Work to start on stadium pitch

Work on the Forsyth Barr Stadium pitch is set to start in the next few weeks, and while funding has yet to be confirmed, the pitch design includes a turf reinforcing system developers expect will allow it to be used three times as often as natural turf.

The GrassMaster System, used at Wembley Stadium, is understood to cost about $700,000.

Carisbrook Stadium Trust chairman Malcolm Farry said the contract to build and maintain the turf, until it was turned over to the company running the stadium, had been let to Dunedin City Council-owned company Delta Utilities.

The work would begin as soon as the ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) roofing material was attached to the first three trusses, which have been lifted into position on to the stadium's roof.

That was expected to happen in the next two weeks.

The pitch would be built and the grass grown on site, a decision that had been made a year ago.

The grass seed mixture had yet to be finalised.

"The concept of this is quite unique," Mr Farry said.

It was not just about growing grass, but ascertaining the correct kind and amount of fertiliser, the correct amount of moisture, moisture control and humidity, and the optimum base for it to be grown in so the root zone was robust enough to withstand heavy use.

"Grass grows better inside than outside. There are no extremes of temperature or moisture."

One interesting discovery made was in Dunedin, where more ultraviolet light came through the ETFE material than came naturally in the United Kingdom or Europe.

Recovery of the grass after use under the ETFE was equal to, or superior to, recovery outside.

"Because you can control things under cover, you can expect those positive results."

Mr Farry said a lot of work was expected to go into the subsoil, and the top soil would not go on until that was done, and drainage and irrigation systems were in place.

The GrassMaster system, a plastic thread that could be inserted in the turf, around which the roots of natural grass grow, was used in some of the major stadiums in the world, he said.

It had recently been specified and installed in the Wembley Stadium pitch as a solution to the problems that stadium had encountered.

The Dunedin City Council has resolved the first use of any money from savings in other areas at the stadium should be for turf reinforcement.

But Dunedin Venues Management Ltd (DVML) chief executive David Davies said last month he was confident he would get funding for GrassMaster, having "talked to a couple of trusts that have indicated they are interested in helping".

Asked about funding this week, a DVML spokeswoman said the company was planning for the inclusion of GrassMaster, but nothing could be confirmed at this stage.

Mr Farry said the pitch would have a dual irrigation system that could sub-irrigate the pitch, and provide conventional overhead irrigation.

The pitch would have a 3m-wide artificial turf access way around the perimeter of the playing surface, which would also constitute part of the playing surface, and automated equipment for monitoring soil moisture and temperature, photosynthetically active radiation, wind speed, humidity and temperature.

He said the pitch would meet performance standards for the Rugby World Cup 2011.

david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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