With a little paint and a lot of footsteps, Peter Wozniak transforms a patch of green grass into a maroon-and-gold emblem that incites thousands of football fans.
Wozniak is in charge of painting the field at Sun Devil Stadium — a job he has done since he was student worker in the late 1980s.
And while creating 70-foot pitchforks is still a joy, he has been gratified to have his work displayed on the biggest football stage of all — the Super Bowl.
Wozniak leaves this week to begin painting the field at NRG Stadium in Houston for the Super Bowl, which will be his 22nd time working the big game. His efforts will be seen by more than 160 million people around the world when the game is broadcast Feb. 5.
Wozniak, the athletic facilities maintenance manager at ASU, has painted the field for every NFL championship since the 1996 Super BowlThe Cowboys beat the Steelers 27-17, and Diana Ross performed at halftime., which was held at Sun Devil Stadium. Brian Johnson, ASU’s athletic grounds facilities manager, has worked with Wozniak at most of them.
“Super Bowl 30 at Sun Devil Stadium was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I was fortunate to be asked to do more,” Wozniak said. “We just keep the work ethic and don’t take it for granted. It’s great to represent ASU nationally.”
It takes three weeks for Wozniak and his team to organize the three trailers full of equipment and then paint not only the main field, but all the practice fields and rain covers as well as sites for the NFL Experience, the fan festival held during Super Bowl week. They typically work 70-hour weeks leading up to the game, and have to accommodate many hours of rehearsals by the halftime performers.
“They actually have 30 to 40 hours during game week doing their rehearsal, while each team only gets one hour the day before the game,” Wozniak said. “It’s kind of ironic. You’re there to play the game, but the halftime is its own event.”
Weather is sometimes a challenge. Wozniak’s team had to deal with snowy conditions at the 2014 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
“We worked on the end zones in big heated tents,” he said. “We had to bring our paint machines into the tents because the paint was freezing. We blew and shoveled and plowed the snow so they could practice.”
The cold wasn’t unfamiliar, as Wozniak is originally from New York, transferring to ASU as a student in 1986.
“I signed on to work T-shirt security. And I was looking for more work, and I got more hours to do this,” he said of field painting. “It was a fun job, and you could see the results of your work every day.”
He stayed on after graduating, and now painting the field is a tiny — but glamorous — part of what he does.
Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now
“Right now, I have students packing clay at the softball field, but that’s not as exciting as painting the football field,” said Wozniak, who is in charge of the stadium, the practice fields and the soccer, lacrosse, wrestling and softball facilities.
The summer after he painted the field for the 1996 Super Bowl, the NFL asked Wozniak to go to Monterrey, Mexico, to do the field for a game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys. That led to jobs at the subsequent Super Bowls and dozens more international games. He has traveled to Mexico City, Tokyo, Sydney and London.
Not too much has changed over the years.
“The football field still has white lines, numbers, hash marks. We do more branding now,” said Wozniak, who grids out the end-zone designs on graph paper.
“We’ve learned ways to make our jobs easier — what type of paint to use, painting tips and the sequence of events, so we’re more efficient,” he said.
“It requires a steady hand and patience. You can’t be rushed when you do it.”
Wozniak said that because he has more people and more time, he’ll get to be more precise with the Super Bowl field design. But otherwise, it’s similar to painting the pitchfork at Sun Devil Stadium.
“With either one, we want it to be perfect.”
Top photo: Pete Wozniak paints the pitchfork on the field at Sun Devil Stadium. He painted the field when the Super Bowl was held at Sun Devil Stadium in 1996 and has done the Super Bowl fields every year since. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
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