The Desso Grassmater artificial turf system the at Forsyth
Barr Stadium. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
During a TV One Close Up interview at the Forsyth Barr
Stadium last week, the interviewer, cameraman and I stood on
the artificial turf sidelines of the stadium to record the
financial folly being contemplated in building another similar
stadium in Christchurch.
The cameraman asked the hovering fourth member of our group,
a management-mandated minder, if he could take a few steps
back on to the Hallowed Turf to widen the shot of the empty
south stand in the background.
The minder, a paid stadium employee whose job it was to
prevent us from straying into inappropriate areas of the
stadium, responded with a polite but flat "No".
The turf, which had just been mowed in a lovingly precise
diagonal criss-cross pattern, is apparently too delicate to
withstand the wear associated with six steps of a cameraman.
The answer to the question why spend another million on an
artificial turf is not just that we are currently wasting
more than that level of ratepayers' treasure over time on:
several specialist groundsmen, specialist mowing machines,
turf aeration, watering and fertiliser systems, the
monitoring of ambient light spectrum and levels, roof washing
to let the right light in, under-roof dew suppression
sprayers for the same thing, wind-speed, temperature,
relative humidity, and grass-growth monitoring to determine
how many days or weeks (depending on weather) are required
for The Turf to recover between events.
The Hallowed Turf is ludicrously expensive to try to grow
under a roof, but the worst waste is in down-time.
The period of The Turf recovery between events means that
most of the time you cannot use the main stadium while you
wait for the grass to recover.
If the grass recovery time for a two-hour game is one week,
this means that you can not use the pitch for 166 out of 168
hours, or 99% of the time!
Another issue is that The Turf requirement of natural wind
movement means that you can not drop the stadium skirts to
ground level to keep out the wind or the cold, both of which
have made miserable many events at the stadium, including the
Elton John concert for those in prone seating areas.
If you assume that the stadium is only to be used for a
handful of superstar rugby games each year, then The Turf
almost makes sense even if we did have to spend more than
$600,000 sewing an artificial Grass-master reinforcing into
it to overcome its previously denied weakness when growing
under a roof.
The claim has been made that the International Rugby Board
will not allow A-grade rugby to be played on a fully
artificial turf, but a close look at the IRB rules on
permitted playing surfaces does not preclude playing on an
artificial turf. Rugby league is happy to play on artificial
turf, as is football - in fact, Fifa is discussing paying for
an artificial turf here in Dunedin.
The Turf has been just one of many major mistaken decisions
around the initial mistaken decision of the stadium itself.
Other unaffordable expenses include: legions of paid staff
(500-700 for a big event when Rotary volunteers used to do a
good job at Carisbrook), a board of deflectors, insurance
(DCC should self-insure), excessive maintenance for guarantee
purposes, security contracts requiring bomb disposal and
anti-terrorist-trained staff, thousands of freebie rugby
tickets for the well-connected, and having anything sincere
to say about the ORFU.
Having paid the ORFU $7 million for Carisbrook to bail it out
the time before last, we should banish it back to the House
of Pain on a cost-covering rental basis until it has learnt
humility, honesty, how to share and how to promote good
It is easy to "pokie" scorn at the ORFU, but can you think of
any sports organisation in our history that deserves it more?
Having the All Whites as anchor tenants for the stadium with
an artificial turf so it could be constantly available
between football usage would get over the problem of the
stadium being empty most of the time.
None of this deals with the debt, but at least it would get
the stadium used without bleeding ratepayers so heavily on
It is said that there is nothing as boring as watching grass
In Dunedin, there is nothing more unaffordable than watching
grass growing in Forsyth Barr Stadium.
• Lee Vandervis is a Dunedin city