” said Wilson. “The trouble is, by the end of January there will be more frost. It would be a lot of money, a lot of time and I don’t think it would be cost-effective.”

Anyway, Wilson has other things on his mind: Grass--the relative merits of hybrid Bermuda and frost-resistent rye. On Saturday, his troops will begin planting the stadium with the fragile but frost-proof rye to have it ready for D-Day, Jan. 31.

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“We’re going to have a beautiful rye grass lawn,” Wilson predicted proudly. “Because we have four weeks to plant, prepare, germinate, pre-germinate and heat it. We will have a beautiful, beautiful lawn for the Super Bowl!”


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