Pasto Santa Cruz in Monterrey, Mexico is staying busy. Owners Celso Martinez and Marcelo Madero are hopeful their sod farm will be able to complete renovations for the 2026 World Cup if a stadium in their area gets a bid.
Pasto Santa Cruz was founded by Martinez in 2001. Initially, he said they mostly grew Tifway 419 Bermudagrass. In the early days of the business, he only harvested grass and sold it wholesale to mostly the commercial and government industries in Monterrey, the closest city to the farm.
“Then, with the passing of time we started sending grass a little farther away and we have expanded all across Mexico since then,” Martinez said.
Around seven years ago he purchased a license to start growing Celebration® Bermudagrass. Shortly after, Madero joined the business. Next, they bought growing licenses for Sunday™ Ultra-Dwarf Bermudagrass (a putting green variety), EMPIRE® Zoysia and Geo® Zoysia. Then lastly they decided to produce Latitude 36® Bermudagrass and NorthBridge® Bermudagrass to complete the portfolio.
Martinez said since they licensed for all of these, they’ve been able to get into a new market by selling improved turfgrass varieties. Pasto Santa Cruz operates with 11 employees at the sod farm and when they do jobs outside of town, Celso typically hires workers to complete the labor for installations.
Madero explained they transitioned from operating solely as a sod farm to also doing installations once more sites asked them to complete the full job instead of just supplying the sod.
“We can say that right now we’re the only company in Mexico that is able to make a full renovation of a sports facility. We harvest the big rolls, we make our own equipment that can laterally compress sod rolls, we provide the installers and we laser grade level fields. We have all the equipment needed to do the work,” Madero said.
Martinez found out about Celebration at the Texas Nursery Landscape Association Show in San Antonio, TX. The sprigs took a little bit of time to get through border control, so by the time they arrived at the sod farm, they were stressed and dark brown.
“They worked really good as soon as we planted them. Within a week we started seeing new growth and the Celebration started to fill all of the spaces. It became very aggressive and we think it’s the next generation of bermudas,” Martinez said.
He thinks it will eventually replace older species on the market like 419 Bermudagrass, which Pasto Santa Cruz grows for commercial jobs and landscapes.
Pictured above is employees sprigging a field of Celebration at Pasto Santa Cruz.
“We think that with the new varieties and types of grass that are available, Celebration has a superb development and has done outstanding work in the fields. We like its characteristics of shade tolerance, wear tolerance and bouncing back from damage. It does that in almost half the time that it takes 419 to do the job,” Madero said.
They have noticed that all of the research on new bermudagrasses helps improve the different types of usage. Stadiums want to schedule more games, which means more play on the turfgrass.
“Everything has been evolving, just like cars, computers and everything, grass is not the exception. It has to keep growing and meeting the new demands that the market is requiring and the industry is demanding a better quality grass,” Madero said.
In many markets in Mexico, Pasto Santa Cruz also has to compete with older varieties like Emerald Zoysia, El Toro Zoysia and what Madero considers the “ancestor varieties of the newer grass types.”
“We try to share that EMPIRE and Geo require less water usage and less fertilization. We explain the ‘green wave’ that is becoming popular worldwide to make the market see they can be more eco-friendly with the new types of grasses,” Madero said.
Last year, Pasto Santa Cruz added Innovation Zoysia as a new variety to try. They brought sprigs and they’re going to spread it this year to decide if they will expand it.
“We continue innovating the types of grasses we can offer. That’s why we feel very confident with Sod Solutions and what they’re doing. That’s why we’re trying to have almost all the varieties Sod Solutions puts on the market because we think they make a good choice in selection,” Madero said.
He anticipates that Latitude 36 and Northbridge will really start to get more popular in their market within the next year.
“We’re looking forward to NorthBridge because Mexico has a lot of different types of climates. We think it can compete with Kikuyu grass that has been around forever in the old, central part of Mexico where there is a high altitude,” he added. “We are hoping to start having another option of an outstanding grass with better performance.
In 2018 Pasto Santa Cruz planted Celebration sprigs at Universidad Panamericana’s soccer field at the Campus Zaponan Jalisco where both the mens and womens teams train and play. “This is the first soccer field in college that can fit FIFA Standards here in Mexico,” Madero said.
In 2019 they installed Celebration at Estadio Akron (Chivas) in Guadalajara, Jal. and at Estadio BBVA (Rayados) in Monterrey, N.L. These fields were already constructed, so Pasto Sana Cruz just completed field renovations of installing Celebration.
Pictured above, Pasto Santa Cruz installs Celebration in Estadio BBVA (Rayados) in Monterrey, N.L.
Last year they completed a larger project for a polo field at the resort Mandarina One & Only in Nayarit. For this project, they laser leveled the field and then planted sprigs of Celebration.
This year, they are starting on the Mazatlan FC Training Facilities in Mazatlan, Sin. This construction project will be very extensive to include drainage, level, gravel, sand and then sprigs will be planted. Madero said because Celebration is an aggressive growing grass they anticipate it will take over in time for games on the field by early fall.
Pasta Santa Cruz grows the sod exactly the same way it will be on the playing field.
“We use the same sand grading and we plant the sprigs to get it ready. Sometimes we lay the grass in big rolls and they’ll play one week or 15 days after planting,” Madero said. “We have 2.4 acres grown on sand and 13-15 acres of Celebration growing on dirt that we harvest every three months”
“Usually if it’s a full renovation with irrigation, drainage and sand profile and then laying big rolls, it will take us about three weeks with about 20 people,” Madero said. “If it’s only resodding and taking out the grass they had before and putting big rolls again it takes us about a week with 10-12 people.”
Pasto Santa Cruz typically does sports field renovations. Madero and Martinez are hopeful to do more golf course renovations but said in Mexico, these rarely happen.
“When we talk to potential customers that have old turfgrass varieties, they are a little reticent to try a new type of bermuda. That’s one of the walls that we are facing because once they finish a golf course they think that’s it for a lifetime,” Madero said. “They are starting to understand that they have to renovate but it has been a hard market to get into.”
They try to explain to the decision-makers at these courses that they aren’t taking any risks by renovating their courses to a new bermudagrass variety. “They’d actually have an easier job because of the new types of grasses that require less maintenance.”
Goals and World Cup 2026
Since Pasto Santa Cruz is in contract to do the Mazatlan FC training facility field renovations this year, they are hopeful to be considered an option for additional renovations for stadiums for the 2026 World Cup. Madero explained that the Chivas and Rayados stadiums already have Celebration and now they’re working on completing additional stadiums for the renowned soccer competition.
“According to FIFA, we have heard that all of the fields need to be the same grass. We hope to be involved in the construction of the training facilities for the World Cup 2026 when it takes place here in Mexico,” he shared.
“In addition to our goal to help with the World Cup, we also want to start getting into the golf industry to use more Sunday for greens and getting NorthBridge more into the central Mexico market,” Martinez added.
Since the decision on where the games will be played is not up to them, Pasto Santa Cruz is going to continue normal operations. “We have been focusing as a company to not only sell the grass but to bring real solutions for customer’s problems, even if it’s not one of our grass varieties,” Madero said. “We will continue to try to be the “best-of-the-best” of producers in the Mexico turfgrass industry.”
This article was written by Cecilia Brown.